Archive for the 'communication' Category

Care and Feeding of your Extrovert

My excellent friend and perennial Internet crush Eric tweeted an interesting article on how to be friends with an introvert. It’s definitely food for thought.

It requires a companion piece, though, on “Care and feeding of your extrovert.” Or, “Extrovert – narcissistic and needy?”

Those on the extroverted end of the continuum (like me) tend to require a little patience from those who are, well, not of the same persuasion. Still, we’re worth it – adopt an extrovert and you may find you have a friend for life!

Talkative and expressive. Outgoing people are naturally talkative and emotionally, physically expressive. Their dynamic range is considerable; they talk with their hands, their arms, their whole body. Not only do they enjoy talking, they require it for their sanity; when things are crazy, they verbally process and analyze issues and questions of the day. This need for verbal processing, for someone to talk to, sometimes makes extroverts seem a bit needy.

Enjoy hugs and affection. Extroverted people tend to be more casually physically affectionate. They casually hug, and touch you on the arm, the shoulder, the hand, while talking. They may walk a little too close, even sit right next to you. To them, this creates camaraderie, while to an introvert, it’s an invasion of personal space.

Prefers people to toys. Extroverts almost always prefer people to toys, and when they do enjoy those toys, it’s within the context of social implementation. When they indulge in the latest phone and the latest camera, they’re using ‘em to connect with people. You’re not very likely to find an extrovert choosing a book over a social outing, or online gaming over a dinner party.

Are interested in new people and places. Extroverts enjoy meeting new people and mingling in groups — the same kind of scenario that strikes your average introvert as fairly painful. They also tend to choose a new restaurant, a new club, or a new travel destination over revisiting the tried, true and familiar.

Extroverts find identity & energy in social contact. An extrovert takes Descartes one step further – the introvert’s mantra is “I think, therefore I am” but the extrovert believes “I interact, therefore I am.” Social interaction provides the extrovert with validation, energy and justification and when he/she can’t find someone to talk to, verbally process with, it can be uncomfortable and frustrating.

Of course, friends of all personality types can enjoy spending quality time together (often over pizza and beer), enjoying music, sports or the outdoors, or other common interests. It is especially important to train an extrovert well, keep them from jumping up on you and on your furniture, and have their hips and joints checked regularly by your veterinarian be patient with them.

Note: this post is dedicated to my many fine introverted friends. You know who you are. :)

Posted on Sunday, August 15th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: communication, health | 5 Comments »

Need some Facebook Friends?

I am a minor league social media whore. I blog, tweet regularly and have an active facebook account. I comment on other blogs, post in online forums (fora?) and participate in organized online activities like NaNoWriMo, Blog Action Day, International Shutdown day, etc. I belong to two informal online communities, formed around common interests and kindred spirits.

Really, though, I use social media as an augment to my real world social life. I have some 150+ Facebook friends, slightly more than the average but nowhere near the numbers of some of the true online socialites out there. Every one of those friends is a real life friend. They are all folks I know, would have lunch with, can call, email or talk professional questions through with.

I simply don’t accept friend requests from people I don’t know. It doesn’t matter that they’re a friend of a friend – I’m not using it to network broadly and make new friends. It’s not that I share a lot of really personal information on Facebook – but I don’t have time to wade through updates, app requests and quiz results from folks that are not friends. (And *ugh* on the stupid quizzes, can’t we demote them to a separate feed or something already?)

Anyway, I saw a news article today about a service, uSocial, that enables you to *buy* new friends on Facebook. (Because, yeah, that’s what true relationships are made of!)

Not surprisingly, Facebook itself doesn’t like it and considers it a violation of the terms of service. Conceptually, it “detracts from Facebook’s efforts to create a culture of authenticity.” You think?

I can’t imagine being so caught up in the world of online popularity that you would think that buying friends (or fans) would be a worthwhile investment. It’s a sad world out there where that type of service can be a viable business model.

Posted on Monday, September 7th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: communication, technology | 5 Comments »

Politics and Communication

A friend (the wise and articulate proprietress of AK Minority Report) and I were talking last night about the subject of politics and communication in the workplace, and we decided we’d both write blog posts about it and see how our perspectives compare.

This is going to be a little difficult to write, as it’s a standing rule of mine not to write negatively or in inappropriate detail about my workplace or colleagues. Still, I’ll make a stab at it on general principles.

Am I affected by workplace politics? You bet. When I took my most recent IT project management position four years ago, I thought it was going to be managing straightforward implementation of bigger and sexier projects. Instead, it seemed to shift my job away from the nitty-gritty of project management and toward a very political, impact-and-influence oriented role – perhaps 75% of my time is spent on the latter.

When do I encounter politics? When do I not?!?!

  • At project initiation, I work with multiple departments, reconcile wishes against strategic goals and favored vendors to scope a solution and develop a business case with a meaningful return on investment.

  • During project planning & detailed requirements gathering, I fight for the resources necessary to accomplish my project and resolve requirements conflicts.
  • During implementation, I work constantly behind the scenes to continue to have my resources’ full attention, and push the vendor as hard as possible to focus on our build and issues.
  • Testing requires that I track down yet another set of resources to test, as well as push hard on vendors to resolve issues.
  • Deployment requires getting the customer’s approval to go live, managing various change management processes, as well as high visibility internal and external communication.

I try and follow some simple, sensible rules for communication – these apply to basic human relations, not just my field of project management:

  • Communicate frequently, often, and to the right people. Nobody likes surprises.
  • Learn preferred channels of communication for different team members and customers and use them for best problem-solving.
  • If you have a problem, go directly to the source of the problem.
  • If you need to escalate, involve both the source of the problem and his/her manager in the discussions so there is no he said/she said conflicting stories.
  • Practice Covey’s fifth habit – seek first to understand, then to be understood.
  • Deliver praise and positive feedback in public; criticism in private. Always.
  • Follow the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated.

