My Communication Style

This document is intended to outline my preferences in communication. I may not always align perfectly with what I have documented here. For those who are reading this and regularly interact with me, I’m always open to feedback about the accuracy of this document. It is a constant work in progress as my style changes and as my role dictates.

# General

It is important to recognise that I am an introvert. I re-energise through quiet or alone time. In some situations people can assume I am far more extroverted than I am; this is a learned behaviour that I have found helps me to succeed in the business world.

For additional context on this document it is worth checking out My Drivers, which contains information about what keeps me going, what I view as success, and why I do what I do.

# Key Communication Attributes

I have a firm belief in honesty, but at the same time I operate in a relatively low-context environment. I will often provide a minimum of information as I am aware many people do not want all the detail, but I am always willing to provide as much detail as you’re willing to consume.

My sense of humour is very dry; I am aware that this can cause confusion, especially for those who have not been exposed to this style humour much, but when I am aware of a potential misunderstanding I will do my best to resolve it.

I do not believe in punishing failure. Failure is an excellent way to learn, and as long as can explain how we arrived at a decision and we can determine a way to learn from an experience, the benefits of failure can be significant.

# Information Gathering

I like to make informed decisions, to do this I often require a significant amount of information. Over time I have realised I have a good capacity to store concepts in my mind; I have also learnt to take copious notes for non-conceptual data. If we are talking and I am taking notes, this is to assist my recollection.

As part of my information gathering I will always seek multiple sources to try and assess the benefits and risks. I will often ask multiple people and will seek information from external sources. This doesn’t mean I don’t trust what you tell me, it just means I understand different people can have different opinions and this needs to be balanced appropriately.

When gathering information I will try to align with my request with the preferred communications medium of others. If I don’t know what their preferred communications method is my default will be a face-to-face conversation or a request via instant messenger.

# Decision Making

In many situations the risk of making an incorrect decision is often significantly lower than the risk associated with undertaking significant research. When I believe I have enough information I will make a decision; I do not assume my decisions are always correct, and I am always willing to change a decision when evidence suggests I have made an error.

The greater the potential impact a decision will have, the more time I will spend on it, the more time I will invest in information gathering and the more I will ask what others would choose.

Where possible I will try to delegate decision making. I do this to both empower, and to provide learning opportunities. When delegating decision making, I expect the process to be sensible and at the right scale to the importance of the decision. If I have delegated a decision I will stand by the decision maker, but I expect us to learn from any poor decisions and rectify them rapidly.

As I mentioned previously in this document, I work in a relatively low-context state. If you wish to gain additional understanding of my decision making process I encourage you to ask. The answer may be as simple as “someone had to make a decision,” or it may be based on my years of experience and my knowledge of the world and customer service.

# Communication Methods

My preferred communication method is face-to-face. Where possible I will approach someones desk and ask a question; if I observe the person to be busy I will only interrupt if the question is important enough.

In the case of remote workers my default communication method is via instant messenger. I use this method as I don’t wish to interrupt workflow, and I generally do not have visibility of their state.

In order of preference I will them choose to use email, sms, video call, audio call.

These communication methods are only preferences. I put far more importance on ensuring that communications are clear and understood. When I know a person’s preferred communication method I will attempt to use it.

When communicating via non-verbal methods I try to acknowledge all messages. When using verbal communications I will generally try to summarise my understanding, or confirm in writing. I am not as good at doing this as I want to be.

# One-on-Ones

One-on-ones are a vital part of any manager/employee relationship. I believe they should be held weekly as a consistent day and time; when timing conflicts arise they should be modified as early as possible.

I consider one-on-ones to be a two way street. Around 80% of the content of a one-on-one will be driven by the employee, 20% will be manager driven (these numbers are long term averages, not based on individual events).

By holding one-on-ones weekly it gives the employee a regular time to raise any issues or concerns they may have; it also gives the manager an opportunity to provide constructive feedback regularly. When utilised properly, this should prevent any surprises.

In the cases where neither party has much to discuss, one-on-ones can be used to help remind ourselves that we have a life away from the office. They can be used to discuss external interests, challenges or other non-work related items.

# Meetings

I take notes in meetings, lots of notes. I use this to help me absorb information, as a record of what’s been discussed, and as a way to review the outcomes and outputs.

I firmly believe that meetings should be planned and an agreed agenda circulated in advance. I have found that in many cases, preparing for a meeting in this way precludes the need for the meeting. When meetings are required, having much of the information in an agenda allows those who require more time to think and process information to come prepared.

During a meeting I expect everyone to be respectful, to avoid interrupting, and to allow everyone to have input. If I notice that this is not occurring I will call it out; I expect everyone in the room to be willing to call it out as well.

Especially within IT, I have found many people are unwilling to talk in a group (even a small trusted group), or need additional time to process thoughts and formulate responses. I will not push for answers to questions that were not provided in advance, and encourage continued communication beyond a meeting.

# Mentoring, Coaching & Teaching

I love to help others succeed. I have found mentoring, coaching and teaching to be fantastic avenues to achieve this. The difference between these three styles comes down to the amount of input I have in the final outcome. When teaching I will relay my experience and knowledge and use that to help draw a conclusion; mentoring is about opening a space and helping the mentee to find an outcome, offering advice and helping to steer the discussion when required; coaching is about opening a space and then helping the coachee to fill that space as appropriate for them.

In my experience I have found that I can swap between these roles as required. Although I would prefer to be a coach and I believe this is the best way for people to grow, I often take on more of a teacher role, this is something I am actively trying to change.

# Blogging

It is important for people to know that I am a blogger. I write about what’s on my mind, my experiences and my learnings. I do my best to ensure this is kept relatively anonymous, but if you ever feel I’ve provided too much identifying information I am always willing adjust what I write.

The core topics I blog about are centred around business and agile, personal and work advice and events I attend; from time to time I will also blog about technical matters.

Many of my blog posts are triggered by a recent experience. As an example, I had an issue with someone not being responsive to instant messenger messages, so I wrote a blog post about how to get the most value from instant messengers; when I faced some issues with choices being made in a workplace, I wrote a blog describing what I would do differently.

# Presentations

I am relatively new to giving presentations in the IT world. Although I am working to improve my confidence in this area, I have received positive feedback about my presentation style. Due to my lack of confidence, I will often over prepare for presentations; I will ensure any slides are accurate and useful, and I will have significant notes. Once I begin presenting I often find I do not require the verbosity of notes that I have prepared.

I have found I am most comfortable presenting to small groups (under 20) or large groups (several hundred); however, this comfort level will vary depending on how well I know the audience as individuals.

Where possible I like to record my presentations for re-publication on my blog, and so I can watch them and learn from them.