Monday, 25 March 2013

Soft skills -- Cultural awareness

I believe this characteristic is very high on the list of required characteristics if not in the number one spot.

One of the benefits I’ve received from being a contractor and working in numerous businesses is the awareness that one size definitely does not fit all. What I mean by that is that having a keen awareness of both the personal cultures of the people you work with and the corporate culture in place will do more than anything else to determine where you and your projects will ultimately sit on the ‘over the top wildly successful’ – ‘absolute failure’ performance scale. This is especially important when there is already a dichotomy between management and worker views on the value of a particular strategy, communication needs, readiness for change, risk tolerances, etc. Depending on your perspective, the same situation or even a single conversation could be positive, neutral or negative. Of course, this also presumes you’re coming into the position with at least a minimum baseline of technical skills.

The most valuable piece of concise advice that comes to mind at this moment is ‘Go slow to go fast’. This tidbit of wisdom is one of the things I think that took me a relatively long time to truly appreciate. Personally, for me, it says so much more than the expression of ‘a bull in a china shop’. Sure, for those of us who have been around for even a while have all seen this situation play out at one time or another, and it’s not pretty. Some newbie PM or high priced consulting firm that should really know better comes riding in like the cavalry to the rescue and the smart ones of us sit back and watch until they either smarten up or fall on their faces.

This is why I truly love the workplaces that have already done some kind of True Colors exercise and everyone has their primary colors posted at their desks. They may as well have a sign up that says “Hi, I’m so-and-so, you can best interact with me by . . .” and you fill in the blank part of that line. Of course, if they appear to be stressed for whatever reason (most of us are at some point or another) you’d probably do best to be observant (aware) and proceed with the color that person has when they’re stressed. By then collectively leveraging and offsetting each other’s weaknesses and strengths and enabling your team with this awareness you then create synergies. And that synergy of awareness to cut a long story short then creates highly productive project teams.

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