The Stories We Tell
As Jive’s in-house lawyer, I work with a variety of people every day. I get asked all kinds of questions. I sit in on a lot of interesting meetings. In a meeting I recently attended, one of our executives said something very simple. As seasoned as I feel that I am, I was shocked at how hard this comment hit me:
“We want Jive to be a company that people enjoy working with.”
Simple, but powerful.
There are many ways to lay the groundwork that will support friendly, pleasant, long-term client relationships. Apple, for example, pretty much nails customer satisfaction every time; just look at the smiles on every person walking by with a Macbook and you’ll know what I mean. People even seem happy to walk into the Apple store to troubleshoot their machine with an Apple employee at the Genius Bar.
In addition to cultivating a solid relationship with clients, it’s crucial–maybe even more so–to create those kinds of relationships with employees and coworkers.
In college, I worked on a landscaping crew run by a guy named Rafael. He told the funniest stories all day long while he worked himself (and us) into the ground. Those stories, and the sincere happiness with which he shared them, made each workday brisk and bearable.
What I’ve learned is this: most people want to know that they’re speaking with another human person, just like themselves–not having a conversation with a robot. This knowledge makes a huge difference.
Here are five ways to connect with people:
1. Remember that people with a problem prefer to talk to people. These days, I work to make sure that when a Jive client comes to me for something, that they walk away with a contract, or an answer, or whatever it is they need. People are increasingly frustrated when they get a synthesized human voice recording on the phone with only a set number of options that doesn’t quite address their problem. This is where being human gives us a distinct advantage over automation. Automation only works in certain typical circumstances, but when someone has an atypical problem, they want to converse with a human who can understand and react appropriately.
2. Avoid jargon and fluff. Perhaps the person I’m talking to is familiar with the legal terms I use, but I shouldn’t take that for granted. When I do, the other person may feel embarrassed to ask what an unfamiliar word means, and our conversation becomes less and less effective. So I make an effort to make sure people walk away having experienced as little hassle, fluff, and legalese as possible.
3. Don’t plug people into categories. It’s really important to do the technical part of your job well, but it’s so easy to get caught up in the daily humdrum and forget how ridiculously human we all are. We forget how important it is to treat people like fellow humans, and not just associates, clients, bosses, or employees.
4. Remind yourself that it’s good to be needed. Our time, cliche as it is, is precious. There are plenty of people willing to fill it up with their own agendas. When someone asks a favor, or just hangs around our corner of the office, it’s easy to get put off and to put them off. Don’t do it. Remind yourself that this is why you’re here. You solve problems, you offer solutions, you make peoples’ lives easier. It isn’t always convenient, but never forget that, far worse than being overloaded is the feeling that you’re unnecessary or have nothing to offer.
5. Tell powerful stories. This is one of the best ways to combat the tendency to forget our humanity. Stories resonate within all of us in a way that connects and inspires us (depending on the story, of course). I try to tell stories every chance I get, even in the contracts I write. The best stories have a tendency to become self-fulfilling prophecies. What stories do you tell about yourself? What story do you want people to remember when they think of your company, and of you?
Think about the people you work with and the people you work to help. Think about what is is they really need and what you can do to help them achieve it. Then go do it. Because whether you’re part of the Jive team or one of Jive’s many customers, that’s the story we’re really here to tell–isn’t it?