Before we dive into this week’s episode, I would like to introduce myself to our readers. My name is Victoria Sockwell, and I will be the new contributing writer for MakingChips. I was born and raised in Rockford, Illinois. My parents have been business owners in the construction industry for over 20 years in the Rockford area, where I like to think I get my work ethic. I have a passion for storytelling and getting people to think critically about their reality. I hope that we can continue to have these conversations not only in the manufacturing industry but in our everyday lives! Now, let us get started.
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In this week’s episode of MakingChips, Jason Zenger introduces the topic of effectively communicating with your team. Something I have been thinking about since listening to the episode is my years in silence in the workplace. I didn’t know how to approach my superiors without feeling anxious. I spent a lot of time being too afraid to speak up when it came to my professional development. I had questions but did not want to be seen as incapable of handling the job.
Whereas the podcast episode is directed towards leaders communicating with their team, I am going to turn the tables and provide some advice from the other side. The following article will hopefully encourage aspiring manufacturing leaders to use their voice in the workplace and everyday life!
It is tough to come into a new position with limited experience in a particular area - I’m a writer, but I had never written for the manufacturing world. My boss would send emails entangled with technical engineering jargon. I quickly would run to the nearest dictionary for clarification (which meant starting a new tab in Google or Duck-Duck-Go if you don’t want to be tracked, but I digress). This caused a disconnect with my audience. I wanted to ask for help but wouldn’t that cast doubt on my level of experience?
In the episode, Jason warns that his advice is directed to leaders communicating with subordinates. There is a difference when an aspiring manufacturing leader is communicating with his or her boss. Speaking to your leaders will require a different thought process. “You have to be careful on how you communicate with that person.” Jason Zenger expressed. Asking questions should not be perceived as a sign of weakness or a lack of intelligence; researchers would say that asking questions is a sign of critical thinking.
The key to successfully communicating is organization. Before meeting with your team and team leaders, gather your ideas. My dad scolded my sisters and me about coming to him with a plan. If I wanted to do anything, I needed to have a step by step plan on how I was going to execute it. My mother added to those plans by saying, “It is better to have and not need than to need and not have.” Have a backup plan for your idea, and if you don’t have one, that’s okay! Leaders are there to guide us and to think of the spots that we don’t necessarily see right away.
There’s a Time and a Place
Now that you have decided to have that conversation with your leader about a new project or maybe moving up in the company, you have to choose when to have it. Most importantly, you need to understand the person on the other end of your conversation.
Although I am sure I am not the only one who has a hard time focusing right before lunch, it is essential to understand the pattern of the person you want to talk to. You may have a leader who is an early morning go-getter who prefers to meet as soon as you come in. You may have a leader who is part of that afternoon sprint when the morning wave has been conquered. Observe their pattern and find the right fit for both of you. If you are going to wait until after lunch make sure to pop in a mint prior!
Get to the Point
I talk a lot and have a genuine fear of being misunderstood. That fear manifests into rambling or disorganized thoughts while I’m talking. So as I write this for you, I say it to myself, start the meeting by being clear and concise. Have some talking points that you want to get across. I have had some patient leaders, but in some cases, most are battling turbulent schedules, and most like to make their meetings as efficient as possible.
Jason Zenger mentioned assuming the best instead of the worst in people. Take that same grace into the conversation. In situations where you notice your leader looking at the time or shuffling papers while you talk, assume the best but also be wary of their time as well. We never know what is on their schedule as much as they might be unaware of yours. Do not assume they do not want to talk to you but time is money. As a country, we are finding ways to make things faster and easier, which even includes how we communicate. Impress them by giving them my version of the KISS method (Keep it simple, short).
Manners Go a Long Way
Never doubt the importance of sending a written letter of thanks. At the end of your meeting, make sure to send a follow-up email. This email can simply be just a thank you for setting some time aside. It can also be a space to summarize what you talked about in your meeting.
It is imperative that we effectively communicate with each other, no matter where we land in the corporate ladder. Do not be afraid to ask questions and to admit that you might need a little aid. Most importantly, do not be scared to speak up for yourself. Gather your thoughts into action and continue to grow in your knowledge!
If you are a manufacturing leader, please pass this issue of The Boring Bar along to your team and maybe they will start communicating more effectively with you!