Adapting to Your Audience: Social skills play an important role.
Regardless of our role in the industry, most of us frequently find ourselves wearing many hats and working in a wide variety of environments. Many times, these various environments have drastically different needs and requirements. If every situation is approached in a similar manner, it often will result in failure or, at best, produce compromised results. A foundational business skill is being able to recognize those differences easily and adapt to them quickly. Although it may seem plainly obvious, mastering that skill can be quite challenging and may take years. As with most business skills, however, mastering it unquestionably will produce significant results when you are adapting to your audience.
In AV, we frequently find ourselves interacting with a host of people during the typical project cycle. Those people include members of the design team, the install team and end users—each of which has a unique culture and set of personalities.
During the design stage, we may interact with architects and engineers. Architects can range in personality types from a business-centric style to an artistic-centric style, with everything in between. Both types are common but must be approached in drastically different styles in order to gain credibility and develop a relationship.
Not only will their personalities differ, but their approaches to design often will vary even more. Design professionals bring personalities to projects ranging from very humble to very arrogant, from serious to free-spirited and from intense to relaxed. Although navigating these relationships can be tricky at times, they are nevertheless important relationships to master. Successfully adapting one’s style and approach to each type can reap great rewards. Successful interaction does not necessarily mean adopting the same personality oneself but, rather, simply being sensitive to what makes the other person tick, and adapting.
For those involved in the contracting/integration industry, particularly large-scale projects influenced by aggressive general contractors, competing subs and unions, it often can seem like navigating a minefield of personalities and relationships. Regardless of how inefficient that process may seem, it’s a fact of life on large projects, and an environment in which we must be comfortable.
On the end-user side, our clients span many vertical markets, and each market tends to bring with it a unique set of personalities. For instance, federal government clients have quite different goals and styles than retail and entertainment clients. With definite exceptions, personalities tend to mirror their type of business. For instance, in military and government circles, one should not expect to encounter free-spirited humor driven by artistry but, rather, seriousness evoked by function and the nature of the business in which they’re involved.
Successful adaptation to these varying environments involves everything from style of dress and personality to the types of questions asked and subject matter discussed. Until one’s audience can be read, any strong opinions or statements either should be avoided altogether or handled delicately. Some may argue that one’s individual style should be embraced and never be compromised, regardless of the environment. But I would suggest that successful business models have proven otherwise.
Being able to test the waters delicately and accurately assess one’s audience is the first step in successful relationship building. Quickly reacting to that role and functioning comfortably in it is the next step. This skill set is, perhaps, one of the most challenging things to develop, but is a foundational business skill that can have a far reaching impact on business development and professional relationships.
Social and cultural awareness is a skill set that holds value, not only in our everyday work, but in all aspects of life. It’s a skill that should be nurtured, not only by salespeople and managers, but by all individuals in a company who interact with other people during their normal course of work. It’s a skill that will produce immediate and significant results.
Written by Tony Warner, President of Phase Shift Consulting
Originally Published in Sound & Communication