Effective communication ain’t rocket science, in just 5 effective steps
Working with startups introduces one to a gamut of personalities and often a lot of engineers – sometimes they are a lot of fun to work with, but most often they aren’t the best communicators. Sometimes their skills rarely take them places, which made one wonder what is it that they are missing that the slackers and the ‘Smart Alecs’ walk away with all the accolades and the moolah. Then it occurred to me that beyond the domain knowledge, technical and analytic skills – the engineering schools they went to never taught them to be effective communicators, unlike most art school graduates that thrive on communication.
And often once in a leadership roles engineers are often lost at sea for lack of some basic skills, how to deal with teammates to work in a collaborative manner, then dealing with the external world of clients, customers, vendors, the government and the public. Maybe that is why so often despite being so qualified, engineers horde to B-schools and they turn out to be great leaders. Maybe there are exceptions and of course a B-school degree can’t guarantee success but it occurred to me, why not create a little cheat sheet for all the engineers and the geek at heart out there…
Here goes all or nothing:
1. Learn to work well on a team. Someone I know once told me “I have never fired an engineer for bad engineering, but I have fired an engineer for lack of teamwork.”
So how does one work well in a team, it starts with something very basic, the next on the list…
2. Clear, effective communication. This requires strong cognitive empathy, the ability to understand how the other person thinks. Begins with the realization that not all of us think the same way and it is important to understand what the other persons perspective is. Of course, good listening skills are very important forms the backbone of effective communications.
3. Adapting well to change. Such flexibility signifies good self-management because things would never remain the same. The smartest way forward is adapt, adopt and improvise according to the situation.
4. Smooth interactions with a wide variety of people. This includes customers, clients and workmates from groups different than one’s own, and from other cultures. Human beings are unique and are not always predictive nor does one formula apply for all, unlike machines and code.
5. Thinking clearly and solving problems under pressure. A combination of self-awareness, focus, and quick stress recovery puts the brain in an optimal state for whatever cognitive abilities are needed. Being a cool cucumber is a necessity for any job, remember stress never solves anything.
To enhance emotional intelligence competencies may be life long experience but once the basics that I have listed above are learned, you can continue to build on them throughout their career. Maybe I am wrong about a few things, but then if… I sure would like to stand corrected.