It’s important to me, as project manager, to understand my role. Primarily, my focus is typically supportive/facilitative management; I’m there to handle all the logistics and issues so that the technical team can focus on the project. At times, I do need to shift into a more assertive taskmistress role and require extraordinary focus from my team, and I need to understand when to do this and how to most effectively make it happen. Still, at the end of the day, when the project is successful, it’s my team that has done the work, every line of code, piece of hardware and late night cutover; I’m the most dispensable person there, and I make sure the team knows their efforts are appreciated.

One final note on politics, management and communication: there is a continuum of behavior that ranges from total, obsequious yes-person to completely obstructionist obstacle. I am not a yes-person. My personal sense of integrity requires me to be honest, realistic and forthcoming, while still trying to remain positive and constructive. One of the best pieces of career advice I ever received , from PM consultant Neil Whitten, is to do your job as if you don’t care if you get fired. Do the right thing, work hard, satisfy your own work ethic and be a champion for your project and your people.

Posted on Wednesday, June 24th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: communication, work | 4 Comments »

A Tale of Great Customer Service

I have been battling perplexing and annoying Internet connectivity problems for nearly a month. Occasionally my digital local line drops out, and quite frequently, my Internet access has high latency or comes screeching to a full stop. For those that are into such things, a description of the problem and initial troubleshooting is below the cut.

Today, during a particularly bad patch of connectivity when I was trying to participate in a conference call & webcast, I got annoyed and managed to send a note out via twitter:

Nasty internet connection latency plus repeated digital phone service crashes means yet another call to Comcast. Isn’t telecom fun?

Much to my surprise, a Comcast technician replied to my tweet within 15 minutes with an offer to help.

This could have seemed a “big brother” type response, but the technician made both a non-intrusive open-ended offer to help and her twitter account was set up with obvious care – her name, a picture and a profile that indicated she was a real person.

Through @replies and DMs, she did proceed to help, rather successfully. It appears she provides support through this model all day long and is rather pretty darn effective at it.

By the end of the day, I had a call from a Tier 4 local plant technician who looked at my stats and records and agreed that there was indeed a problem with my Comcast connection. (Darn it, I wasn’t taping…) I will be getting a call from a field supervisor to set up an onsite trouble call early next week.

What Comcast didn’t know is that I work in call center technology for a similar Alaskan company, and am always interested in effective use of alternate support channels.

This is a nice model, a positive application of Twitter and the near-real time capabilities of the Internet, and I’d love to see our company adopt something similar in its technical support center.

Nicely done, Comcast!

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, April 24th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: communication, technology | 8 Comments »

Age of Reconnecting

A recently rediscovered childhood friend and neighbor asked me, “Have we finally reached the age where we’re reconnecting with old friends?”

Good question. At forty-something, it’s been a long time since high school and college; they are a blur. With apologies to the few high school friends I am in touch with, it was not a pleasant era for me. I was geeky, socially awkward and very unhappy. I haven’t attended a single reunion because those are memories and times I don’t particularly want to revisit.

In the years since, I’ve held a few jobs and lived in multiple states and countries. I’ve met a lot of interesting people and become close friends with a few. At the same time, I am truly awful at being a pen pal, I didn’t really even try, so we’ve lost contact.

The Internet and its capability for globally connecting people is changing all that.

Erudite blogger Eric mentioned:

“Part of what’s remarkable to me about the internet is how communities now consist of people who share a common interest and not just a common ZIP code. It seems to me that if a lot of this international tech had existed when I was a teenager, I might have been better adjusted: after all, whenever my few friends and I felt maladjusted and lonely, we could have turned to the message boards for RPG gamers or music nerds or general misfits, or maybe even have had Facebook or MySpace pages in which we would have perhaps had thousands or millions of ‘friends.’”

It certainly is true for teens today. My sons have moved – my eldest a couple of times – and have not lost touch with old friends at all. They are still IMing, connected on Facebook, MySpace and game platforms, and calling each other endlessly on free evening and weekend minutes.

According to sociologists, one of the interesting demographic differences between teens and young adults, who grew up immersed in social networking, and older adults is that the the younger group does not differentiate among face-to-face and online friends. The relationships they have with online friends via IM, email, social media networks and other channels are as real, rich and important as relationships with those they go to the movies with on Friday nights.

Just as importantly, it’s becoming true for my generation – and my parents’ generation. Email & IM bring instant gratification. Facebook provides opportunities to track down and reconnect with old friends. Blogs become soapboxes for fascinating people of all ages with opinions, wisdom and the ability to write coherently.

Facebook, in particular, is a fascinating phenomenon. It’s grown from 90 million users in June of 2008 to 150 million in January of 20091 – and the largest growth has been in the atypical demographic sectors – non-US teens (13-17), young (26-34) to middle-age (35-44) professionals and smaller but rapidly growing groups of adult (45-54) and (55-59) professionals2.

Suddenly, our options for connecting to people are no longer limited to, as Eric mentioned, our zip code – or even the current era. We can search for and reconnect with friends from high school, college, past jobs and locations as well as our our current moment. We can also connect with people online from around the world who share common interests and goals – I count among my friends people from across the US, Canada, the UK and Pakistan.

So, to circle back around to the original question: have we reached the (physical) age where we reconnect? I would submit that it’s much larger than an individual choice. We’ve reached an age, an era of reconnecting, facilitated by social media and globalization.

1Facebook’s Traffic Growth Leaving Rivals in the Dust
2Facebook Growth by Age: College Age Group is Declining

Posted on Saturday, January 24th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: communication, friends | 9 Comments »