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Short articles for technology professionals on communication with colleagues and customers

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My Difficult Conversations Notebook

My Difficult Conversations Notebook

This notebook provides a quick overview of this series and a starting point for your own notebook, as a support for practicing Difficult Conversation skills. The notebook can be download in multiple formats, including Excel. Enjoy ! Comments, suggestions and enquires:...

Closing the Loop on a Difficult Exchange

Closing the Loop on a Difficult Exchange

If you're hurtling downhill, over rocks and tree roots, on a cross-country bike, what do you concentrate on? If you're driving on a crowded motorway, with cars criss-crossing in front of you, what do you concentrate on? If you're in a meeting, with clever arguments...

Understanding and Expressing Needs in a Difficult Exchange

Understanding and Expressing Needs in a Difficult Exchange

A few weeks ago, in a parallel universe, a customer called and said, “Andy, we’ve been trying to use the software you sold us and have run into difficulties. In fact, we missed a critical delivery last week and management is telling me that failure this week is not an...

Explaining Feelings Accurately and Sensitively in a Difficult Exchange

Explaining Feelings Accurately and Sensitively in a Difficult Exchange

Imagine the following Difficult Conversations: I’ve messed up my calendar and have to explain to my partner that, instead of going out with them this evening, I must work late I’ve messed up my roadmap and have to explain to my boss that, instead of being able to...

Starting a Difficult Exchange Safely by being Brief and Factual

Starting a Difficult Exchange Safely by being Brief and Factual

Suraj and I broadcast a podcast on Difficult Conversations a few days ago and we asked participants for ideas on best practices. “Focus on the problem” was suggested and the person who’d suggested this explained: when confronting someone , talk about the issue and...

Adjusting Intentions when Leading a Difficult Conversation

Adjusting Intentions when Leading a Difficult Conversation

My customer brings up supply chain issues again, just as they did last meeting and the one before, and for as long as I can remember now. As usual, this is done just when I’m getting to topics that are important to me and the question is accompanied by an agonized,...

A Troll-Taming Loop for Reconciling a Difficult Exchange

A Troll-Taming Loop for Reconciling a Difficult Exchange

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way" (Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, 1878). We posit that a key attribute of happy families, and effective people in general, is that they can bring Difficult Conversations to a satisfactory...

Difficult Conversations, Bridges and Trolls

Difficult Conversations, Bridges and Trolls

Trolls are trouble when you want to cross a bridge. Especially when the bridge in question is slippery and swaying.  They can takes ages to deal with and, of course, trolls present a health and safety hazard. A Difficult Conversation is like crossing a troll bridge. ...

Possible Postures for Managing Up

Possible Postures for Managing Up

Possible Postures for Managing Up Here’s some good news about diverse communication skills, applicable to any context: if you question professional people about this topic today, you’ll get some excellent answers – significantly better, I believe, than what you could...

Learning Objectives Enable Flexibility in STMicroelectronics Training

Learning Objectives Enable Flexibility in STMicroelectronics Training

It may seem, when searching for training solutions, that the options are either Do It Yourself, represented here as Bleriot crossing the Channel in his own machine, or a low-risk, catalog-based solution - the P&O Ferry. Mega exciting on the one hand , but will it...

Why it’s hardest to communicate when it matters most

Why it’s hardest to communicate when it matters most

See also this video. Communication has special challenges when it comes to science and technology. Have you ever noticed that when you are burning to explain …when it seems really important to convince other people that you know what you’re talking about …then this is...

Do Your Best Thinking!

Do Your Best Thinking!

If you are trying to solve tough problems at the moment, then be careful not to let your mind brood or worry. Brooding is where you get stuck in the past, ruminating, kicking yourself for not buying Zoom shares in January, for example. Worrying is letting fear take a...

Half and half

Half and half

Anita Roddick* once said: If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room The corona virus seems to have taken the place of the mosquito 😉 So, making a virtue out of different necessities, my colleagues and I delivered...

NewsletterQ1-20

NewsletterQ1-20

Three easy-to-read items to keep in sync with you ...

Bees and FAEs

Bees and FAEs

At the start of a recent training course, each person introduced themselves by citing an animal that could do their job, then explaining why. One of the Field Application Engineers (FAEs) in the audience put forward a bee, saying that they buzzed around busily,...

A Goal Setting Tail

A Goal Setting Tail

Don't worry, this isn’t the old story about the insecure dyslexic, insomniac atheist who lays awake at night wondering if there really is a Dog. It's about the strange but ultimately effective path that my dog takes when I call him and why this could be a valuable...

