Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: communication

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian IT Contractors relating to communication.

Stop Playing the “Blame Game” and Start Finding a Solution

Stop Playing the "Blame Game" and Start Finding a Solution

The “Blame Game” is a habit that humans pick-up at a young age. Kids are quick to learn how to pin their mistakes on their siblings, cousins or any other sucker who can get them out of trouble. As they get older, students push responsibility for their failures and shortcomings onto teachers, coaches and peers. You would think that as we mature this behaviour stops, but many adults are guilty of it… some more than others. We’ve all had those colleagues who are adept at dodging accountability and shifting responsibility — they’re experts at professional dodgeball!

There’s no single reason people point blame at others, whether it’s intentional or subconscious. It can be a natural form of survival as people try to hide their mistakes to keep their job and avoid consequences. Serial blaming may stem from insecurities, jealousy, office politics or simple dislike for others. It’s mostly irrational yet still all too common.

Blame culture, in the workplace or any other aspect your life, is harmful. The aggressive and attacking behaviour hurts feelings, damages relationships, and destroys reputations. It’s also contagious, meaning when one person starts laying blame, it begins a vicious circle where others get angry and point blame back. In the end, everybody’s now sidestepped accountability and, even worse, absolutely no progress is made on the project at-hand.

Putting an End to the Blame Game

The first step to ending this toxic behaviour is to take a look at your own habits. Things go wrong and mistakes happen, it’s a natural part of life. For IT contractors, a bad interview, not getting the interview at all, a project going off the rails — these are all cases where it’s easy to cast blame on the recruiter, manager or team member. While it may be true, there are some important steps to take in order to remain professional:

  • Point to Facts, Not People. Maintain the big picture of why things went wrong, including the process and environment. Avoid pointing to an individual unless it is absolutely something that was their responsibility.
  • Admit When You’re at Fault. Understand that nothing was 100% outside your control. Take an objective look at what failed and figure out what you could have done differently to prevent that situation and take ownership.
  • Know Your Responsibilities from the Start. Great communication prevents so many needless problems. When responsibilities are clarified at the beginning of a project, it’s less likely there will be mistakes and, if there are, accountability is clear. A tense argument over fault won’t be necessary.

While you should refrain from needlessly pointing blame, the same is true on the other side of the scenario — don’t be the person who always accepts responsibility for somebody else’s errors. IT contractors are in a position where you get blamed for more than necessary. It’s easy for clients and their employees to push responsibility for failures onto you. Even lousy recruiters will tell their boss that you flubbed the interview when, in reality, they didn’t prepare you properly. Sure, they all should have been more prepared and communicated better, but why damage their internal relationships when there’s a perfectly good contractor to use as a scapegoat? This is where preparation and documentation are key. Double-check responsibilities, ask many detailed questions, and confirm agreements by email, ensuring that if things go wrong, you can back up all of your work.

Whether working on a project or searching for a job, things are going to go wrong. Finding and solving the root of a problem is a difficult process that often includes accepting responsibility and addressing other people’s shortfalls… all without hurting relationships. That is not easy. What tricky situations have you found yourself in? Do you think you could have handled them better?

Contractor Quick Poll: When do you prefer to receive a phone call?

IT contractors are busy people and, while you may want to hear from recruiters about upcoming contract opportunities, you also have a preference as to when you’d like to be called. Great recruiters are flexible and will contact you when it works best for you. We’ve learned that some professionals prefer an early-morning call, others late at night and others are somewhere in between.

In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re out to see if there’s a common preference among our readers. When do you like hearing from recruiters?

Build a Stellar Client Relationship by Managing Realistic Expectations

Build a Stellar Client Relationship by Managing Realistic Expectations

A reality IT recruiters face is that some gigs are going to go wrong. The contractor and client get off to a good start, and then a few months in, we get a call that things aren’t working out. There are a number of reasons IT contracts crash and burn — personalities, lack of skills, poor leadership — but many times, we learn that the situation could have been avoided if more clear expectations had been set up front. Obviously, the contract between all parties defines the project and deliverables, but a good working relationship has to be built on more than is typically written in a contract.

Failing to define realistic expectations with your client, your team, or anybody involved with an IT contract can lead to damaged relationships and unnecessary conflict. As the project progresses, all parties may make assumptions that drift further and further apart. Suddenly, when one person thinks everything is running smoothly, another is disappointed and angry at the status.

