July 12, 2014

5 Good Reasons Why People Really Need to Talk More (and 4 Things to Avoid)

5 Good Reasons Why People Really Need to Talk More (and 4 Things to Avoid)

It is very true that failing (well) is a fertile ground for improvement and personal/business enhancement. And even when you don’t explicitly fail, just recognizing something could be much better, overall, is a very good happening in the life of any business.

I have already written about planning and project management in the past, so you can safely consider this post as a follow-up, another step in the never-ending learning process if you will. One that takes into account all that’s happened around here in the latest months – all good things, no worries – to formulate some additional thoughts on how project management can be truly successful and, most of all, useful to everyone.

Let’s start from the basics.

What is a project? Well to me, a project is “people”. Simple as that, no project can exist without people behind it, otherwise it’s just some pretty writing on a piece of paper (or the electronic equivalent, if you’re modern like that).

And the best thing people can do together is to communicate. Truth is, despite social media being all around us, and everyone striving to be more communicative and open, we tend to communicate less and less in our everyday life. In fact, the biggest obstacle any project manager can face is the lack of communication: between members of the team, between clients and the team, between team and management. Many possible fail-points and each of them can potentially screw everything up for good.

Many Alternatives, Few Solutions

So what are the traditional practices when it comes down to communicating?

Email

Email is still one of the favorite methods when it comes down to business. However, it poses the disadvantage of a lack of real engagement and a poor history management – as it’s not always very easy to navigate through the various stages and replies within a project, especially with many people involved.

Collaboration platforms

I have written about the collaboration platform we use – ActiveCollab – and, while I still believe it seriously kicks ass (and you should seriously try it out), I do recognize it has some limitations regarding true communication which are more intrinsic to the concept of collaboration software itself than specifically to ActiveCollab. For example, it’s not “immediate” enough, you lose the sense of real-time, and in the long run people are less and less encouraged to use it, and tend to give up.

Voicecalls

As in telephone calls, Skype calls and whatnot. Phone is still at the verge of the virtual pyramid of communication methods, but it’s hard to phone between several people (Skype multi-calls are extremely chaotic to me), and it’s hard to keep track of things and decisions in an efficient way.

Videocalls

Sure, it’s good to have some face-to-face contact with people you work with but, honestly, it’s not always comfortable to be stuck for a hour in a videocall, and the disadvantages of voice calls are not solved but even amplified.

So what’s the real solution to all these problems?

Funny enough, it’s about getting back to the basics.

Back to the Root

Let’s get around a table more often. It’s not always possible, but when that happens, a project advances SO much more than in any other way. Why?

1. Real-time engagement

People are facing each other, next to each other, they communicate in a way that’s extremely more natural than any other possible communication method.

2. Eye-to-eye contact

Watching each other in the eyes – be it team members or client-team meetings – holds a value that’s too often underestimated. Emotions, impressions, honest feedback, all those subtle “touches” that other way of communicating ideas simply cannot deliver.

3. Chill-time value

A meeting isn’t always synonymous of an uncomfortable event, it can be a way of relaxing a bit and engaging in a productive conversation, admitting you know how to hold a proper one (more on this later). Relaxing is also a very good way to be more effective and focused on what needs to be done.

4. Accomplishment

The feeling of accomplishment you have when you are done with a meeting – and you do realize progress has indeed been made – is something a simple email or phone call cannot give you.

5. Quick and easy

Nothing’s simpler than just sitting around a table, talking and taking notes. A natural method to address problems and find solutions to them in the simplest way possible.

Is it all roses? Definitely not, you have to pay attention to some key points, especially…

The 4 Most Important Things to Keep an Eye On

1. Time it right, nobody likes to feel like you are wasting their time, have the topics of the meeting clearly outlined at start (better if the attenders know them in advance), stick to them unless something extremely important comes out, and assign a proper timing to each of them, making sure you respect it as much as you can.

2. Know the roles, have the right people attend the right meeting, or you will have around you just people not interested in what you say and you will lack those who truly can make the project advance as it should.

