Finding the conversation

It’s important to work hard to find the right conversations.

When I worked at the digital agency Tincan we were a small setup. This meant that most of us were account managers as well as designers, researchers, and front-end developers.

Spending time with clients was my favourite part of the job. I enjoyed getting to grips with the problems organisations were trying to solve, helping to build a shared understanding as we worked towards a decision or ‘sign off’ point.

In the past, I’ve travelled all day just for a 10-20 minute face-to-face conversation with the right person.

This is what it means to get the right people in the same room. Often, you don’t need long, but you need to be there.

In my experience, this takes more than a Skype conversation, video or conference call. It builds a different type of trust and relationship to turn up in person and talk to someone.

This sounds inefficient, but it’s not. The cost of having the wrong conversations or not having conversations at all is much higher.

If you’re not in the room it’s harder to get a sense of what’s really important. You have to read a situation.

When you turn up in person it’s an opportunity to learn what you can about the culture of the organisation you’re working with.

It’s not just about being able to see the body language of the person you plan to speak with, but also the team around them. How they deal with you and the incidental conversations around ‘the meeting’ will teach you a lot about how each important working relationship needs to be managed.

Sometimes the most important conversations are unplanned.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times that I’ve turned up for a meeting with someone and ended up meeting their boss or the CEO (the real decision makers) . These conversations have always opened up new or greater opportunities to do a better job for the organisations I’ve been working with.

Avoiding the wrong conversations is about spending your energy wisely.

It’s easy to spend all your time having conversations or looking busy, but never having the right conversations to enable great work.

Good management is a thing beyond design leadership, and managing your conversations is all part of the process.

Find the conversation.

This blog post is part of an experiment where I’m writing and publishing something everyday. This is day 14: everyday is an opportunity to write something – previous blog posts.

Ben Holliday is an experienced designer, leader, writer and speaker. This is his blog (started in 2005). You can follow all of Ben's blog posts by subscribing to the RSS feed, or follow him on Twitter for more regular updates.