Learning and overcoming communication challenges

Some of the challenges we have faced this quarter, which I find quite applicable to most consulting projects include:

  • While clients are handing you a project with outcomes that they do care about, they are delegating because of lack of time, resource and/or skills. As a result, consultants often face the challenge of trying to get and retain client attention and supply of data.
  • Consulting across time zones and oceans adds an additional layer of complexity in terms of: harder to grab client attention through face-to-face interaction or phone call, longer turnaround time from when a draft/ deliverable I provided to when feedback is provided (often times we don’t even know if client had received or reviewed the deliverable)
  • Part of the obstacle of a 12-week consulting project with the time and geographical distance, language and cultural barrier is that we continue to find ourselves discovering something new (or corrected) week after week and at every skype call.
  • We also discovered, and adapted to, client’s communication preference half way through the quarter.
  • Our team’s biggest hope as well as concern is whether our client find our deliverables valuable and useful, and would actually put the tools and recommendations to use.

As a result, here are my 2 cents on communications for future teams:

  • Be conscious of how you present yourself during a Skype call session – it is one of the many ways your clients assess your credibility, and as a result, the credibility of your work
  • Help minimize your client’s need and effort to prepare for the skype calls by providing an agenda and expectations for their input in advance
  • Be considerate of your client’s time and availability, but still emphasize the need for their input in order for your project (and as an extension, their projects) to be successful.
  • Importance of teammates – due to the cultural and language differences, we often find ourselves hearing and interpreting varying messages from our clients. The downside is that it creates potential for tension in team dynamics, but the upside is that we are more careful with our listening and interpretations, and that we try harder to keep each other in check and opt for clarifying with our client rather than guessing based on our logic.
  • Importance of teammates – due to the cultural and language differences, we often find ourselves hearing and interpreting varying messages from our clients. The downside is that it creates potential for tension in team dynamics, but the upside is that we are more careful with our listening and interpretations, and that we try harder to keep each other in check and opt for clarifying with our client rather than guessing based on our logic.
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