Friday, November 14, 2008

My notes on lessons in relations

One of the most enriching experiences I ever went through was when I became a product manager back at TTPCom. The reason was because it really opened my eyes to the nuances and importance of maintaining relationships. I was jumping to deep water: TTPCom was a company based out of England, I was based out of Boston. My mother tongue is Hebrew, theirs was English, adding Scottish or other accents. And last, I was a first product manager responsible for a rather massive product, in an engineering-oriented company who had the engineers own the products (with pride) from concept to retirement. Luckily, I had two wonderful mentors: my local CEO and my remote boss.

The lessons I learned during those times are invaluable. Here are some of them:
  • In conflict, remember the other side is shouting/screaming/beating or hurt, because they care. If they didn't care they wouldn't be doing it. If they didn't care, or you made them stop caring, you loose.
  • Conflicts usually rise from simple misinterpretation of messages. Sometimes from conflict of interest, but that's not the general case as those could be worked out. If one side interprets a message wrongly, the breakage depends on the follow up action. The best way to deal with it is to come there and then and simply ask: "what do you mean by..."?. the very worst way is to go away upset and 'store' it. Because it will burst in unproportional dimensions and usually based on subjective memory that twists the original message. Nobody remembers and so it's just a bad feeling all around. Misunderstandings should be resolved immediately, I think.
  • Cultural and language barriers are real, especially when comes to local slang or abbreviated messages. Without mutual understanding that the barriers exist and need to be worked out, one can guarantee conflicts will rise from misinterpretation of messages. Those barriers need to be acknowledged and sensitively handled to make it work.
  • Email is the worst communication medium on this planet. The worst. Few sentences misunderstood without immediate ability to feedback or query as to the meaning easily lead to a lot of frustration and conflict. Emails and documents should be used for directions, descriptions, manuals. Not for human communications.
  • Human communication should be done talking f2f. That's the best way to struggle, conflict and resolve challenges. That's why I strongly believe in building mutual appreciation and respect and basis for healthy work relations rather than authority-driven relationships. That's why relationships need to be personal, because the other side needs to know you care and motivated to their success as much as yours. Phone is no substitute. If you have to get on a jet, car or bike, do that. The price of not doing will turn much higher.
  • Focus on what you're trying to solve. If this is a partnership, friendship or whatever, if you busy yourself with the irrelevant details, you will convey the wrong messages. For example, if you are hurt, try to analyze what is it, what caused it, and try to resolve it with yourself or the other side. Throwing irrelevant accusations will only make it worse.
  • And last, remember why you started this relationship. There was a honeymoon at the beginning. Remember the time when both sides were happy. Remember the time when both sides could see and make the best of one another. Don't focus on the lows of the other side, everyone has those. Try to remember what you liked and see if you can make that happen again. It's about being better people and helping others being better by seeing the better in them.
If you follow my blog you think where this post came from. I may be coming out of a low period, loosing. Two very close people to me conflicted and got badly hurt. It saddens me endlessly. In retrospect it's amazing how one thing spiraled to the next without control. This could have been stopped and handled.

This is dedicated to them. I pray time will heal this. I have a lot of interest in it. But it sure is tough seeing it from here.

PS.
I saw a movie called 'Feast of Love'. Beautiful movie, if you like slow movies about real life. I don't think it ever made it. I highly recommend it.

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