Category Archives: Communication

Communicate More By Talking Less

communicate more
Sometimes you have to talk less to communicate more

I recently had a conversation with someone who didn’t want the conversation to end.  It started innocently enough as a hallway conversation.  We hadn’t seen each other in a while.  I made some small talk asking the person how things had been.  After about five minutes, I realized that the conversation had evolved to meaningless chatter. Every time I started to close off the argument, the other person came up with another discussion point.

I’ve seen a similar phenomenon in meetings.  I once had a weekly status meeting that was scheduled for an hour.  Even when all of the agenda topics had been covered, the owner of the meeting would think up new discussion topics to fill out the balance of the hour. Just because a meeting is scheduled for an hour, doesn’t mean it needs to last that long.
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Good Project Connections

project connections
Good project connections are like good plumbing

I recently completed a home improvement project to install an underground sprinkler system in my yard.  After digging trenches up and down and around the house and running tubing in each direction, I needed to splice the tubing at several points with a tee or an elbow requiring various joining connectors at each bend.  At some points, I needed to connect different sized tubes at various angles.

I was amazed at how many different configurations they make of the tubing connectors and how many I purchased that didn’t fit my needs. When I calculate the total cost of the project, I’ll need to reduce it by the amount of the refunds when I return all of the wrong sized connectors I bought.  I should also factor in all of the gas I burned running to Home Depot, Lowes and all of the other stores trying to find the right parts.
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What Do They Mean By Strong Communication Skills?

strong communication skills
What Do They Mean By Strong Communication Skills?

Published job descriptions are full of ambiguous skill demands.  Demonstrated leadership skills…Flexible, powerful intellect…Creative and curious…Great team player.

Those traits are hard to prove; and hard to disprove unless you were a total slug in college.

Strong communication skills?

But one of the things most companies are looking for is someone with strong communication skills.  That should be the easiest to prove of all of them shouldn’t it?

I mean, communication is about talking.  I talk all the time.  I’ll just talk in the interview and they’ll know that I’m not shy.
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Feedback Loops through the One On One

one on one
Feedback Loops through the One On One

Managing teams in any environment is a challenging undertaking.  You’re trying to accomplish some goal as a team. But each member of the team has their own individual goals that may conflict or at least may not be in line with the team goal.

An approach that can help is to have a regular one on one meeting with each team member.  These meetings are not meant to be long discussions.  If they regularly exceed fifteen minutes, you may be doing it wrong and wasting valuable time for both parties.

A frequent one on one

It’s best to have a regular schedule on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  The purpose is to get feedback from each team member and to provide feedback to them if there are areas where you feel they need to refocus to accomplish the team’s goals.
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Agreeing to Disagree – Playing it Safe

Agreeing to Disagree
Agreeing to Disagree

I once worked with a woman who had a habit of saying ‘I don’t disagree’.  This was invariable a response to a point her manager made.

Having it both ways

I thought this was a very safe approach to commenting on one’s boss’s comments.  You don’t have to agree while you don’t disagree.  You get to remain the business equivalent of Switzerland while still speaking up.

Depending on the environmental politics you work around, safe may be the best approach.  But if you don’t disagree, does that mean that you agree?  Or does it mean that you’re speaking up without having the gumption to take a stand?

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Airing the Consulting Firm’s Dirty Laundry

Dirty Laundry
The Consulting Firm’s Dirty Laundry

I was once at a client where I had developed an excellent relationship with one of their employees. We got to the point where we began going to lunch on a regular basis and would occasionally stop for a drink after work. It’s usually a good development when your client relationship gets to that.

The client’s dirty laundry

Our relationship began to evolve from talking just about business and the project we had in common, to talking about our families and hobbies.  Eventually, we got to the point one night over drinks where he began talking about office politics and, even worse, office gossip.
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Key Consulting Skill: Shut Up

consulting skill
Key Consulting Skill: Shut Up

The young batter planted his back foot in the dirt of the batter’s box and assumed his stance.  He took a hard swing at the 2-1 pitch, rocketing it between third base and the shortstop.  The shortstop dove hard to his right and knocked the ball down.  Quickly, he picked it up and threw a hard rope to first base.  We all heard the base runner’s foot hit the base a split second before the ball hit the glove to beat out the play.

Then, to everyone’s shock, the umpire bellowed a confident “Out”.
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Consulting Skill: Getting Others to Communicate

Consulting Skill
Consulting Skill: Getting Others to Communicate

 

One of the most critical consulting skills is communication.  A good consultant needs to know when to communicate, when not to, and the most effective way to do it when it is necessary.

The communication consulting skill

Knowing how to communicate includes knowing the right format – do I email this guy, call him, or schedule a face-to-face?  Once you figure out the best approach, you need to plan out the correct words that make your communication diplomatic, but direct enough for the situation.
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Do You Deliver a Transparent Status Report?

Transparent Status Report?
Do You Deliver a Transparent Status Report?

I once managed a project for a multi-site organization to implement software at each location.

I held a weekly status conference-call with the company’s executives which included the branch manager from each location.  In these calls, I would give an overall status of the project and each branch manager would report the status for their respective branch.

When the turn came up for one branch manager to report status, he always reported the project as green; there were never any issues or risks.
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Put the Phone Down and Listen

Put the Phone Down
Time to Put the Phone Down

I’ve had to sit through my share of meetings to which I never should have been invited; and many meetings where I was only necessary for a minute or two, to provide an update.

It’s one of the most infuriating things I endure as a consultant.  Sitting in a 1-hour – or longer – meeting is not only a waste of my time, but a waste of the client’s money to pay for me to sit there.
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