A standard contract will define the final deliverables, expected hours to be worked, location, duration and rate. But there are always other smaller expectations to be discussed upfront with your client. For example, you might ask your client for more details about the final deliverables, their own goals for the project, and milestones they would like to see met. It’s also the time to be upfront about your own limitations to avoid and scope creep. For example, which days you are unable to work and which skills you do not have (and never claimed to have).

Expectations are not limited to complete projects and should be set on a micro level as well. One example is meetings. These are frequently referred to as a waste of time because proper expectations were not set. If everybody attending is aware of the goals, desired outcome, expected duration and who will be in attendance, it not only helps them prepare, but you know if the meeting was successful at the end. When it’s a waste of time, everybody will understand why and can work to improve it.

How Can You Set Realistic Expectations with Your Client?

The earlier you can set expectations to ensure everyone is working towards the same, common goal, the more efficient the project will be. Here are a few tips to get you on your way:

  • Don’t assume anything. Put everything on the table and ensure you both clearly understand each other’s expectations, desired outcomes and definitions of success. Understand what’s a must-have and what’s nice-to-have.
  • Eliminate the fluff. We’ve posted many times about realistic SMART goals and expectations should follow the same guidelines.
  • Build your communication skills. It is impossible to understand expectations if you cannot communicate your own. You also have no control over other people’s communication abilities, so yours need to make up for their shortfalls.
  • Confirm it all in writing. Not everything has to be in a formal contract, but a follow-up email summarizing the agreed expectations can be invaluable.
  • Provide updates. Things are going to go wrong and off-track, and that’s ok. But if expectations were never adjusted, there is going to be disappointment when reality is revealed.

What expectations do you set with your clients before beginning a project? What about with your recruiter? Are there any discussions you like to have upfront before moving forward on an application? Please share your opinion in the comments below.

You Need to Listen to Your Recruiter

You Need to Listen to Your Recruiter

No, we are not implying that recruiters are always right and you should always do what they say. Instead, we’re stressing how important it is to actively listen to your recruiter, not just hear what they’re saying.

Exemplary listening skills take practice to perfect and when you excel at it, you’ll find more success and build better relationships. If we examine just the interactions you have with recruiters through your IT contracting career, active listening can make a massive difference. For example:

  • When you truly hear and understand the description of a job and the environment, you know that the job will be right (or wrong) for you.
  • When you listen carefully to a recruiter telling you about a client project, you have a better interview with the client because you understand their situation.
  • When you understand everybody’s concerns, situations and expectations, you increase your bargaining power when negotiating a rate.
  • When you listen properly during a heated situation, you appear more polite and professional, plus you improve the chances of a positive resolution.

When you’re a good listener, you build better relationships and have an easier time winning contracts. It’s that simple!

Business Insider recently put together a list of 7 things great listeners do that set them apart and it’s a perfect summary of simple steps you can take to improve your job search and relationship with a recruiter.

  1. They Self Regulate: Regardless of triggered emotions, great listeners moderate their strong reactions and encourage the other person to keep talking. When a recruiter is giving you feedback — maybe they’ve reviewed your resume or they’re passing on performance feedback from the client — your instincts might be to defend your position. Instead, bite your tongue and hear them out so you can learn and improve.
  2. They Treat All Perspectives as Valid: Certainly, there are undisputable facts in life, but a person’s perception based on their experience and point-of-view is never wrong. Understanding perspective is valuable when resolving any conflict, as well as negotiating rate. While you may not agree with your recruiter’s arguments or justifications, knowing what brought them to their stance will make it much easier to find common ground and a win-win solution.
  3. They Check for Understanding: This is key when learning about an opportunity. You’d hate to go through the application process only to realize close to the end that this job isn’t for you. Or even worse, show up on your first day of the contract only to learn that there was a miscommunication and the gig is not what you thought it was. If there is any doubt, restate what the recruiter just told you, but in your own words. They can then clear-up any misunderstanding.
  4. They Ask Clarifying Questions: Assumptions are dangerous. Instead of shrugging your shoulders and assuming you understand, be curious and follow-up with more questions. Which specific location is the work being done? How long will it be before you get an answer from the client? What exactly does the client environment look like? What requirement are you missing that prevents the rate from going any higher?
  5. They Listen with Their Eyes as Well as Their Ears: Watch your recruiter during an interview to gauge their reactions to your responses. They might not verbally tell you that your response lacked detail, but facial expressions or tone of voice will indicate that something’s missing. Use that opportunity to ask if they need clarification and improve your answer.
  6. They Make Sure Everyone is Heard: When Business Insider raised this point, it was to point out the quiet people in a meeting whose voices aren’t being heard. This advice is also relevant for the two-person relationship between you and your recruiter. Give them time to speak in all situations — when you’re discussing opportunities, client issues, or just getting to know each other. Be aware if you tend to be overbearing in conversation, and consciously stop to listen.
  7. They Note What’s Not Said: Intentionally or accidentally, when a recruiter leaves out pertinent information, it leads to misunderstandings that can drastically affect your career. Note when a job description lacks details that are typically included in other postings. Recognize what’s being glossed over too quickly when the recruiter presents an opportunity. Then ask about it and ensure the answer is what you need it to be.

