Episode 35: Coworkers and communication: live coaching session with Vince Wood


April 28th, 2020

40 mins 3 secs

Your Hosts

About this Episode

In this episode, Liz and Kat tackle some questions about communications with coworkers in this session with Vince Wood, a Houston-based IT professional and podcaster.

Vince brought to the session a few questions and scenarios around effective communication within a team, taking into account their different and unique perspectives and experiences. We also talk about the general challenges of working with others and how to optimally communicate with others in this episode.

Vince framed his overall problem this way: bringing people to work together effectively is a challenge, specifically getting a team to gel to accomplish their shared goals. People come into a team with different perspectives, different experiences, and different styles.

We talk about building teams and setting expectations inside htem. Knowing the people on your team and how they like to interact, and knowing how to set expectations is critical to working with different people. The leader of the team must set expectations, giving the lay of the land, setting goals, and telling everyone how their role contributes to the overall picture. This sets the team up for success.

One of the challenges with being a manager, of course, is that often new managers don't receive training, and this forces them to learn how to manage teams by trial and error. And even if they are trained, we've all met managers who don't seem very good at managing.

Vince came to Liz and Kat with three challenging scenarios that he's seenat work, and wanted feedback from Liz and Kat on how to tackle these tricky challanges.

Challenge #1: you want to support a fellow team member in a challanging meeting, so you quietly slip them a message with some tips, but then they get offended. What should you do?

Kat's take was that, first of all, you apologize and explain yourself and that you weren't meaning to offend; then you have conversation around what they would want from you in the future.

Explaining why you stepped in when someone was asked to answer something you didn’t think they knew will help them understand your mindset and why you did what you did. Vince then asks about strange reactions when people DO know each other well. And Kat and Liz point out that there may be previous air to clear, and that even if people work together every day, they may not feel safe with each other.

Vince’s Challenge #2: around coming into work, teammates with differing work schedules, and asking teammates for help immediately as they enter the office, without giving them a chance to get settled.

Kat and Liz point out that it's important to respect people’s rhythms, understand that they may have different schedules, constraints, work priorities, and cycles of productivity. You should ask when they are available to help, not just grab them as they enter the office in the morning. Organize group work around when everyone is in, and also trust that people can rise to the occasion when they are called upon. As adults, we can ask people for what we need, such as saying “can this wait 5 minutes and then I’ll be all ears?”.

Vince’s 3rd challenge was around having a coworker who is always talking about the way they did things at their last job, without regard to how that fits with the current situation. We talk about how to approach them to see if they're willing to reexamine how they're seeing the situation. Liz also muses that this situation could be because someone is trying to feel knowledgable or less insecure about their current role, and we encourage Vince to kindly point out the differences and ask the coworker to problem-solve in this new environment.

How do you help someone with problem solving? Maybe recommend a good book that helped you, but come from a place of caring and helping vs telling and commanding.

Vince recommends Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving An F” to colleagues when he senses they are burning out.

Vince finally shares with us his 3 general take-aways for difficult interpersonal situtions: (1) communicate, even overcommunicate; (2) learn to listen; and (3) have patience. Liz and Kat confirm that lots of communcation - and paying attention to individual styles and preferences of communication - as well as recapping conversations are all great ways to make sure things get heard.

Recap emails after a meeting, including deliverables and assignments, allow people to ask questions outside of the big room. This keeps everyone on the same page and also helps people who learn in different ways to ensure understanding.

Thanks, Vince, for coming on the show and posing some challanging scenarios for Liz and Kat to tackle.

Vince Wood is @mvwood on Twitter
Vince's IT Reality Podcast: website and @ITRealityUS on Twitter

If you would like to have a live coaching session with Liz and Kat on the podcast, just contact us. We have a lot of fun with these.