As an MSP, you will be collaborating with internal staff, customers, and vendor/service providers. In my previous blog, “Collaboration Distractions” I focused on how to avoid competition during a collaboration session and what to do about distractions that impede the success of a collaboration session. This time, I am dealing with MSP members, customers, and vendor/service providers who can communicate better during a collaboration session. It may surprise you that knowing the others in the session DOES NOT ensure a productive session.
The Good Communicator
A good communicator is a good collaborator. Collaboration sessions are frequently with people we know. This can lead to the assumption that we will fully understand the other person(s) during the conference. Do not depend on the technology to compensate for poor communications skills. The skills that work well in a face-to-face meeting should be applied to the collaboration session.
Do We Understand Them?
There is a quote from “8 Secrets of Great Communicators” by Dr. Travis Bradberry; “When it comes to communication [collaboration], we all tend to think we’re pretty good at it. Truth is, even those of us who are good communicators aren’t nearly as good as we think we are. This overestimation of our ability to communicate is magnified when interacting with people we know well.”
Researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School Of Business put this theory to the test. What they discovered is eye opening. They researchers paired subjects with people they knew well and then again with people they’d never met. The researchers discovered that people who knew each other well understood each other no better than people who’d just met! Unfortunately participants frequently overestimated their ability to communicate. This was more pronounced with people they knew well.
A quote from George Bernard Shaw says it all “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
You Can Do Collaboration Better
Even if you know another person well, it does not mean they will communicate well in the next conference. It also does not mean that your understanding is as effective as another person. I once had an employee who was good at his job, but would jump around when talking. I could follow him, but his persistent jumping annoyed others and prevented the understanding he desired. I had to translate for him in each conference.
Dr. Bradberry recommends strategies to follow when communicating. I have modified them to relate to audio/video conferencing.
- Members of the meeting appreciate when you treat them as individuals. In video conferencing, don’t look as if you are speaking to someone else beyond the video camera. Look at the camera. In an audio conference, avoid background conversations.
- Remember, your goal is for others to want to listen. Listen to the background sounds on an audio conference. Watch the others on a video conference. What you hear and see can provide insight into the attention of the others in the conference.
- Listen when others speak. Don’t make the conference a one way monologue. Listen and watch to observe subtleties in speech, tone, attention, and body language (like facial expressions) that indicate there are other opinions not stated.
- What you say in an audio conference and how you deliver body language in a video conference can go a long way to conveying a message. Don’t be aloof. Express some emotion, positive or negative, when communicating. This helps enforce what you are trying to impart.
- Prepare. Don’t think that winging it works all the time. Let others know what to expect in the conference, either before or as part of the opening remarks when the conference starts.
- Jargon and euphemisms can be misunderstood. Listeners may translate them improperly and draw erroneous conclusions, especially when conference participants are from another culture.
- Ensure you are an active listener. It makes others feel you are listening.
- Listen more than you talk.
- Do not answer questions with another question. You may not deliver the answer and this becomes evident and appears that you are avoiding the question.
- Avoid finishing other’s sentences unless they are struggling. Make the helpful comment as suggestion.
- Focus on the other person more than on yourself whenever possible.
- Do not try to think ahead for the speaker. Listen to what they are saying. Avoid making guesses about you think the other person is
- If you are not sure what the other person has said, rephrase their statement in a way that you can understand. If it helps look or
- sound confused.
- Think about what you’re going to say after someone has finished speaking, not while he or she is speaking.
- Ask questions to help clarify the conversation.
- Don’t interrupt. If you do, others will either ignore you or the conference will lose direction and become a competition of speakers.
Changing Your Collaboration Approach
You may not be consciously aware of these strategies during the conference. Don’t try to implement them all at once. I usually try to practice one strategy three times to ensure I have mastered the strategy and then move on to the next strategy. These strategies are a behavior change. Implement them again until they are a habit then move on and add another. Eventually, your conferences will be shorter, more productive, and others will want to attend rather than avoid the conference.
Edited by Erik Linask