3. Keep the right mood, if the attenders are not receptive, relaxed and open-minded the meeting will go nowhere. Of course this is easy when it comes to your own team (hopefully you have an awesome team), but it’s less guaranteed when you deal with clients, so make sure you prepare them beforehand.

4. Make it resolutive, nothing frustrates people more than a meeting ending in a big fat nothing. A meeting’s ultimate goal is to make a project advance, not just to move people’s lips up and down. A meeting needs to solve problems.

Perhaps I am being too old-school here, uh? Well don’t be too sure of it, even though I have a lot of faith in the future and I keep an eye on all those tools that are currently in the works to address all the problems of traditional communication methods.

I am especially looking forward to a project led by one of Facebook’s co-founders, Dustin Moskovitz, who left it specifically to manage his new startup.

The company is called Asana, and the cooperative software solution they are currently developing really intrigued me when I first read about it:

“In managing and contributing to projects in the past (at Facebook, Google, etc.), we felt frustrated by how much time we spent trying to stay on the same page with everyone (making sure teammates have the information they need, figuring out what everyone’s working on, clarifying priorities, …) and doing “work about work” (progress report emails, meetings, …). We’ve tried email, wikis, whiteboards, Microsoft Project, Google Docs, you name it, and while these are great for lots of things, we found everything suffered from one or both of: [..]” Keep reading here

Maybe they will solve all those problems I addressed before? We’ll see, I’ll be there to check. Or do you have a better idea?

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Comments

  1. There’s nothing wrong with being a little old school in my opinion. Think about this: When the Great Pyramids were build there was no email. The Romans didn’t use Skype when they build their empire. It comes down to organization, vision and skill. Having those well organized meeting around a table will go a long way to building any Pyramid. Nice post on the well overlooked subject of project management.
    jenny@thirty one recently posted..Thirty-One Gifts Recruiting Freeze

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      Thank you Jenny, yes I don’t think there’s anything wrong in being a bit old fashioned once in a while, it’s not something I do often as I try to be always on the edge of innovation, given what I do for a living.
      I often feel that if people just talked a bit more, lots of problems could be not just solved, but prevented from even happening in first place.

  2. nazimwarriach
    Twitter: PakistanHotline
    says:

    Hi Gabriele,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on communication, which is very much important in everybody’s life.
    Good Luck for Asana’s Project.
    nazimwarriach recently posted..epc Belfast

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      Thanks Nazim, yes I am definitely looking forward to see how Asana is going to evolve, hoping it’ll get out of the private beta very soon.

  3. Business Loans
    Twitter: huntingtonlive
    says:

    Hey Gab,
    I wish I have a gift of sweet talking. I can only talk to people when we’re on topic but aside from that there’s no way I can speak. Maybe if I had a keyboard there’s a chance that I’ll response. :D

    Sorry for this unrelated comment of mine. But I always notice when you do comment on Mitch’s, Tristan and any other blogs. Is “Maidecchi” your real name? coz I’m thinking of something else.

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      It’s not about sweet talking, having a simple meeting doesn’t require particular “gifts”, just the will to do it.
      That’s my last name.

  4. Face time is the best time, really. There is no better way to gain perspective, wants, needs and accomplishment then by looking at someone. As convenient as e-mails, texts and IMing is, it doesn’t show that you TRULY care or the type of expression that you are trying to convey. After all, a lot of communication is non-verbal. Good luck, and take back the playground!

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      You’re right, communication isn’t definitely just about the voice, there are a lot more layers to it. Something that just a face-to-face event can convey, for now at least.

  5. Steph Chasen says:

    Great post! Sometimes or most of the times the tone of our voice should take into consideration also.. Because the person that we’re talking to may able to sense if we’re sincere enough on what we are saying ore not..

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      Most importantly, yelling rarely brings good results. Sometimes it’s needed to act in a more “firm” way, but in most cases, it’s all about keeping a generally relaxed mood.

