June 23, 2017
Let’s start with an obvious statement: Succeeding in business requires strong client relationships. No client, no business. Period. Now let’s ask the obvious question: So why do many otherwise successful companies still struggle with the task of creating, and more importantly, maintaining these vital interactions?
Communication is the Heartbeat of Success
As trite as it may sound, we are losing our ability to communicate effectively face-to-face; there are hundreds of studies to prove it. As a society, our abilities to understand social cues, to listen and be attentive, to carry on meaningful dialogue and to use positive language are deteriorating at an alarming rate. I mean, isn’t there a movie where Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his phone? Enough said.
While technology is the backbone of our business, communicating effectively with our clients and each other is the heartbeat of our success. Succumbing to a digitally-induced communication coma is not an option. The majority of us, at one point or many, have to engage in 1:1 client interaction. And moreover… We could all benefit from feeling more comfortable with the constant, inevitable curveballs that clients throw us. There’s only so many times you can use the “pardon me; I need to use the restroom” excuse wherein you do some fast Googling.
PointSource strongly encourages job coaching, career development and mentorship so different training options for improved client communication were researched to maximize our comfort levels. PointSource could have sent us to day-long conferences where continental breakfasts of stale granola and warm yogurt are offered, but they opted, instead, to hire an improv actor to come in and give us a private lesson. Sorry, what now? I hear you asking it.
The idea is fundamental… get comfortable around people and you’ll be able to hit the curve balls, read the social cues, get back to the root of communication. The fabulous and long-time improv actor, Jessi Nemeth of ComedyWorx fame, came to PointSource to teach us how to do just that.
We screamed animal noises and made shapes with our bodies and did some of the weirdest things I’ve ever done with coworkers – all in the good name of client relations. It was amazing, at least for me, to find the confidence to engage so immediately. I asked some of my coworkers if they shared the same thoughts. Here are a few responses:
“I think the benefit from the improv class was the subtle difference in AND or BUT statements. I see it as an effective way to change the role perception of the BA or PM while digging into business needs and requirements. The use of BUT will almost always sound adversarial when not intended; however, the use of AND will almost always sound like you’re on the same team and working towards a common solution.”
“The improv session helped remind me to listen first and react second. Many times I would react before listening and try to anticipate the unknown. Focusing on the information I am given and reacting in the moment ensures the other person is heard.”
After a few days of sitting with what we learned and talking to my fellow participants, I reached out to Jessi to see how we fared in the world of improv. Here are some of her thoughts:
How do you see improv helping a business with client relations?
There is a quote, “Life is Improvisation.”
The same skills we develop for sharpening our talents on stage are the same ones we need to navigate our way through our day-to-day. When you take something like listening, for example, and really focus on it, you naturally become a better listener. With improv games designed to enhance listening, not only do you become a better listener but you get to have some fun with it as well.
As far as helping client relationships, improv is full of concepts and ideas that teach the participant to really learn how to drop the ego and engage in the interface before them. So, what was once an endeavor of, “Hey! Here’s what I’ve got for you.” becomes a work of, “What do you want? And how can I best accommodate those needs?” By creating a climate of cooperation, both parties walk away with a deeper sense of trust, loyalty, and satisfaction.
What was your impression of our pilot session?
The group was great! There was not as much reservation as I have seen in other groups… I felt like we managed to touch upon some crucial concepts that could aid your employees in navigating through some of the sticky situations that may come their way.
What practices or executions could we do on a daily basis to improve our overall sense of adaptability with clients?
On a daily basis, I would say to practice staying present, listening better, noticing status interactions, and find ways to get to agreement (saying YES!).
What is the most important takeaway from the session for our participants?
Tricky question. I think the most important take-away is for the participants is to really become aware of their strengths & weaknesses and those of their co-workers. And then, be willing to admit that they may need some help and support from each other OR rise up to the challenge of stepping-in when someone needs help.
The greatest resource any company has is its people. When a company can utilize the talents of its employees to the fullest extent, the company can only succeed.
THAT. Right there. What she said! The talents of its employees and the willingness to try new, less obvious ways of personal development is part of why PointSource continues to grow and thrive in the industry. Looking to partner with us? Come see how well we interact with our clients; please excuse the barnyard animals sounds – we’re just honing our skills!