The 7 C’s of Good Communication

We commonly refer to the 7 C’s of good communication – apply these fundamentals and you will achieve excellence both in your oral and written communication. My thoughts on these below:

Complete

  • This means that the message should be whole; from beginning to end it should contain information the recipient needs (and reach a conclusion). Preferably the reader/listener shouldn’t have to hunt for the main drive of the message.

Concise

  • Parsimonious – this was one of my psych lecturer’s favourite words. It actually means to be frugal or stingy, but he would often apply it in terms of writing/communicating. Less is more!

Coherent

  • Keep your message logical. Simply put, as you write, prepare a presentation or simply speak to a person, ask yourself – does this make sense? As subject matter experts in our respective fields, it is easy to think that recipients will easily understand our message, but when communicating to individuals it is useful to remember that they may not have the same terms of reference/experience that we ourselves have. Start from the basics, provide an overview and then work your way up.

Clear

  • Keep it Simple Stupid! – The KISS Principle. Not the nicest thing my English teacher ever said to me, but useful nonetheless. Avoid tiring your reader/listener with excessive wordiness; say what you mean! If you are planning a large written project, start with a strategy before you start writing – this is time well spent.

Concrete

  • So What? The So What Principle. For every sentence that you write or every explanation that you offer, think, “so what?” Because that is what your reader is thinking. Don’t just say “the what'”, but also explain “the why” – why you are making the point and, above all, how it is relevant to the person you are communicating with. Use specifics.

Courteous

  • RESPECT – “find out what it means to me”. We all know the song; let’s make sure we put it into practice! Consider the person you are speaking to/writing to. The written word can be misunderstood (tone can be lost/added) so unless it is vital that you communicate in writing, it is much better to “walk and talk”. Remember that the person you are dealing with has their own battles to deal with, and keeping this perspective may help lessen an adversarial perspective. We are all on the same team!

Correct

  • Accuracy will increase the confidence of the person you are interacting with. This doesn’t mean you have to have all the answers; rather, communicate the information that you do have and be direct about what is in progress.

Some experts use different terms including – “Considerate“, “Credible” and “Creative“; I believe these terms speak for themselves, and there is some cross-over in meaning.

Bonus Extra

My favourite word at university became “Cogency” – defined as the quality or state of being convincing or persuasive. Keep this in mind to give your communications an edge!

 

Public Speaking – Tips and Tools

Tips on How to Present (Represent Yourself Well)

My Perspective

I used to loathe making presentations right up until high school, which is when I experienced something of a break through…

First Realisation

Everyone in the audience wants you to do well. Realise this and it will make the whole group-presentation experience much easier for you. Think about yourself as an audience member; when a presenter starts to speak and makes a good job of it, don’t you find that you relax and feel good that they are doing well. But if a speaker stands up and appears nervous or stumbles over their words, don’t you then find that you feel bad for them (I tend to sit in the audience and mentally will them to do well; “you can do it, you can do it!”).

Do a great job and everyone will benefit.

Second Realisation

We as speaker/presenter just need to get past ourselves. By this I mean; why not project the best and most positive version of yourself rather than the shy/uncertain side (we all have moments where we are one or the other). Choose to be the most confident version of you – and keep remembering as you present that when you do this, you help your audience.

You are there to add value to their lives – they are on your side and will appreciate your efforts.

Some Practical Stuff

  • Prepare prepare prepare! I wouldn’t advise following an exact script on the day; rather, prepare your words in advance to ensure that you have nailed the subject. Use the PowerPoint/Prezi (less is more) or notes to prompt you to keep the flow of speech/topic order logical. You are definitely better to over prepare than underprepare as this will increase your confidence going in.
  • Start with good energy! Ensure you memorise at least the first couple of slides. Start well, and that will increase your own confidence and also make a great first impression on your audience. The success of starting well will spur you on to do well for the remainder of the presentation. Use the bullet points as a mental jog but try to avoid reading them out (use them as a starting point only).
  • Find the friendly faces in the crowd. You will always find in any group at least two or three people who tend to act as “active audience participants”. I think of these people as the “encouragers”. Find the smiling faces and focus on them; it will encourage you and also make the audience feel that you are engaging with them.
  • Never apologise. No self-deprecating remarks please! Humans have a tendency to over-apologise for themselves when they feel uncertain in a situation – try to avoid this. Keep your speech positive (and on-track by keeping your self-talk positive). This will increase the audience’s confidence in you.
  • Handle the hecklers. Sometimes audience members may interject in a less than timely fashion. Consider in advance how you would deal with such an eventuality; “yes you raise an interesting point; let’s discuss that further during the Q&A time” etc.
  • Don’t fidget! Murphy’s Law dictates that your nose will become unbearably itchy the moment you step up – ignore it! Fidgety presenting isn’t a good look.
  • Vary your tone of voice. Try to avoid speaking in a monotone!
  • Handle minor glitches with finesse. Think about ways to handle it if things go wrong (technical difficulties with PowerPoint etc.). Try not to worry if they do – chances are that your audience didn’t actually notice the minor fumble anyway! Keep a sense of perspective.
  • Number your slides for ease of reference for audience members who may wish to refer back to particular slides during the Q&A time.
  • Keep it light. Inject humour where possible (again, another thing I wouldn’t try to rehearse – naturally occurring jokes always turn out better!)