There is no arguing that listening and communication requires two people but unfortunately, you only have control over yourself. You can help your recruiter improve their listening by being patient and thorough with their follow-up questions, being cognizant of your body language and tone of voice, and slowing down to make it as easy as possible for them to hear what you’re saying.

Can you be a better listener? The answer for everyone is almost definitely “Yes”, we just need to identify where to start.

5 Tips to Make Working Home with Your Spouse Actually Work

5 Tips to Make Working Home with Your Spouse Actually Work

You love your spouse. We know you do. But how many people have ever worked from home with their spouse more than they have in the past few weeks? Twitter has exploded with comical one-liners of people sharing their experiences and they’ve been fun to read. But there are real challenges that families are experiencing. Dealing with them up-front is what’s going to ensure you can remain productive for your client while maintaining a happy household. And, given you’re probably confined to the home for a little while, that happiness should be a high priority. Here are a few tips we compiled to help you out:

  1. Try and work in separate spaces. Not everybody’s home can accommodate this, but if you can work in a separate room from your spouse, it will help you focus, minimize distractions, and prevent you from stepping on each other’s toes. Just make sure it’s a productive office (Hint: bedrooms tend to be a bad idea)

  2. They are not your colleagues. As tempting as it is, refrain from using your spouse to brainstorm work-related ideas or rant about office politics. This is distracting to them and brings them into problems that they really do not need.

  3. Still respect them like your colleagues. If you work in an open-office, then you know how annoying it is when somebody takes phone calls too loudly, listens to music without headphones, or starts talking to you while you’re in the middle of working on something that requires focus. Don’t be that person at home.

  4. Accept and embrace the inevitable distractions. It’s alright to want to socialize with your significant other through the day, so set some ground rules. Decide on specific times when you will take a break together and have signals when distractions are or aren’t alright. For example, a closed door might mean you cannot be disturbed or working at the dining room table instead of the office could mean some chitchat is alright.

  5. Take a few minutes each morning to discuss. Evaluate the prior day and review today’s schedule. Did anything happen yesterday that prevented you from being productive? Do you have an extra busy day today or are things a bit more relaxed? Discuss these topics each morning before going on your separate ways.

If you haven’t already, take a minute to acknowledge the challenges that you might face with both of you working from home and solve them up-front. Build your routines and plans that work for you. How are you surviving working from home with others around?

Contractor Quick Poll: How many languages can you speak fluently?

Canada is a diverse country with people coming from many cultural backgrounds. This brings communities and organizations opportunities to grow with different points-of-views and an array of unique approaches to problem-solving. At Eagle, we’re proud and fortunate to have worked with individuals from around the world with varied cultural backgrounds.

Being fluent in multiple languages can raise your profile as an IT contractor. Naturally, it opens up opportunities to better communicate with more recruiters, clients, their teams and their customers. According to this TED video we shared a couple years ago, it even contributes to how you approach problems!

In this month’s contractor quick poll, we want to get a snapshot of our readers and how many languages the average person speaks. Answer the poll below and if you’d like, add which languages you speak into the comments underneath.

Please Don’t Ghost Recruiters After Being Submitted to a Client

Please Don't Ghost Recruiters After Being Submitted to a Client

Graeme Bakker By Graeme Bakker,
Director, Delivery Strategy & Development at Eagle

A major part of a successful recruiter/consultant relationship, is building a connection that lasts. Afterall, when a recruiter and consultant are working together, it often takes a couple of opportunities and submissions before a placement occurs.

During this process, many forms of conversation need to happen, via both email and phone. Having been leading recruiters for a number of years now, I commonly hear “I can’t get in touch with Joe,” or “Sarah won’t confirm her interview availability.”  On the flip side, consultants provide feedback like “I never heard back about my submission,” or “Nobody ever called me about a possible interview.”

