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Tag Archives: relationships
My first sergeant said it differently: “There are two people in the squadron you never want to piss off: the quartermaster and the pay-clerk. No beans, no bullets, and no way to pay your bar tab.”
That man had his priorities straight.
He had a point: everybody is important. Everybody can and will contribute the company’s (squadron’s) success. We all depend on each other. We can’t do everything ourselves, so corporations (teams, squadrons) organize by task and specialities. With that comes the need to cooperate, collaborate, and communicate.
I’ve actually heard executives call employees in their company “little people”. Why is beyond me. Everybody on the payroll should add value to the company, and it should be clear how they do it. If they don’t it’s because the same executives haven’t designed their own organization properly.
It’s the “little people”, if you say hello to them in the hallway (better yet learn his or her name) who will let you into the building when you forget your swipe card, who will find a coffee for your client after hours, or who will help you get home when you’ve lost your wallet.
This happened to my father (losing his wallet) on his first business trip to Western Canada. No identification, no credit cards or gas money. It was the front desk clerk, whom he’d been pleasant to when he checked in, who helped him get home. Nice guys don’t finish last. They get things done because they’re nice.
They get things done when things go wrong because they’re always nice.
When I see a laptop in a meeting I assume you’re cruising for porn.
Okay, that’s little extreme. I know you’re probably not cruising for porn, but I think it. You’re probably doing email, or writing a report, or something half-assed productive, maybe. But you’re not paying attention to the meeting. And that pisses me off.
If you’re not contributing to the meeting and not paying attention, then you’re wasting your, my, and the organization’s time. And the time of everybody else in the meeting. Because we have to go back and repeat things just for you when you should have paid attention.
Your message to everybody in the meeting is “I have to be here, but I have more important things to do. So f*** all of you, I’m going to do the more important stuff in front of you now.” And that’s the generous interpretation that assumes you’re doing something work-related. Probably because you can’t manage your time well enough to get it done before the deadline.
So, to summarize, when you bring a lap-top to a meeting, and you’re not the assigned scribe or doing real-time research in support of the meeting, then I’m going to assume one or more of the following:
- You can’t get your work done in the allotted time
- You don’t respect me or the people who you’re meeting with
- You think this meeting is a waste of your time (which may be true, so then why are you there?)
- You waste company resources – your salary – by showing up to company meeting and not contributing anything because you’re too busy playing on your machine
- The work you’re doing is of inferior quality (I believe multi-tasking is evil, but that’s a separate topic)
Please don’t do it. If other people in the room don’t think you’re listening, you’re not. You’re just damaging your relationships with them.
Bernie works with small, medium (and sometimes) large companies, start-ups, and volunteer organizations to help them set a vision that is executable, effective, and to surround themselves with people who will help them succeed. I believe the workplace is a place to thrive, not just survive. Call me if you want help transforming your business.
Fourth in a series about communication and change management.
I love email. It’s fast, it’s easy, its’ cheap. It also provides us a record of what was said. Sometimes it’s important to have a record. Also I don’t have to ask people how their day’s going, or remember their kids kids’ names. But maybe that’s just me.
So what’s the problem with email? Words themselves make up only as much as 40% and maybe as little as 7% of communication. Words themselves are only a small part of what’s being communicated. So for trivial or strictly objective communication (“Where are we having lunch?”, “Please send me the numbers for the third quarter.”) email works just fine. After that, the chance of mis-communication goes up.
The more complicated the message, the greater the chance for mis-communication. The more emotionally laden the communication (“I think you have an attitude problem.”) the greater the likelihood of misunderstanding. The more people involved, or the less time people have worked together, the greater the opportunity for misinterpretation. Add all those together and the chance of added drama, resentment, and wasted effort is almost certain.
My experience, both as a manager and as a facilitator, is that mis-communication is really easy. You have to work really hard to *not* mis-communicate. Yet we often choose on one of the worst ways to talk to others about complicated, potentially emotional issues with people we don’t really know that well – email.
Fix #4 Talk to a Human
Talk face-to-face. Wash , rinse, repeat.
Mark Hortsman has an amusing saying (I paraphrase): “I’m glad to hear you want to work with people. All the jobs with trees and dogs are taken.” As managers and leaders we manage and lead people, not email. If our jobs were to manage email I wouldn’t have to write this blog post.
