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Successful Contracting #2 …Make Contact

31 October 2010

Make contact wth your partner and you too could contract to go down the pub tonight!

Make contact with your partner and you too could contract to go down the pub tonight!

A phrase which isn’t mine, but which I wish was is ‘Contact Before Contract’. My TA chum Trudi says this to remind us that we’re dealing with people and that they need to ‘enter the room’ before we hit them with the task of agreeing contractual terms. (This applies to all agreements, even if it’s just to agree what time to be back from the pub).

Now, what I mean here is that although we may be physically present, our minds may be elsewhere. We come bowling in to a meeting with our heads full of diary dates and priorities, kids’ homework requirements, a lengthy to do list and the nagging feeling that we’ve forgotten something important. Like taking the chicken out of the freezer to defrost for dinner.

Because our heads are buzzing we need to be allowed to settle into our current environment and focus on the person whom we’re meeting with. This is why it’s really important to give people contact-making time. Meetings that start NOW just jar. People can feel flustered as their mind is still processing their previous conversation and as a result they won’t be thinking clearly about the task in hand.

You only have to watch The Apprentice, on BBC1, to see this in action. Normally bright and thoughtful people get pounced on and make terrible snap decisions because they’re given no time to settle into the space and warm up their thinking.

When we make contact with people we also warm to them and that helps to build connections at a deeper layer. This is a cornerstone of trust, which has to be present for any contracting work to be successful. If we chat, we relax and we forge little bonds that mean we want to stay put and complete the discussion.

It’s like when we walk into a swimming pool. We test the water a bit with our toes whilst we are chatting to our partner. At one level we are talking, but at another we are noticing if the water is hot or cold. If it’s cold we will tend to break off the conversation and exit for a warm shower! We tend to trust our toes!!

Making contact is easy and the trick is to think of it as productive work, and not just idle chit-chat. Three ways to allow people to settle in are:

1) Find out about them. Asking questions to find out about how they are, what they’ve been up to, what they did at the weekend are all known as ‘unconditional strokes’. (See my previous strokes blog). These little units of recognition are about us and not directly about our work, so make us feel warm because the other person is interested in us.

2) Allow enough time. How much is enough? I’ve found that 5-10 mins for every hour of planned meeting works well. Machine-gun style management is pointless and might look efficient, but just gets people riled. Build in some chat time in your meetings and you will tend to get better thinking outcomes from your teams.

3) Notice commonality. When the other party says something about a subject you are interested in then comment on it and let them know you like it too. This ‘noticing’ forges little bonds between people and helps to make strangers feel more like friends.

The message for the week ahead is to allow yourself time to be interested in the other person. A few minutes of making contact at the head of a conversation can be the biggest deciding factor as to the outcome…it could decide whether you get to go down the pub, or not!

The Promo Video…have you seen Brian yet?

Los Penguin Productions have posted the  Job Hunting Blues video on YouTube so please click through and enjoy it. It features Brian, our resident stunt man and he was great to work with, a real pro. Do you like his boots? And he was very happy to be able to read his own special, little copy of the book Job Hunting 3.0. If you know someone who is looking for work then please point them at Amazon where they can read reviews and order a copy of the big book.

This week: Would you find a friend for me please?

If you know someone who would be interested in this blog post please forward it to them, or ReTweet it, or let them know they can subscribe to regular emails via the box on the homepage. Many thanks.

Next Week

Is the third part of our trilogy on Contracting. Tune in next Monday, to complete the set!

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