Young Professionals Brush Up on Their Interpersonal Skills

By Allyssa Baird, YSN

While November’s Young Professionals University provided a grounding in merchandising and digital technology, the curriculum also underscored the importance of human relations in conducting business.

During the three-day education event in New Orleans, members of AVB’s under-40 organization were treated to a session on interpersonal communication by expert Linda Schwefel, and a how-to on hiring by AVB Human Resource Manager Jenny Rice.

Communication expert, Linda Schwefel

Schwefel, an executive coach and Managing Partner of Discover Yourself, offered our Young Professionals pointers on communicating more effectively. Starting with self-awareness, she began by asking attendees to shout out one word that best described themselves. This led to a discussion of perception and how we create the perception we have of ourselves.

Turning to interpersonal communication, Schwefel explained that only 7 percent of communication is comprised of what you say. The rest, 93 percent, rests on whom you say it to and how you say it, including body language (55 percent) and tone of voice (38 percent). She also noted that, whether consciously or unconsciously, we often treat people the same because we are “wired” a certain way, and asked the class to consider how we talk to different people. Not everyone is wired the same as we are, she explained, and what we think is an effective way to communicate doesn’t necessarily work with everyone else.

Then, as part of a personality test, Schwefel had everyone put on different colored wristbands, picking the color they related to most based on the self-descriptive words they chose earlier. She then proceeded to teach the under-40 contingent about the “color of their energy,” which she described as a gift. On a good day, she said, blue energy is precise and analytical and likes to “do it right,” while red is a demanding, driven and committed energy that wants to “do it now.” In contrast, yellow is fun, “energetic and extroverted energy that likes to “do it together,” while green energy is calm, caring and concerned, and likes to “do it harmoniously,” she said.

Conversely, on a bad day or in a stressed environment, red energy turns intense and aggressive; blue can be reserved and distant; yellow becomes unfocused and disorganized; and green energy becomes stubborn and disengaged.

The eye-opening wristband exercise helped the room recognize the energy we put out in different situations and to realize that our emotions drive everything, which are both important influences on communication. The attendees were encouraged to continue wearing their color wristbands and to put color stickers on their name badges that matched their energy color(s), to illustrate how each of their personalities differ. The key takeaway: be patient and understanding of others, as we don’t all think or function the same way.

Also carrying the theme of human relations was HR Manager Rice’s presentation on how to hire the right people, a common challenge shared by many of the Young Professionals. Rice gave many examples of questions to ask candidates, as well as those not to ask. For instance, in California, an employer may not ask a potential employee about their previous salary or hourly wage; however, they can ask what pay range they are seeking. Rice stressed that it is crucial to know your state employment laws.

Rice advised attendees to refrain from talking too much about themselves while interviewing prospects, and stressed the importance of a positive attitude over an applicant’s perfect skill set. “While you can teach someone how to do the job properly, you can’t change their attitude,” she said.

For those already on board, it is essential to treat all employees fairly and to keep very accurate documentation, she said.

Young Professionals University was held Nov. 5-7 at the Hyatt Centric French Quarter in New Orleans for three days of training sessions, expert presentations and opportunities to enjoy the sights, sounds and cuisines of The Big Easy. The under-40 club was created by AVB in 2014 to serve as a breeding ground for future leaders in the CE, appliance, furniture and bedding industries.

YSN is published by BrandSource parent company AVB Inc.