Stand tall! Remember you are there to help people and add value. You and the audience are all on the same team 🙂

How to Develop your Developers

Hello all!

I had such a great time at AgileNZ Conference 2013! Kudos to the conference organisers – you are a fantastic bunch of people and you did outstanding work in putting the conference together! It was a wonderful experience to network with such a great group of people. I made plenty of connections throughout the conference which I plan to nurture.

And I am so very grateful to have had the opportunity to speak! I was pleased that the outcomes of our journey towards developing our Agile HR practice was useful for so many. Thank you for the great feedback!

Here is a copy of my PowerPoint, with tips and tools as promised:

You are welcome to borrow anything you like the look of. If you have any questions or would just like to chat further, please contact me!

Cheers,

Kate

PayGlobal Case Study

Introducing Agile HR to PayGlobal

At PayGlobal we have found that the benefits of the Agile approach have extended beyond software development and have broadened to include the wider spectrum of HR practices for not just the Development department but also the whole organisation.

In this blog I will outline our Agile approach to HR and share some of our goals, challenges and achievements. But first of all, I will describe how the journey began…

The journey

Self-management is of course a key principle unpinning the values of Agile, however the one gap that remained for our Software Development Team was direct support for their personal and professional development needs.

The role of People Development Coach for PayGlobal’s Development Team was created by Jan Behrens (then Chief Technology Officer). He researched what other companies were doing to support the personal and professional development of their staff but found very little evidence of direct resource dedicated to this in New Zealand. Realizing the benefits of supporting individuals and teams directly with goal setting and development, he created the role of People Development Coach for our team based on this concept.

In the words of Tom Peters, “The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.”

And here I am, the PDC is me, so a little about my background with HR so that you can understand that I joined the Agile journey with PayGlobal having come from a traditional HR background.

My Background

I started my career in HR with a large retail company and was with this company for 8 years. They had in those days a traditional, static, HR philosophy in place. However, in the last two years I was with them, a new Group HR Manager came on board. Under this most excellent manager I was exposed to a wider view of the HR world, and I must give her credit for my later adoption of Agile. Back then, Agile as we know it today was not in practice, however in thinking back now I believe that she had an innate understanding of agility.

From there I went on to work for a well-known university within their HR department. I was based in the Health and Safety unit.

Now, there is a truth universally acknowledged, and that truth is: everyone hates HR (AKA the Human Remains department)! And I discovered at the university that even HR need to hate on someone, and there that someone was their ugly cousin Health and Safety. From this experience I developed a good amount of resilience! And as time would tell, this experience would prove useful…

Health and Safety at an institution such as a university is compliance orientated, in part due to the high-risk nature of the environment. Much of the training and development work is driven by the need for compliance and risk-reduction. And man did we love processes! And using paper! We had forms to get forms to get forms… (which didn’t exactly improve our popularity – being unpopular was practically a KPI).

How I Became the PDC

I’d been with the university for 3 years, the main focus of my role was developing the H&S training schedule and building the committee groups and networks. And I was enjoying my role despite the inevitable challenges.

Then at the end of 2011 my recruiter kept badgering me about the PDC role with PayGlobal, and to be honest I kept ignoring her! However, I finally read the Position Description and was struck by how great the role sounded. I decided to chat to my manager about the opportunity, and she encouraged me to give it a go. From this I contacted Jan directly, and we meet for a coffee to discuss the PDC role. This is where I heard about the Agile and Scrum method for the very first time! Fortunately, due to the Christmas break I had a month before the second interview, and like any sensible candidate would, I spent my time frantically reading up about Agile and Scrum.

