PART 1: COMMUNICATION
Recently I was invited share my experience about project management. Very exciting, indeed, except that I could not call myself a conventional project manager. Those who know me are well aware that when it comes to projects, I have my own ways of dealing with things – I’m always more focused on people than on rules or methods and that’s my “secret sauce” for success. Therefore for me strong relationship with colleagues and team members is the basis for successful project management.
Connection is the key!
The first thing to keep in mind and remember is that “people always choose with whom they like to work and whom to give priority”. Always! Even when we think we don’t have much choice we still do. Even though we all have our workload, plans, deadlines we still choose in which order to prioritize them. When we have a few projects with the same (or similar) deadline and a free will, to which one will we give a priority? The answer is simple – the one whose project manager we like more 😊
We all know how smoothly everything goes when we have people around us whom we can count on. We know how easy and painless it is when we have someone to turn to for a favor or to speed things up. We all know how good it feels to always have “that one” (or many) colleague who knows answers to all our questions, right? And if we build network of great connections, we always feel the lucky ones. So how do we do that? How do we build connections that last?
In reality people are always looking for other people. Those who are true human beings, those for whom humaneness is the highest value. Those who treat themselves and others with respect. We are very quick to differentiate a true person coming our way from knowledgeable but formal and “dry” expert. We do not prefer those anymore, do we? 🙂
Often the perception is that for outgoing and bubbly personalities it is easy to make and sustain connection however for people that are not so talkative and prefer actions rather than (many) words that’s quite a challenge. True, but still – challenging does not mean impossible. However comfortable or not you are with connecting with others – that’s the key to your success. All you need to know is how to build rapport with anyone.
Another important thing to remember is that “people like people who are like themselves or who are like how they would like to be”. Just think for a moment: how easily we connect with people who are or look like us. It’s effortless! And now think about building a connection with that colleague whom you never understand and who looks like a total stranger. It feels like you need massive effort to have a 2-minute conversation with him/her. In other words – it’s not so inspiring and inviting straight away. Unless you know the key rules on how to build a rapport. So how do we do that?
Forms of communication – why “HOW” is more important than “WHAT”
The most common way to connect with someone is communication – we do it every day. We all know that we transmit information in verbal and non-verbal ways. However, do we all remember that:
WORDS = 7% of communication (only)
VOICE TONALITY = 38% of communication
BODY LANGUAGE = 55% of communication
That’s right, in the very beginning the actual content has the least of the impact when communicating with another person. Our posture, tone of voice, facial expressions, gesticulation has more impact than actual message. Very expressive or aggressive physiology can even prevent people from getting the content because if they get scared, they will not hear/understand anything. Their brain will concentrate on saving themselves from this stressful experience instead of processing the content that is being delivered.
Does not sound real? Please, do not believe me, make an experiment! The next time you see your spouse/partner a friend or whomever, make a serious face, put your hands on your hips, elbows turning to the sides, and in a very loud and angry tone of voice pay them the most beautiful compliment. Do you see them smiling or they look more confused than happy? That’s how it works.
We also tend to be more favorable towards the people whose body language matches ours. Have you noticed (or tried) that in the meetings? When you see a person who sits, gesticulates or acts the same (or very similar) way as you, do you get a feeling that they are your peers (even if this is the first time you meet them)? Go on and observe.
These rules are applicable for “live” (or video) communication when we can actually see the other person. In instances where we do not see a person (a phone call) the tonality of voice and quality of sound has higher impact. In cases where we can neither hear nor see (e-mail)) words have more weight, but then emotions come into play. I’ll explain more about it when talking about EQ.
Choose right channel
Now that you are more conscious about the importance of alignment of verbal and non-verbal forms of communication. It’s time to tackle one more aspect – make sure you deliver the message via the right channel. Yes, that’s right, based on the senses they use to absorb and accept information people may be Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. There are a few more senses, of course, but in business environment let’s focus on the abovementioned ones. Every person has a leading and a supporting channel hence we use 2 out of three.
When delivering your message make sure that you know who is in front of you – how that person accepts information. For the Visual ones pictures, different fonts, sizes and colors are important. They take everything through their eyes. For Auditory people sound, words and detailed written content are the key. Those are the people who enjoy reading manuals from the beginning to the end. Kinesthetic are keen on trying everything themselves. They understand by trying and doing.
With all this information in hand it’s time to act. If you take time to assess who you are dealing with, chances are that most of the time you will be great communicator. But if not… things can go south too often and you will need to spend way more time to explaining things, completing tasks and fixing issues.
This is how it happens: if you give detailed lists of instructions to visual person. They will suffer. They will (eventually get it) but it will take them a lot of time and effort to process and the information. I’m talking from my own experience. I am very clearly visual 🙂 Once my very Auditory colleague gave a presentation… 10 (or more) slides filled with loads of valuable content in font 10 (in my perception). No pictures, maybe a few diagrams somewhere in the middle… He lost me on slide 2. I did not remember anything but how bad that presentation was… I needed a separate verbal meeting with him to catch up on content.
Yes, you can say it’s easy when communicating one-to-one but what to do when working with teams? We cannot make sure that we have people grouped in teams based on their information channels.. What to do then? The answer is – make sure you communicate via all 3 channels. Always! In your slides put things to accommodate Visuals and Auditory colleagues and when presenting tackle Kinesthetics. You’ll be the winner.
Another important thing to remember is that communicator is responsible for the success of communication. In other words: if I am explaining something to someone and that person does not understand me it’s not their problem, it’s mine! It means either my content is not aligned with non-verbal part of communication or I am delivering my message via incorrect channel. The responsibility always lays with the one delivering the message, not the one receiving it. We tend to believe we are really good communicators it’s just that we need to deal with not so smart people 🙂 While the reality is that we use our main channel to deliver information to everyone forgetting the differences.
It might sound unbelievable, I know, and therefore I am asking you not to plainly believe in everything I write here. Go out there and experiment. Please, try! For a day or two or a week take responsibility for the success of your communication. Put extra effort to understand who the people around you are, how they accept and understand information, what’s their channel and then adapt to that. Yes, it’s not so simple, yes, it requires extra effort and yes it is absolutely worth it.
Making the connection with others it’s not only about being kind and nice. It’s about that extra mile (or two) that you take to understand, know and respect someone. It’s about the responsibility for the success of your communication, relationship and performance regardless business or personal. The best reward for your effort is the connection you get in return. People always appreciate it and respond to it by making you their priority.
To be continued….