Get Inside Their Heads

Last week I put together a presentation on various tools people new to working from home might find useful, and where to find more detail on how to use those tools well. The audience I had in mind for that post were the wonderful women I went to college with, particularly the ones who were new to working from home. I did not particularly expect the post to be useful to the groups I work with every day – it was pretty basic material.

I realized while working on those slides that HOW I presented the material needed to consider the audience as much as (if not more) than the content itself. Before I started writing anything down, I had a dialogue in my head with my imagined audience. (It’s a little disturbing to have other people’s voices in your head, but you get used to it!)

Photo by Felipe Furtado on Unsplash

When I am working with a group to design a process or to manage a specific project, having enough of an understanding of the people I’m working with is critical. I want to be able to work through potential conversations and scenarios before I put anything in writing or proposed something during a meeting. Note I didn’t say enough of an understanding of the product or service (though that helps). I need to know about the people I’m working with, what drives them, and how they’ll best respond to information.

If you’re starting on a new project, take some time to talk to the people. Experiment a bit with different styles of presenting information – and let them know you are experimenting. Are they used to Gantt charts? Pure text lists? Kanban boards? Issue trackers? If you adapt to your teams, not only will you be more effective, you’ll be able to improve the processes that work for them by cherry-picking from other styles. And you’ll open the door to trust by letting them know that how they think matters.

“Visualization gives you answers to questions you didn’t know you had.”

Ben Schneiderman

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