  6. That’s a good point. People still need face to face communication. I don’t think that technology will shut everybody in their home and socialize/communicate online. There is something valuable in physical meet ups that can never be replaced by technology no matter how highly sophisticated they get.
    Anne Sales @ Coupon Codes recently posted..123Print Coupon Code

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      Well we can’t be sure exactly how sophisticated technology will be in the future, similarly to how we didn’t imagine hundreds of millons of people would spend the vast majority of their time talking to people through a website ;)
      For now though, what you say is indeed right, for how cliche it may sound, especially from a business perspective.

  7. LoveChic says:

    I agree with you completely that face-to-face communication is the best to reach an agreement or to succeed in a project. From my point of view we rely too much spend writing emails or using Skype. In my office, people are too lazy to go to another room and say “Hello” and they just write it online. Of course modern technologies save our time(if they really do it), but you can reach much more if you pay attention to life communication.

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      That’s true, we’re too tangled with online communications to bother with real ones anymore. Sometimes it makes sense, some other times it really doesn’t, and it is counterproductive.
      You gotta learn what time is right for what, to be truly effective.

  8. These days i noticed people prefer to call me after receiving an offer mail. That’s when we can’t meet face to face because of distance.
    I guess hearing my voice makes them feel like they can read my honesty just by a call :)
    In a way, it works, but some peope are really good liars, and even better on the phone.
    Maria Pavel@CNA Training recently posted..CNA Certification

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      Well I believe it’s more because people see telephone communications are more official than a simple email. It’s hard to do business just by email, people mostly always want a real-time feedback via voice, be it Skype or phone. It’s more like a psychological thing than anything else really, but I definitely know what do you mean.

      • Don’t remind me about the ones that keep me for hours on the phone explaining things i already understood in the first 5 minutes of the conversation. Those times i prefer an email i can read in 2 minutes instead of 1 hour listening to stories.
        Not all clients are like that, but some are.
        Maria Pavel@CNA Training recently posted..CNA Training in California

  9. Chelsea Thomas
    Twitter: chelc_thomas
    says:

    Excellent post! I have to agree with Anne from above. There is nothing like a face to face conversation. Social networks are great for “ice breakers” and developing some sort of relationship but the face to face interaction can really seal the deal, especially if you want to do business with that person. People like to work with people that they know.

    Ever been assigned a group project with people you didn’t know? Everybody’s usually aweful quiet until you get to know each other then things start to develop.

    Well, great post!
    Chelsea Thomas recently posted..Don’t Forget To Put Some Thought Into Your Title

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      I have been on the manager’s side of that, integrating a new person in the team is a process that can take weeks of “awkward silences”, it’s only normal and we all understand that. You can’t really break ice through social media, not in the same way anyway.

  10. Haydn@staged.com
    Twitter: freedomunpluggd
    says:

    Hi Gabriele,

    Thank you for taking the time to post this piece. It is my job to facilitate meetings where I work and I found myself nodding when reading your ’4 most important points to keep an eye on..’

    By the way, this is a beautiful looking blog – did you design it yourself?

    Haydn
    Haydn@staged.com recently posted..Stagedcom Is An Excellent Lead Generation Tool For MLM-Network Marketing Professionals

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      Thank you Haydn, glad to get the feedback from someone “in the field”, so to say :)
      The blog is based on the WordPress Genesis framework but the header/icons/backgrounds are custom-made by our team. Thanks for your words!

  11. “have the right people attend the right meeting”

    You need to make sure about this because connecting to those people interested is the main reason why you meet up with them. Avoid bribing other people. There are times that businesses attract people with different stuffs just for them to have their presence. I don’t really think it’s a good strategy.
    Samantha@teeth grinding recently posted..Symptoms Of Teeth Grinding

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple
      says:

      In politics they say the perfect amount of people to attend a meeting in order for it to be productive is no more than 8, that’s why they always mention the G8 is the only meaningful event to discuss real problems and make real progress, while the G20 always leads to uncertainty and confusion, with nothing decided for real at the end of the day.
      I believe it as well, choosing the right people allows you to be a lot more picky, and actually make it count.