Célébrez La Différence

Dr. Egon Spengler: I have a radical idea. The door swings both ways, we could reverse the polarity flow through the gate.
Dr. Peter Venkman: How?
Dr. Egon Spengler: [hesitates] We’ll cross the streams.
Dr. Peter Venkman: ‘Scuse me Egon? You said crossing the streams was bad!
Dr Ray Stantz: Cross the streams…
Dr. Peter Venkman: You’re gonna endanger us, you’re gonna endanger our client – the nice lady, *who paid us in advance*, before she became a dog…
Dr. Egon Spengler: Not necessarily. There’s definitely a *very slim* chance we’ll survive.
[pause while they consider this]
Dr. Peter Venkman: [slaps Ray] I love this plan! I’m excited it could work! LET’S DO IT! – Ghostbusters (1984)

You have an idea.

No!

You have a great idea!  It is revolutionary.  It will change the way things are done.  It will stand your existing processes on their heads, make them do one of those super complicated yoga poses, and bring enlightenment.

You present your idea to your team, coworkers, friends and their response is…meh.  But you know in your heart that this is a great idea.  What is going on?

Something to remember when talking with others is that, just like I mentioned in a previous post, no two people think the same way.  No two people will do things the exact same way.   And the ability to harness these differences in thoughts and actions is a tremendous skill for a project leader or team leader to have.  But just like any other thing in life, there is a potential downside, which is that that if you explain something in a way that makes sense to you, there is only a certain probability that’ll make sense to others.  Depending on background and the concept being discussed, this could be very high or a could be very low.

We all remember teachers in school who were very good at explaining concepts and others who sometimes spoke or taught at a level that was the students were not ready for.  You probably think back on the first group with more fondness.

It is the same thing that you need to be as a project or team leader.  You need to break down concepts into pieces that are easy to understand and look at them from the point of view of your audience.  It is great to have a computer infrastructure solution that saves hundreds of thousands of dollars, but if you cannot explain to your front line users how this actually helps them, they are going to be lukewarm on the idea at best.

On thing that I find, along with making sure you introduce relevance for your audience, is that using analogies is a great way to impart understanding.  Your analogy is don’t have to be perfect but a close analogy can really help.  I used the the flow of customers in a bank lobby to describe why users are getting slow response times from their computers.  I have compared triage nursing to database indexing.  You can probably guess is that I was trying to explain technical concepts to a nontechnical audience.  And it worked!

The second challenge you have with people thinking differently is that the members of your team all think differently.  And you as a project manager are responsible for making sure people understand each other.  This is more people management.  You need to be scanning the roomm, asking questions, making sure people are involved and responding, and generally making sure that the level of communications is as high as it can be.  This is much easier if you are all together in one place than if you are on a conference call.  But even then, there are tricks to make sure that communication is good.

So, remember, differences in how people think about things are a huge, huge asset to your team.  But it is very easy for that to become a problem as well.  Stay alert to make sure that understanding is happening and watch your team crush it.

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