Keeping a record isn’t going to engage and influence people to change behaviour or create enthusiasm. Repeated human interaction, building relationships and trust, is the only thing that does.
Phone calls are better than emails for engaging human beings. Video-conferences better than phone calls. In person meetings better than video-conferences. One-on-one, face-to-face meetings are better still. Regular, repeated contact.
If you need a record of agreement, write it afterwards. First pick up the phone, walk down the hall, learn to speak publicly. Tell stories, have a vision, be passionate. Email is efficient but it’s ineffective. If you’re a manager of human beings, learn to manage human beings. If you’re a manager of trees or dogs, carry on.
Some of us have met, or even worked for, the boss that thinks they’re great at giving feedback. The particular self-delusion I’m thinking of is the “Hey, great job” variety, perhaps even accompanied by a pointing / clicking gesture.
This kind of generic, blanket praise is nice, but also totally ineffective. Effective feedback needs to be focused.
By focused I mean actionable and timely. Tell them exactly what behaviour is good (or bad) so they now exactly what to repeat (or change), as soon as possible. Feedback is useless if the target of your feedback doesn’t know what to do with it. A general “good job – keep it up” is meaningless unless it’s tied to a recent, repeatable action.
For example: “Scott, you did a great job getting all those videos recorded before the start of the conference. Having that is going to make the conference so much better.”
Like, all the time. At least when other people are in the room. Put away the phone, the laptop, stop tapping your gosh darn pencil. It’s just freaking annoying. Look at the person who’s talking. Better yet, turn you’re entire body to face them, like somebody’s who’s actually interested would do. Maybe take some notes.
It’ll make you look like a great communicator. It’ll also build the relationships you’ll need to persuade and influence people when you need it. Like leaders do.
Instead of writing that email get off your keister and walk down the hall and talk to her. Or use the video camera on your computer (or get one) and have a Skype video conference. Or pick up the phone if that’s your only option
Let them see your face, hear your voice, see your body language. Look at theirs. Build the freaking relationship. Then you’ll be a fantastic communicator.
p.s. When using a video-conference tool, look at the camera when they’re talking. It’ll make it look like you’re paying attention. Oh, and pay attention. That helps too.
You can’t network with the people on the contact list on your work computer, probably your most valuable “gotta find my next job” resource, when you’ve been escorted out the front door. It happens. It can happen to anybody. *holds up own hand*
Got it? Good. Do this every three months and keep your list up-to-date. This is the bare minimum you need to network. I’m not asking your to break of your company rules or the law, but you see the point.
Networking is the simple act of keeping in contact with people you can help, and that might be able to help you. When you do need to ask for something it won’t be awkward if you’ve stayed in contact. For many “technical” types this is a challenge. You may not feel comfortable reaching out to others for “no reason”, and it might be holding you back.
Here are some other places that you might consider, in your plan to build relationships in your industry:
Schools, Industry, Companies
If you’re still in school, or recently graduated, have you kept in contact with your class mates? The “good” schools like Carleton or Yale don’t necessarily have smarter professors or students than any other school. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But when their students graduate they have a built-in network and credibility. Your fellow students are good candidates for keeping in touch with over the years. Same industry, same interests, and likely a similar career path.
Go to dinner at your chosen profession’s association. This is a no-brainer. You’re not there for the rubber chicken or the dinner speaker. You’re there to meet others in your industry. For bonus points and to turbo-charge your connections: volunteer. It doesn’t matter if your volunteering effort is to hand out name-tags at the dinner reception desk, or to run the local annual association conference. Your name and your credibility goes up the more you give. Which makes it easier to find your next job (or next employee if you’re in recruiting mode).
Join a local Toastmasters. Even better if the club is industry, geographic, or interest specific. Again, bonus points for volunteering. This is also a good way to find connections if you’re planning to change careers or industries.
Check out your local Chamber of Commerce. If you’re looking for companies to work for, google “chamber of commerce” “your town”, and “your industry”. Then go to the open Chamber events and find the attendees that work for those companies. It’s a good way to target your next employer.
Question for the Comments:
How did you find your last job?
Other Articles You May Be Interested In:
Bernie works as a leadership and strategic business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well. He believes that not doing anything about bad leadership, once you know about it, is abuse. And poor business practice.
He believes organizations are founded on their values. He believes that the workplace is a place for both people and businesses to thrive. Not just survive.
Check out his other articles at practicalmanagers.com