To better the communication between people in tech teams is one important issue in daily work. Although we all grew up with communication from our early childhood on, we know, that communication often fails. But what do we all do about this discrepancy? Why do we accept eyes wide open these frequently painful failures? Why don´t we really care about misunderstandings and their consequences? Are we all Masters of Disaster?
The answer is: Communication is a very complex topic on both sides of the game – on the sender´s side as well as on the receiver´s. To get aware of what is going wrong in our communication we have to do some very hard stuff: self-reflexion (which is indeed sometimes painful and hard to bear), changing familiar behaviors and leaving the comfort zone. This is really hard work besides all the tasks of our daily job! Additionally to a strong will, we need persistence, patience and most of the time aid from the outside to be successful in changing our communication! But in the end this entire struggle is worth it!
In DevOps teams, where “ship fast” is taken over from “ship faster” to fulfill the goals of “continuous of everything”, a well accepted and effective, but appreciating communication is the basic skill for success. This means that building a successful team is comparable with building a house: if you spend enough in a strong and solid fundament, it will carry the house you want to build on it for a long, long time. But you have to consider, which kind of house you want to build to develop the fundament.
In cross-functional teams with high demands – those teams we actually find in the tech industry – communication is the fundament of whatever is built on it. Communication is part of the culture and it is the tool
- people get in contact with each other
- knowledge is shared
- goals and visions are shared
- feedback is given
- failures and success are shared
- appreciation is shown.
People in such demanding environments need to trust and rely on each other. Or do you want to share your knowledge with someone you do not trust? The success of the team depends on the relationships between all teammates including the leader. Relationship and trust are built among other things through the way we communicate with each other. No it is time to say, that communication is not only what we are saying with the words we are using. Communication goes far beyond the meaning of the words. Remember “Cce” – Communication causes emotions! Even in the tech world, which is still a male dominated world, communication causes emotions and feelings – although lot of people may refuse this.
With speaking about the complexity of communication it means that there are on the one hand three different parts of sending a message and the impact on the receiver. On the other hand there are lots of possibilities how to interpret the messages. Lots of possibilities – this seem to be a source for many misunderstandings! Now be aware that an immense part of our communication – sending as well as receiving – happens in our subconscious!
Most probably you have heard about the three different parts of communication: the verbal communication and the nonverbal communication with its subitems ´paraverbal communication
and ´body language.
The verbal communication is about the wording, the language, the syntax, the grammar and yes, it is also about the logic! There you are: “Things have to be logical, then everything is fine, isn´t it?” Sorry, but: “No, it isn´t!” It is even not half of the truth. Here is the reason, why so called one-track specialists often have problems to convince others, although everything they say is absolutely right and logical. At this point the nonverbal communication appears on the human playing area! The paraverbal part of communication contains facts like the volume, the speech rate and melody, the intonation and articulation and at least the tone of the voice. This is completed by the body language with the fascial expressions the gestures, the body posture, eye contact, body chemistry and the clothing. If the expression of all three components is the same – then everything is fine! If the verbal communication says “YES” and the nonverbal communication “NO” – then people tend to believe in the nonverbal communication because its impact is much higher than the impact of the words.
Just one example at the end: at one of the DevOpsDays I have joined this year, I saw one young speaker. I guess, he is really an expert in his topic and the idea and content of his talk was excellent. But he didn´t manage to appear convincing and convinced: a wrinkled shirt, a loose jeans, unkempt hair, barefoot in his sandals, a lousy body posture and a bored facial expression. You can say that this is a superficial point of view. Maybe – but that is the way it works! Communication always needs a holistic approach – and seemingly superficial points of view are influencing the our feelings and the way we interpret messages! Or to say it the other way round: if you want to convince somebody and make her/him trust you, you have to focus on all parts of communication! It is the same when you want
to share knowledge, give feedback or want to lead a team. Communication is more than just the words!
In the next blog post you will read about the chain of communication!