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Opening the Lines of Communication with Your Users…

January 27, 2011

Over or under?

Do you squeeze the toothpaste or roll it from the bottom? Did your dirty socks make it into the hamper? Did you put your dirty cup in the dishwasher? Did you leave the toilet seat up?  I find humor in how the little day-to-day things that seem so inconsequential to me can cause such emotional turmoil for others. My husband and I have a little joke about whether toilet paper should go over or under. Every now and then he’ll fold the ends like they do in a hotel and it always make me smile.

Whether I’m at home with my family, at the office with coworkers, or serving in a church or school group, I’m interacting with people who have preferences, opinions, likes, dislikes and feelings. When I’m dealing with someone having emotional trauma over something I think is insignificant…after I stop silently laughing …I ask myself, “Why is this so important?” If I can’t figure it out on my own, I simply go to the source and ask. This usually opens up dialog and we are able to come to an understanding.

Being a trainer in a law firm is not much different. We have a wide variety of people to work with daily, each with their own list of priorities, preferences and opinions. Sometimes requests and feedback may seem insignificant and even frivolous at times. Discarding them without taking the time to gain an understanding is doing a grave disservice to ourselves, and the users we serve. Through dialog and understanding we can prioritize our work and provide better services.

How do we open up dialog?

When was the last time you sat down with the head of the firm and asked what he/she thought the strategic business drivers of the firm were? When did you last ask an attorney what his/her top 10 client communication tools were? When did you last get a group of secretaries together to identify what features in Word they use most often? Dialog can take the form of one-on-one conversations, panel discussions, focus groups, surveys and more.

Understanding the strategic drivers, identifying the core competencies and matching skill sets needed is going to help you focus your energies as a trainer. Most trainers I’ve met with have a huge amount of responsibilities and are struggling to keep up with their daily tasks. Why spend time preparing for and training ABC when XYZ is what really matters?

I am a huge fan of focus groups. They generate ownership and buy-in and bring new ideas to the table. Choosing a focus group is like picking a project team. Sure, it’s nice to agree and share the same opinions, but if everyone is the same, are you really going to get the balance you need? Variety is the spice of life and the foundation to all good focus groups. Pick people for the individual qualities they bring to the group. The only thing they need to have in common is the ability to work with others in a group situation.

Ultimately, the knowledge we gain from opening up dialog with our users allows informal learning opportunities to take place, helps us plan more effective rollouts, and enables us to provide on-going education that hits the mark and meets the strategic objectives of the firm. Albert Einstein once said, “Knowledge is power.” Very appropriate as we think about the power of dialog and communication.

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