Sometimes in our role as Consultant, Administrator, or User Support, we go so deep in developing technical skills, that we lose perspective on softer skills that could be holding us back. Today I was reminded of one of those simple skills that it is easy to lose sight of. We see this all the time with administrators that support solutions like SharePoint, Office 365, Power BI, Dynamics 365 and Power Apps.
And I was reminded of how important this is again today while talking to a client. I’ve been in technology customer service for my entire career, and a consultant for the last 10 years, so I have needed this skill from day one. Whether you are an end user or in upper management it is critically important to be able to tailor your voice to the people around you. If you don’t do this, you risk losing not only your audience but perhaps a bit of the overall relationship as well.
This morning I had a call scheduled to help a client complete a basic SharePoint list configuration. It was mostly complete, but the client needed just a little help overcoming a couple of hurdles setting up the security. The person already had some basic knowledge of SharePoint, lists and views and I needed to remember that. We very briefly discussed a couple of options for setting this up, then immediately focused on the security. I showed how we could accomplish the security configuration that was needed, but didn’t walk through the steps since they don’t need to understand that. The client asked a few questions like “What is X, I always wondered that was”. After about 30 minutes we were done, and I was told “I wish I could have had you explain that to me 5 years ago! The last person I worked with just launched into detailed content types and other things I didn’t care about or applied to this. Thank you very much!”
Obviously that was nice to hear, but in all humility I have been that "last person" more than once. It's easy to get so excited about the technology that we spend a lot of time talking about how the watch is built, rather than helping the user to know how to tell the time! Learning to listen to the user and understand what is needed to help them in an ongoing journey. Here are a couple of habits that have helped me..
How can you talk at someone’s level if you don’t know what that is? If you are going to a meeting with more than a few people, speak to the organizer and find out the roles of the people coming and get a sense for if they are technology workers, project managers, engineers or C-level management. Ask a few questions like, “What’s your previous experience or comfort level with SharePoint or the technology at hand”?
Staying focused is just as important as being prepared, but it’s easy to get sidetracked in a meeting and lose focus. Let’s say we’re in a meeting discussing a SharePoint migration project with a mix of attendees including project management, IT, developers and a couple of leaders from management. People are most outspoken about what they know and are most comfortable with. So IT can talk about Active Directory and servers, the developer can talk all the issues with code, etc.
Remember the WHY of the meeting. Is it a status meeting meant to review and develop mitigation strategies? Or is it to discuss high-level planning and strategy? If the latter, keep the focus on that. You don’t need to discuss every powershell script you will use to fix an issue or the SAS drives you need to setup your server VMs. You can just say we need X servers, X time and it will cost X for licenses.
If someone keeps saying “we should take that offline” a lot, or if you see people's eyes glazing over, it’s time to do more listening and less talking. Remember to think about whether the message you're about to convey is applicable to the meeting and the audience before you speak. There’s a quote from Stephen Covey that was referenced in The LUCK Principle that I always think about:
“Most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand.”
Sound familiar? Tweet your thoughts!
Here's another practice I try to follow when in meetings. It’s easy to want to jump in with an idea but it’s not always the best timing. As someone is talking and you have an idea or thought, write it down. If your thought is still relevant, then bring it up. That pause is critically important for you to make sure that it’s relevant, audience appropriate and not already answered. Trust me. You will look smarter and people will appreciate it.
We're all on a journey to become more #PoweredbyLUCK - what tips can you share to help others listen better?
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