Q&A: Nancy Sachs
New Executive-in-Residence Joins Kogod's Center for Business Communications
Nancy Sachs, associate director of the Kogod Center for Business Communication, was recently appointed as the business school’s first executive-in-residence in the field of business communication.
Sachs recently sat down with us to share the importance of her new role at Kogod and the growing need for business communication courses at both the graduate and undergraduate level.
Q: You were appointed to teach business communication courses. Why is it important for students to take these courses?
NS: We hear all the time that business executives are looking for good communicators. You can have great technical skills - but you're not likely to get hired or promoted in the business world if you don’t communicate well.
One reason I love teaching Kogod students is that most of them understand that being a good communicator is important for their academic and professional lives.
In fact, for the first time this fall, all incoming MBA students will take a required business communications course that emphasizes both writing and public speaking.
I also teach elective courses in business communications. Students practice using their writing and speaking skills to analyze real-world problems, many involving ethical business dilemmas. Along the way, we discuss how clear communication is intimately intertwined with effective leadership, decision-making, negotiating, and teambuilding—a wide array of essential soft skills. Students typically work hard in the course, and it’s personally very gratifying to see how much they improve over the semester.
Q: When you are not teaching, you are busy at the Kogod Center for Business Communication. What is your role there?
NS: The Center is set up to help Kogod students, faculty, and staff with their writing, speaking, and team presentations. As associate director, I work closely with Bonnie Auslander, the Center’s director, to run the Center. We’re fortunate to have a terrific group of both working professionals and talented MBA and undergraduate students who staff the Center.
My job there is great - largely because every day is different. In one day, for example, I could work with an undergraduate who needs help writing a class project, MBA students who are looking for advice on a team presentation, and a faculty member who wants editorial feedback on an academic paper.
Q: What is the most common writing or presenting mistake you have encountered during your 25 years of professional experience?
NS: Most of us focus inward when we write. To be persuasive in the business world, you need to focus on how your audience - whether customers or colleagues - will respond to your message. It’s what Peter Drucker, the management consultant and writer said, "Communication takes place in the mind of the listener, not of the speaker."
In addition, many people carry around the misconception that they are the only person in the room who gets nervous when giving a speech or presentation. In fact, most speakers—even experienced ones—get weak knees or forget what they want to say. There’s no better quote on that subject than Mark Twain’s. “There are two kinds of speakers,” he said. “Those that are nervous and those that are liars.”
Q: What would you tell someone who does not think communications is an important aspect of the business world?
NS: I’d say don’t expect to get a really good job in the business world—especially in this very competitive market. If you already have a job in an office environment, don't expect a promotion any time soon. In survey after survey, business leaders list good communication skills as crucial for success. You put yourself at a real disadvantage if you can’t compete in that arena.