Surprises are bad.
No, I’m not talking about surprise birthday parties, or a 50% off sale at your favorite store.
I mean business surprises. The things that sneak up on you and throw you off your game, sucking time and energy out of your day that should be spent on accomplishing the things you and your team have planned and committed to. And they are – for the most part – completely avoidable.
Surprises happen because of a lack of communication. In the case of a surprise party, that is intentional.
But in the work environment, people who are supposed to be collaborating can often surprise each other, and sometimes with disastrous results.
Not communicating leaves other people standing around waiting, or getting caught flat-footed when you need to call on them for assistance and support.
Team members can stumble to get up to speed, casting aside other projects because yours is “on fire” and needs immediate attention. Obviously, that’s not the path to success. And it can even make happy clients, well, not happy.
Like I said, it’s completely avoidable.
Institute a “no surprises” policy on your team.
One of my favorite topics to noodle and debate with others is that of perception.
In the PR world, we are challenged to always put ourselves into the shoes of another: whether we are trying to tell someone’s story to create a compelling pitch, anticipating a reporter’s questions to help them write a better story, or putting ourselves in the shoes of a person to whom we are trying to communicate a message.
Perception is powerful. It is the source of discordance as well as harmony. It’s the key to almost everything we want to accomplish in life.
And so for this Friday ShareDay, here’s a really insightful TED Talk on perception and the inequities of how people look versus who they are from underwear model (thank me later, guys) Cameron Russell titled “Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model.”
[tweetmeme source=”jodyfisher”only_single=false https://jodyfisher.wordpress.com%5D
I love those memes running around the Internet about grammar and how its misuse can accomplish all kinds of mischief, from sending the wrong signals to “killing grandma.”
Joking aside, our language (either spoken and written) can reveal critical clues about the people with whom we are working and give us insight into their priorities. This is especially true when you encounter those folks who make you scratch your head and ask whether you are both talking about the same topic, or clients or co-workers to whom you have to answer.
So the next time you read or hear something from them that sounds a little off, see if one of these issues is the culprit:
1. Texture and tone. More than what someone is saying, listen to how they say it. Are they seemingly irritable or paranoid about a certain topic? Try to figure out why and propose an answer to their problems. Better yet, try to lead them to it and let them answer the question themselves.
2. Hitting the wrong “sy-LAH-ble.” Do they emphasize details of something that perhaps don’t seem critically important? Are they fixated on that issue? Then ask yourself, “why?” and try to provide a solution.
3. Upside down syndrome. Do they see the reverse angle of an issue? Do they say you’re going to a meeting with a person who didn’t call the meeting, but will be a strong presence in the room? Perhaps they’re worried about that person. Help them get comfortable with the idea by collecting and presenting all the knowledge you can before the perceived confrontation goes down.
4. Lack of clarity – or too much. Do they use meaningful or meaningless language in communications? Catch phrases or jargon? Do they get right to the point when talking about something or do they over-wordsmith emails and memos? Try to help them see that clear and concise is better – even if that means taking a stab at doing more of the work yourself and handing them a finished product.
Peeling back the layers of a person’s priorities and thinking process can sometimes be as easy as listening and paying attention to their words. Sometimes you just run up against crazy – but most time it’s just fear and self doubt. Help them get through it and you’ll be helping yourself in the process.