…..I’m doing everything and I’m doing it all With love!
Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.Rollo May
The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation
There are other terms that go along these lines, such as team work, collaboration, involving the customers, working together.
When people talk about great football teams, they talk about dynamism and diversity in a team, but also strong leaders and communication.
I am an Arsenal fan, and often they have been said to play beautiful football, without an end product. Lack of leadership is often cited as a problem, no voice in the dressing room.
So, what does make for good communication? What are the competencies that make us good communicators?
The infamous Eric Bischoff (from the wonderful world of pro wrestling), often cites the importance of context when he is story telling from his past. Knowing your audience is also key.
There are of course, no hard and fast rules for communication and I am no expert, but here are the five things that I try to keep in mind with communication.
1. Face-to-face communication is the best
This comes from a man who is writing a blog, communicates in memes and gifs daily at work and home. But, there is so much missing when we can’t read tone or body language – Albert Mehrabian’s theory on non-verbal communication as an example.
But, rather than pressing someone else’s theory, in my experience, I have found a pitch or an ability to articulate myself on the fly, getting words out of my mouth and gesticulating enthusiastically as I speak about something, is so much more effective than written word.
I recently tried to share a problem with some testing peers, and the brain dump didn’t read well, it’s difficult to engage in helping someone out, if they haven’t even been able to communicate to you what in the world you are on about. Now, we aren’t able to meet face-to-face, but we will have a call and hopefully I will at least address the issue of text-born conversation, by engaging directly…..maybe written text is too disengaging sometimes?
Testers, by very nature are problem finders, but that isn’t really our modus operandi, we are problem solvers. If you use bug tracking software, you know that communicating a defect as clearly as possible, can be an art. There are code reviews, when we question things, stand-ups when we need to feedback and so on.
This is our art, it is a must. Practice makes perfect, I get it wrong, often, but I’m getting better with age.
It is also true that testers cannot be siloed, it is in our nature to see the big picture and think outside the box.
I can remember in a job interview; being given a broad scenario to create an on-the-fly test plan for; I was actually encourage to think more inside-the-box.
solving problems in a sensible way that suits the conditions that really exist now, rather than obeying fixed theories, ideas, or rules:
In business, the pragmatic approach to problems is often more successful than an idealistic one.
Again, problem solving, showing creativity and trying new things.
the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately
We received coaching training at my office last week, and the emphasis on emotional intelligence what paramount.
We were encouraged to think more about how we are in coaching scenarios, and I believe that we as testers naturally find a lot of resonance with these competencies. But, we also all have biases and it bears fruit when we remind ourselves and ground ourselves in solid principles around communication.
- Self-awareness – the ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and recognize their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions.
- Self-regulation – involves controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
- Social skill – managing relationships to move people in the desired direction
- Empathy – considering other people’s feelings especially when making decisions
- Motivation – being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement
5. The Five Love Languages
Now, on the face of this, you could say ‘what’s love got to do with it?’ but, I already used that song in a different post.
The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Dr. Gary Chapman was introduced to me when I attended a pre-marriage course at my local church, designed to better prepare the soon-to-be-wed couple for a married life.
The book talks through ways that the perception of love, of acts of love (not that sort) are different depending on the subject.
He breaks these five languages down, in a pretty clear way.
Now, it takes a moment to abstract this from a loving partnership, into the way that we communicate with our colleagues.
By getting to know those around us, we can observe and learn how they give and receive love. It might be the person in the office who leaves us advent calendars in each team’s bay secretly.
Maybe it’s that colleague who will drop everything they’re doing to be ‘all ears’, giving you the time you need to work through a problem.
In one of our monthly test team meetings, I brought a quiz for us all to confidentially fill out, and feedback any thoughts, to help us to think more about not only how we communicate, but how we perceive people communicating with us.
For me, it is something that has stayed with me, and whenever I re-visit it, I am made aware anew, and strive to be more empathetic to those around me, either at home or at work.
I hope you find some of this thought provoking, maybe you have other things that you consider in relation to communication. I’d be really interested to hear from you on any of these thing, so please get in touch!