Service Toolkit

I manage a (very smart, excellent) technology team in my daily life. I like management. I actually kind of love management. When you get over the false “Office Space” assumptions about the role, it becomes a practice in understanding organizational psychology and organizational culture. It’s a chance to engage with both people and technology. And, you get to move around a lot. Aces.

I recently started a discussion about our focus on service and communication in our direct work with clients. Though logic has largely triumphed over this, there does remain the occasional unspoken assumption that developers (do/can) fall victim to intrinsic social limitations because of their occupation, and that their clients should expect a level of awkwardness and bad communication. This is a bad assumption. Good coding practices and good communication practices are both important, but honestly I’d rather manage people who come in with more of the latter.

But both practices are teachable. Social practices, like any other practices, can be learned and exercised and mastered. Our team’s started sharing “tools,” discrete practices that improve one’s ability to listen and engage with their clients.

Here’s our starter list.

Goals:

Responsiveness – Communicate actively with our customers and colleagues. Meet, exceed, anticipate their needs and engage with them on those needs.

Adaptability, cooperation – Reject the idea that your conceptual model is necessarily correct. Understand the ideas of others, evaluate them respectfully and fairly. Come to a point of agreement that results in the best outcome. This outcome should not be entirely yours nor theirs but something shared.

Engagement – Understand the perspectives of others to be as valuable and important as yours. Focus your attention on the person with whom you’re engaging.

Techniques:

Everyone is awesome. Everyone is the boss. – Focus on the amount of respect, deference and attention you devote to a.) yourself; b.) your boss; c.) the smartest person you have ever worked with. Now devote that respect, deference and attention to everyone.

Notepad your agenda – When going to a meeting, think of the needed outcomes and the points you want to make. Write them on a notepad and take it with you to the meeting. Then, let go of them and concentrate on a meaningful discussion with your colleagues on the topic. Near the end of the meeting, review your list, and bring up only the points that are a.) unaddressed b.) not made irrelevant by the discussion of the meeting.

Questions – Approach ideas not as immutable statements but as potential ideas for discussion. Put forward arguments not as truisms but as propositions. Ask your colleague or customer about these propositions: do they sound correct? Do they raise concerns? Do my propositions not line up with yours? If not, let’s talk about why not and try to reconcile.

Check in with the person you’re with. Are you making sense to them? Do they have questions? Ask them these things, and ask often.

Hold, Breathe – When an idea pops into your head during a discussion, hold it there for 5-10 seconds and stay engaged with what is going on at the moment. Then, express that idea only if it is still relevant.

Published by

Jason Craft

"Earth X" indicates an unreal, alternate world from our own, in vague but fantastic terms. Im Jason and this is my blog.