We were upgrading our computer systems in the office last week and, as I was out training for the week, it was an ideal time for our “go to IT” man to rummage around my desk unplugging and reconnecting a host of devices that apparently represent my computer. On one of the days I popped in to see how things were going and, looking at the chaos of cables, I must admit I was even more pleased to be out delivering a course.
Seeing me and not wanting me to be left out of the upgrade process our “go to IT” preacher, wide-eyed and clearly possessed by the IT spirit, could hardly contain his enthusiasm to communicate the benefits of my new system and began speaking in tongues, “you’ve got an Ivy Bridge core i5 processor, SSD drives, 3.0 USB ports double the number of ports…”
I nodded approvingly (remembering that effective communication skills mean being a good listener) but I think the glazed look in my eyes gave me away. In truth, I couldn’t really distinguish it from my old system, another dark rectangular box that sat hidden under my desk. Sensing he was losing his congregation, a deflated “go to IT” man offered up what he felt was all I really wanted to hear. “It will be ten times faster than the last machine and will do everything you need it to for the next few years”. Hallelujah!… I was converted.
A few days later I was reflecting back on this conversation. He had demonstrated perfectly how to notice responses and be flexible when communicating with customers and stakeholders. This is exactly what we encourage project managers to do in Communicating and Influencing when covering effective communication skills.
However, it just felt a bit one-sided. Yes it worked for me. I got the key information I needed, said thank you, and moved on to focus on a multitude of other priorities. But how was our IT person left feeling? He has so much enthusiasm and passion for his work and he had worked so hard to ensure a smooth transition for the office. In my “busyness” I had overlooked what was important to him, and he must have felt frustrated.
We have had a joke about it since and he says he’s happy having the techie chats with the systems providers. This has been a great reminder for me – we are a part of the same team, and it’s important to make the time and space for the informal chit-chats and connecting with people, as well as focusing on getting the task done. After all, these connections are the glue that bring people together and help build truly high performance teams.
What do you do with your team, to maintain a sensible balance between building relationships and getting on with the tasks?