EUREKA! As I researched it, more and more I felt a real sense of affinity with Agile, especially the autonomy and mastery it allows for. The concepts felt right and empowering. As I read, I realised that many of these concepts had been deployed by my former Group HR Manager all those years ago. Her strategy as a manager was to outline the tasks for us, pick the specialists within the team to focus on tasks in which they were especially gifted, and then step back to let them get the job done. This was such a relief following previous experiences of micro-management!

“Build projects around motivated individuals.
Give them the environment and support they need,
and trust them to get the job done.”

– Agile Manifesto

She would simply check in with us each day to ensure we were on-track and happy, and would review each iteration of each project, giving suggestions for improvement along the way. This method meant that projects were completed by the team speedily and to a good quality, as we were all utilised to work within our individual strengths and passions, and we were free to work smartly with the right balance of autonomy and support. It also had another result – those three young women I worked with during those years are now highly successful HR specialists in their own right.

The next stage in the recruitment process with PayGlobal was an interview with Jan and a panel of four. During the interview Jan asked me to deliver an impromptu speech to the entire Development team. He instructed me to speak for 10 minutes on something that I was passionate about, and so I decided to speak on Scrum 101! This was a bit of a gamble given that my audience were Scrum professionals! But the tactic paid off, and I subsequently started in March 2012 with the Agile Development team.

It was the first Agile organisation that I had worked for, and thus some learning about the Agile approach was required! (Refer Agile Manifesto.org for a description of the values and underlying principles of Agile).

How did HR become Agile? 

Ultimately we needed to become familiar with the core precepts of Agile, apply this to HR and put it into practice in a way that was tangible and useful for the team.

Sounds simple right? Well, not exactly… what followed was a season of learning how to inspect and adapt!

My First Project – Learning & Development Review

PayGlobal’s Agile Developers are at the leading edge of technology but the company at that time needed more development in its internal Learning and Development program. Having identified this, my first task when I came on-board was to review the L&D program for our Developers.

Now, traditional L&D focuses on “doing a course or getting a certificate” however, you will find that things are now trending more towards personalised learning. The focus is now about creating learning experiences that are meaningful and relevant to the individual.

Remembering that I had just emerged from the traditional and process-orientated world of H&S, my first attempt at putting some kind of L&D framework together resulted in the HR classic – a 4-page doubled-sided Word doc L&D Review form, which didn’t really cut the mustard! Like with all first iterations, things could only improve!

I needed to meet my customers’ L&D needs in a way that added value, and I wanted to deliver this promptly. So for the next iteration, I tried an online survey option to facilitate my L&D Review 1on1 sessions with team members. Unfortunately this also turned out to be less than ideal! The survey platform was unreliable and difficult to navigate. The complication of the survey was the exact opposite of the simplicity and value I was trying to achieve! From this I realised I needed to change my approach. It was time to inspect and adapt! So I started thinking outside the square…

After many iterations and some technical support from our wider team, I developed what has now become the L&D Goals Dashboard. Every one of our team members now has one of these. It is a one-stop-shop approach to tracking individual progress in the style of a Kanban board, and we have found this to be the most efficient and engaging approach to tracking L&D for our team. It means that individuals can update their goals and progress both proactively and independently, and their team leaders can have input as well.

With each iteration the situation improved rapidly. PayGlobal’s Development team are now highly engaged with their L&D, and our HR processes are now being replicated across the company. And I cannot take full credit for the final outcome, because it wouldn’t have been possible without the input of the team, from all levels and areas. All of this has been achieved in a very short time frame and we haven’t finished yet.

To have achieved such success with this in under 12 months demonstrates the power of the Agile method and its application outside of software development. Applying the principles of Agile to services has powerful results.

Keys

  • The Agile approach makes HR practices relevant and workable for Agile teams and thus enhances their development and engagement. Focus on individuals and they will thrive.
  • Healthy individuals support the growth of their team.
  • Healthy teams deliver optimum results. Bottom line!

I am a great believer in the value of people and teams, and genuinely enjoy seeing others reach their potential. Therefore I am delighted to be part of a company dedicated to the development of their people.

Check out my upcoming blogs for more details of my journey into the world of Agile HR, including tips and tools to help you develop your Developers.