Communication is Key
Everything you do in the workplace results from communication. Whether you want to secure an interview or advance your career, communication is at the heart of it.
The tricky part about this whole “communication” thing for us Millennials, is that we HATE talking to people. So, the fact that our careers are dependent on our ability to communicate (well) is extremely discomforting.
Communicating with Millennials
Let me fill you in. Millennial culture is weird. We have a few running inside jokes. For example, we hate everyone. Even the people we like, we hate. We love dogs doing human-like activities – look at the beautiful Golden Retriever Bailey. She has absolutely no idea what she’s doing, and we love it! And finally, our preferred method of communication is through memes – short-concise sentences paired with a photo to accurately depict how we’re feeling. Most times this is about feeling hollow inside.
It’s funny isn’t it? Millennials basically spearheaded and revolutionized the technology for 24/7 communication but what really brings us together is our desire to be left alone.
To figure out how to overcome this aversion to communication, I interviewed two of Maser Consulting’s finest: Project Engineer in Traffic and Transportation and ITS Group, Anthony Mariani, and Department Manager in Landscape Architect, Gus DeBlasio.
Communicating with Anthony
Anthony, a fellow Millennial, has been with the Firm for five years. The first question I asked him was how often he communicates with clients? The reason for this is twofold: 1) I wanted to empathize with him for having to actually speak to people and 2) I wanted to know if he did it enough to be good at it. Spoiler alert: he enjoys the communication and he’s good at it.
“I communicate with clients more than I thought I ever would because I consider my colleagues as clients as well,” he said. “I’ll usually assist them on a project and the same way I deliver news to external clients, I’ll deliver to them.” Add follow up emails and phone calls, the communication never stops… kinda like me at a brunch buffet. #cantstopwontstop
I never thought I’d hear someone say it, but Anthony’s advice for communicating with clients is to make a phone call. Cringe. “I find people are most pleasant on a phone call as opposed to emails. It makes my job easier and doesn’t leave room for miscommunicating tones,” he said.
Like every professional in the workplace, they’re going to experience growing pains. One of the challenges Anthony has faced with client communication is giving answers to a client they don’t want to hear. “I’ve been in a few situations where I had to tell clients a portion of a task wasn’t feasible, so they become frustrated and press you,” Anthony said. “The best advice I can give is to stick to your guns and don’t second guess yourself.”
The same way you confidently tell your client their project is going to be a homerun, is the same way you must confidently tell your client it’s just not going to work. Remember, you’re the expert in the situation, so don’t let someone try to convince you to do something, you know won’t work.
Communicating with Gus
Gus DeBlasio is no stranger to communication. A seasoned vet with nearly 23 years of experience at the Firm. That’s a lot of conversations. I asked him to discuss what he believes to be important aspects of client communication. “First things first, find out what form of communication your client prefers,” he said. “And it’s best to figure this out before they sign the proposal.”
By addressing your client’s expectations, you start off on the right foot and set the tone for the relationship. It’s another way of saying, I’m here for you.
According to a study from the University of California, a common cause of communication failure is a lack of respect. Now, hear me out. The study suggests respect is important for long-term happiness. The study adds, “Showing respect in conversation is a prerequisite to having a healthy exchange, and even modest or subtle signs of disrespect can throw that pattern off.”
“Don’t reciprocate conversation with a lower value-level of communication,” Gus said. “For example, if you miss your clients call, don’t text them back. Give them the respect of returning their call.”
Other subtle signs of disrespect can include, say answering a phone call or checking your text messages when you’re with a client, or, telling a client you hate their tie.
As if verbal communication wasn’t enough for us Millennials, Gus’ tip for young engineers is to remember that communication is not just verbal. “The way you dress, your body language in conversation, your attitude and tone,” he says, “These are all ways you’re communicating with your client. Make sure you know what you’re ‘saying’.”
Finally, Gus leaves us with one last piece of advice: set up tiers of communication. “Talk to everyone. Don’t overlook someone because they aren’t at the same professional level as you. You don’t know where that person will be tomorrow.”
So, there you have it. The proof that you, as young engineers, can be proficient in both memes and business communication! Are there any more aspects of client communication you would like us to discuss? Let us know your thoughts, and we’ll see you next time I ask, “Am I Doing This Right?”.
Now that you know how to communicate with clients, click here to find out how to deal with those (difficult) coworkers.