There’s a good reason why communication is at the top of every “must do” list; it’s the most important aspect of your nearshore partner relationship.
How long has it been since you’ve heard how important communications is in any relationship? It’s likely that you’ve heard something about verbal communications in the past 48 hours. That’s how important it is to you and your nearshore partner.
Having a nearshore partner requires the same effort that any other relationship does. You must communicate. And, tougher still, you must remember that you’re cultivating a long-distance relationship with your partner. Does all of this relationship building and communications rhetoric sound familiar to you? It should. You’ve heard it before but you still haven’t listened. Listening, incidentally, is half of the communications equation.
It’s easy to sit back and say, “Communicate more effectively” or “Cultivate your relationships” but how do you do that? The answer is simple: Practice.
Practice requires that you “do: something. Even if it’s wrong, you can learn from your mistakes. The first thing you want to do in your communicative quest is to setup a weekly meeting with your partner’s management team. A high-level, one-hour meeting with an agenda that includes a weekly dashboard review, a new business section and a roundtable discussion.
Constructive Dialogue on Both Sides of the Shore
A dashboard review is an assessment of how things went during the past week on both sides of the shore. Your partner should discuss any pain points, trouble spots and successes with the team. Discuss your perceptions of those issues as well. Discuss any outages, breakdowns and problem post-mortems, that occurred since your last meeting. Don’t allow the discussion to evolve into a “bitch” session where your partner feels as they’re on the receiving end of a verbal beating. Use the time to discuss those challenges constructively and come up with creative solutions. Always remember to end this part of the meeting with a celebration of successes. Spend no more than 15 minutes in this part of your call.
If there’s a need to have further discussion, suggest that you and a key member of your partner’s team take this conversation “off line.” This breaks the monotony and stress that comes with these sometimes heated moments and gives everyone a chance to change gears for the next (and more positive part of the call), new business.
Use it Wisely
The new business section of your call is where you talk about expanding services, adjusting roles and outlining upcoming projects. Planning and directing are the main two functions of this part of your meeting. Use it wisely. You can also use this part of the call to discuss foreseeable pitfalls, to discover hidden partner talent pools and to do a bit of brainstorming. You’ll have to accommodate dialog from your partner and edit the meeting pace according to the depth that you wish to cover in this high-altitude meeting. In other words, don’t allow your partner to drag you into detailed conversations about project plans, which should take place in future calls specifically designated for the projects. Schedule those project meetings now.
- Hold meetings to one hour
- Maintain a comfortable meeting pace
- Stay positive
- Withhold criticisms
- Listen actively
- Engage everyone
- Keep your meetings focused
- Allow brainstorming
- Take details “off line”
Finally, allow a few minutes at the end of the call for a roundtable discussion of anything covered on the call and any topic of interest. Roundtables can generate new ideas and foster a feeling of accomplishment and ownership from all participants.
In addition to the weekly high-level meeting, schedule a weekly technical meeting that includes representatives from your nearshore partner’s talent pool. These folks support your environment and your customers. It’s very important to establish a positive working relationship with the people who have direct customer contact. They represent your company and its services. Often, they’re the only contact customers have with your company and you need to ensure that they’re communicating your message in a clear and concise manner.
To this end, you must conduct this meeting openly and positively with minimal criticism. Don’t attempt any reprimands or behavioral corrections during the technical call. You’ll alienate your technical staff by doing so. Repeat your expectations often and in a friendly, positive tone. Handle all of your criticisms and complaints through private meetings with your partner’s management staff.</p>
Effective communication isn’t a stretch. You do it every day. Listen to your partner’s ideas and needs. Communicate your ideas and needs. Conduct regular meetings to keep those lines of communication open and honest. Two hours per week could change the fate of your business and enhance your relationship with your nearshore partner.
Kenneth Hess is a Technology Columnist/Blogger and expert on Nearshore Outsourcing. This is his first column for Nearshore Americas.