The People Puzzle: Making the Pieces Fit

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Knowledge workers bring far more than just their intellectual skills to a project. They bring their fears, their prejudices, their motivations, their emotional history, and their personalities to the table too. At kick-off meetings we openly discuss our roles and skill sets, but these other intangible things are never exposed.

Yet the way that stakeholders and team members interact with one another is almost certain to have a greater impact on the success of your project than which CMS you choose or what goes into your style guide.

Of course content strategists don’t have the monopoly on people skills, but because of the highly cross-departmental nature of our work, we really do need to put in a little extra effort. Whether you’re working in-house or as a consultant, you need to learn to read people’s motivations, understand when and why they might be operating out of fear, make sure they feel heard, and keep your team connected.

Presented at Content Strategy Forum 2014 in Frankfurt on 3 July 2014 - http://www.csforum2014.com/events/people-puzzle/

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The People Puzzle: Making the Pieces Fit

  1. The People Puzzle: Making the Pieces Fit Kerry-Anne Gilowey Content Strategy Forum Conference Frankfurt, 3 July 2014 @kerry_anne
  2. I’m an independent content strategy consultantHealthcare Government Online retail Financial services Technology Startups Volunteer-run associations Advertising Web design
  3. I’m an independent content strategy consultantHealthcare Government Online retail Financial services Technology Startups Volunteer-run associations Advertising Web design PEOPLE
  4. PEOPLE Needs Fears Vulnerabilities Passions Struggles Past experiences Agendas Motivations Prejudices Personality quirks History
  5. We talk about Our hard skills Our knowledge Our experience Our objectives
  6. We don’t talk about Our weaknesses Our hangups Our emotional history Our hidden agendas
  7. Practical things first
  8. Keep track of people Image credit: Flickr user tjblackwell
  9. What should you track? Simple facts? Sure. But also: Your impressions Personality traits Sticking points, agendas Particular interests, concerns
  10. For your eyes only.
  11. Do one-on-one sessions Image credit: Flickr user levendis
  12. Ask questions like these... What are your processes and tools? What’s working, and what’s not? What does your team look like? What other teams and departments do you work with? Where are the bottlenecks? What are your challenges?
  13. ...not these What are your business requirements? What functionality do you need? What buttons do you want on the admin panel?
  14. The magic sentence (I have no idea how Kristina can hear anything over that loud party hat.) ImagecourtesyofSeanTubridy! “Tell me more about that.”
  15. Puzzle time!
  16. Tory Marketing Manager Brought you onto the project Over-communicator Goes back on decisions Keeps you away from her boss THE SITUATION
  17. Tory Marketing Manager Her boss doesn’t respect her She doesn’t know how to defend her ideas Afraid of losing her job Feels she’s on shaky ground with the advent of digital WHAT’S GOING ON?
  18. Tory Marketing Manager Give her digital resources Discuss ways to defend your ideas together in advance Give her YOUR respect WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  19. Felix Business Analyst Is inflexible Asks for inappropriate deliverables Values deadlines over progress Hides behind process, project plans THE SITUATION
  20. Felix Business Analyst He doesn’t really understand the domain of the project He’s afraid that if he deviates he’ll be shown up THE SITUATION WHAT’S GOING ON?
  21. Felix Business Analyst Communicate frequently Set up additional sessions to work through subject matter THE SITUATION WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  22. Sharon Head of Customer Care Frequently says, “I’ve been saying that for four years...” Sighs and rolls eyes during meetings when recommendations are made THE SITUATION
  23. Sharon Head of Customer Care Feels she hasn’t been heard in the past and isn’t going to get the credit she deserves Feels sidelined by the new project, which she doesn’t own THE SITUATION WHAT’S GOING ON?
  24. Sharon Head of Customer Care Turn her into an ally Get her on board Give her credit for her ideas in front of other team members THE SITUATION WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  25. Karl Digital Editor Has worked here for a long time Helped build current version of website Seems uncooperative Takes a long time to submit work THE SITUATION
  26. Karl Digital Editor Feels threatened by negative attention on current site He’s struggling with perfectionism Doesn’t like to show his work THE SITUATION WHAT’S GOING ON?
  27. Karl Digital Editor Take time to understand past challenges and history Make sure he feels heard Treat his deliverables as works in progress, collaborate THE SITUATION WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  28. Laura Compliance Officer Keeps changing copy in ways that are not customer-friendly Sees everything in black and white terms THE SITUATION
  29. Laura Compliance Officer Afraid of being sued Motivated by doing her job well Sees herself as a champion for compliance THE SITUATION WHAT’S GOING ON?
  30. Laura Compliance Officer Ask for feedback, not revisions Make a visible effort to understand the regulatory environment THE SITUATION WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  31. Lee Technical Architect Doesn’t seem to trust you Doesn’t get involved at workshops Seems condescending Doesn’t answer your questions in detail THE SITUATION
  32. Lee Technical Architect Has had bad experiences with non- technical people in the past Developed prejudices THE SITUATION WHAT’S GOING ON?
  33. Lee Technical Architect Demonstrate your technical understanding early Create clear, useful deliverables Avoid marketing jargon and buzzwords THE SITUATION WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  34. Saul Stakeholder from HR Difficult to get hold of Uncooperative during interviews, doesn’t open up at all Gives one-word answers or says he doesn’t know Extremely defensive THE SITUATION
  35. Saul Stakeholder from HR He’s suspicious of the project and your motives Afraid that he doesn’t know the answers THE SITUATION WHAT’S GOING ON?
  36. Saul Stakeholder from HR Become his friend Be open about the project objectives and your motives Reassure him Ask about things that he knows well to get him comfortable THE SITUATION WHAT CAN YOU DO?
  37. Things to look out for
  38. Non-verbal cues
  39. An ongoing conflict Image credit: Flickr user etolane
  40. Passions and agendas
  41. The silent ones
  42. History
  43. Putting the pieces together
  44. Everyone has their reasons.
  45. Everyone has their reasons. He’s scared of taking responsibility. She’s struggling with perfectionism. He’s worried about looking stupid. She’s afraid that she’ll be blamed.
  46. Solving the people puzzle 90%$ Asking why The rest
  47. Be just as empathic with your team members and stakeholders as you are with your users and readers.
  48. Thanks for listening! Kerry-Anne Gilowey kerryanne@augustsun.co.za @kerry_anne

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