Contract opportunities often come in fast and close even faster. A major challenge contractors and recruiters have throughout the process is being sure to communicate back-and-forth quickly, as new information becomes available. And after all of that rush, the hiring manager is sometimes slow to review and feedback on submissions seems non-existent.  This causes anxiety for both recruiters and consultants.

Trust me when I say that recruiters LOVE getting feedback from clients about submissions. And there is nothing more that we would love than to let you know that feedback, in detail.  No feedback is as frustrating for everyone.

But a client’s hiring process is not simple and they are also dealing with many unknowns. There might be a delay for any number of reasons beyond their control, meaning it could be another week before the resumes even get to the right hiring manager.  We’ve also seen hold-ups happen because the client wants to hire two people instead of one person for the role and interviews get pushed for another week.  So many things can happen behind the scenes.

Still, it’s understandable that delays, lack of feedback and too many “no update updates” would cause a consultant to disengage with their recruiter. Sometimes this results in contractors “ghosting” their recruiter – completely ignoring emails or phone calls and not responding at all. This, however, can send the wrong message and may have negative effects.

As noted, clients’ hiring processes timelines can vary and be delayed for many reasons. Sometimes, the recruiter only hears something a couple weeks later, when they receive a notice that the client wants to interview the consultant. If you’ve already ghosted them due to a lack of feedback, then the recruiter is going to be forced to tell the client that you are no longer interested, and a new search begins to find somebody else for the job.  Furthermore, it decreases their confidence in considering you for future submissions.

Communication, or lack there-of, is a common reason we see job opportunities fall apart. I recommend working with your recruiter to make a communication plan upfront. Let them know how often and when you prefer updates to be sent (even if there is no update), plus if the recruiter doesn’t offer the information, ask them about how the client works so you can set your own expectations during the process.

Patience is something that both the recruiter and the consultant working together must understand.  Certainly, great recruiters must check-in with job applicants, even if there is no feedback, so the consultant is aware of what may or may not be coming down the pipe. And at the same time, as a consultant, you should trust your recruiter and have confidence that if there is information or feedback, you will receive it.

Closing the Communication Loop with Your Recruiter

Communication breakdowns are one of the most common causes of missed opportunities, hurt relationships, failed projects and pretty much anything that can go wrong in business. As an independent contractor, you are right to expect the best service from your recruiters, including excellent communication, but even the best recruiters will drop the ball sometimes. If you truly want the relationship to work out, then it is up to you to help set expectations and close the loop in communications.

This quick video we created provides examples of how your follow-ups to everyday conversations can go a long way in getting the information you need from your recruiter and ensuring you’re both on the same page. Check out the quick tips and think about these examples next time you meet with a recruitment professional.

Be More Successful by Knowing These Business Communication Styles

Solid communication skills are imperative for any professional to succeed and are required through the entire process of being an independent contractor — searching for jobs, sending emails, working with different people, explaining complex ideas — you get the idea. We need solid communication abilities if we want to succeed at anything.

Everybody gets their ideas across differently and interprets messages based on how they think. According to this infographic by Nextiva, there are four different communication styles — Analytical, Functional, Personal and Intuitive — and there are optimal ways to communicate with each. Take a few minutes to better understand your style, as well as those of the people you deal with on a regular basis, including clients, colleagues, recruiters and family.

Be More Successful by Knowing These Business Communication Styles

Stop Saying these 2 Words and Drastically Improve Your Communication

Great communication skills are essential for getting ahead as an independent contractor. While just one word, “communication” encases so much! At the highest level, it’s being a good speaker or writer, but you also need to understand your audience (their generation or knowledge on a subject) and yourself (tone and approach go a long way). Right down to the specific words you use and, more importantly, don’t use.

Have you ever been in a conversation or listened to a speech and was baffled by how many times the speaker said “Um” or “Like”? Now, have you ever paid attention to how much you’ve been guilty of the same? These two words come out of nearly everyone’s mouth, and it’s not limited to any education level or seniority. You rarely notice if they’re not said, but when they are, they stick out like a sore thumb and affect a listener’s perception of you.

Put an end to (or minimize) both of those words in your spoken vocabulary by looking through the two infographics below. We found the first one on 9gag.com and it provides 11 killer tips to stop saying “um”.  More recently, we found the following infographic from Quid Corner that gives advice of no longer using the word “like” in the wrong places.

Stop Saying Umm Forever

Stop Saying Like All the Time