In our AV world, it is important to realize that there are multiple states of engagement with people. There are people that “get it”. There are people that don’t. There are people that are “with you” and those that are not. Here’s the crazy part, you can be with someone and not get it or you can get it but not be with someone. In my world, AV nirvana happens when not only do you get me but you are with me.
Getting it and being with me means that you truly understand the conversation at hand, you see the objective, you are focused on the same goal and you don’t get bogged down in minutiae. You realize that the quicker you get to the point, the sooner you meet your goal and achieve our objective. And the objective? Satisfy the client.
When you are in sync with the members of your team, you can finish each other’s sentences. This is executive project management bliss … for you, for your partners and for the client. Recently, I was sitting in a meeting with a colleague of mine that “gets it and is with me”. We were listening to an engineer’s report and when the engineer paused between statements, my colleague and I turned to him, and like reading from a finely choreographed script, in unison, we asked the same exact question. The engineer responded. Again, we found ourselves inquiring in harmony a second question and then a third question. We worded it precisely the same way and presented the questions at precisely the same time. We didn’t miss a word or a beat. Why? Because we were both hyper focused on the outcome and we knew exactly what needed to be asked and answered to move us closer to resolution and our common goal. Now, if only every meeting could go like that.
What you want to avoid at all costs are those meetings where the more someone “that you are with” talks, the more nervous the client starts getting. This is when your team member just doesn’t “get it” – they may mean well, but when they speak they lack clarity, or they sound unsure, or they start talking about a scope change that could have a significant impact. This makes people crazy and is the type of crash and burn scenario that happens all too often in project meetings – even among members of the same project team.
So how do you assess if you are a person who “gets it” and who can be “with it” at the same time?
First, if you talking in a meeting and talking for more than 10 seconds – you are digging yourself a hole. If you can’t answer a question in 10 seconds, you are either not prepared to answer the question, or the question is too vague. Get clarification then respond with conviction or ask a pointed question to clarify. Don’t waffle, don’t change the subject, just be concise and be crystal clear.
Next, the same goes for e-mail. If you can’t answer someone’s email inquiry in a sentence or two, you are not being clear. If reading a response means you have to scroll, you will lose your reader. Ideally,
the response you want after a clear email is sent falls into the “Great. Thanks.” category. If you don’t get that kind of response after the first two emails. Pick up the phone.
Third, don’t drone on. There are many times I get an email and it requires “scrolling” and it loses my attention before I even have a chance to respond despite my meaning to get back to it. More often I never get back to it. Realize that if you can be as concise as possible and you can make it as easy to respond you will have a better chance of getting the answer you need to move closer to resolution and project success.
Another tip I would offer? Ask questions differently. Too many times, when we are trying to clarify something, we just ask the same question again, maybe louder than the first time…your audience isn’t deaf…they are just not “getting it”. So, use a different metaphor and ask it a different way.
They say great communicators can convey complex ideas at a high level very quickly. So, I ask, how good are you and can you tell me in 10 seconds or less?
Christopher Maione Associates would like to thank
Richard Wilkins, VCA, Director of Technical Operations, Project Management Office for his contribution to our blog.