The Hurry Monster, RIP

The Hurry Monster, RIP

Apparently, I suffer from an affliction which most people manage to avoid. A weird mixture of intellectual laziness and hyperactivity, it once led me to attempt the reduction of German grammar to a handful of equations. Preferably to one equation. Einstein had managed...

A Problem-Solving Experience

A Problem-Solving Experience

Cycling quite fast down a narrow mountain road, I met a lorry coming up it. The result was eight broken ribs on one side, a broken shoulder on the other and a huge problem with getting out of bed. Problem-solving methodologies can be usefully classified as either...

Anna Karenina and Client Encounters

Anna Karenina and Client Encounters

Anna Karenina and Client Encounters All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. This, the first phrase of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, is remarkable for how it sticks in the memory. In complex relationships such as with families or...

Best practices Exchange for Engineering Team Leaders

Best practices Exchange for Engineering Team Leaders

I recently setup a Best Practices Exchange (BPXchange) as an experiment in learning through sharing for busy Engineering Team Leaders working in different companies. The challenge was to find a format that would allow added-value exchanges in a reasonable time, taking...

Best Practice Exchange outcomes

Best Practice Exchange outcomes

The rubber duck image is inspired by a software development "best practice" of sharing difficult problems with a rubber duck. The act of explaining brings clarity and so this technique accelerates software debug. It also follows that a rubber duck learns many best...

Engineering Support Beyond Do, Doc, Done

Engineering Support Beyond Do, Doc, Done

Do, Doc, Done captures a way of working that is popular among support engineers and which often works well. For example : a case comes my way in the issue tracking system. I fix it (Do), send an email or write a comment when I close the case (Doc)...

Engineers Add More Value with a Balanced Problem Solving Approach

Engineers Add More Value with a Balanced Problem Solving Approach

A multi-million dollar chip production line is halted, but it's not clear where the problem is coming from. An independent consulting engineer is called in. She walks all around the production floor looking at the screens, the indicators, the dials, the cables, the...

Helping Engineers Maximise the Positive Impact of their Expertise

Helping Engineers Maximise the Positive Impact of their Expertise

It's well known that many professionals have difficulty communicating with people outside their speciality and it's not unusual for start-ups to be frustrated by an indifferent world – "why does nobody appreciate our great idea??"! Ironically, this problem exists...

The Customer-Facing Few

The Customer-Facing Few

Consider what it takes to build an aircraft carrier and put it out to sea. Tens of thousands of contractors crossing multiple disciplines, organisations, states and countries are involved. Another ten thousand or so do the actual construction. About five...

Team Building and Training as One Activity

Team Building and Training as One Activity

Nowadays, classroom-based professional training is all about learning activities – labs, simulations, role plays, serious games, and so on. Over the past ten years, I would say, there has been a major shift away from subject matter lectures towards...

Teledyne Dalsa Warding Off the Hurry Monster

Teledyne Dalsa Warding Off the Hurry Monster

The Hurry Monster (not to be confused with the Worry Monster – a cuddly toy – and the Panic Monster – a superb invention of Tim Urban’s) frightens us into rushing tasks that we would otherwise perform brilliantly. And he can have a disastrous effect on Customer...

Energy Control & Pre-Match Planning – the Axcelis example

Energy Control & Pre-Match Planning – the Axcelis example

Axcelis knows how to manage high energy with precision – its core business is the supply of ion implanters to the semiconductor industry. The company provides vital machines for the manufacturing process behind modern electronics. Axcelis certainly contributed to...

Preparing for Customer Intimacy with Communication Training

Preparing for Customer Intimacy with Communication Training

KORTIQ knows that its Product Development Team – now busy creating advanced Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) solutions – is critical to winning customers and building long-term commercial relationships. It’s strong technical culture is an asset that it can be proud...

Metacommunication: the importance of talking about talking

Metacommunication: the importance of talking about talking

Just as metadata means data about data, metacommunication is communication about communication[1]. When I complain about the media’s tendency to awfulize and terribilize, I am metacommunicating. Instead of explaining what I mean with long sentences and examples, I use...

Leadership and Resisting Other People’s Problems (3 of 3)

Leadership and Resisting Other People’s Problems (3 of 3)

In a couple of recent posts, I suggested a magic spell to help you avoid taking on other people's problems: "And what would you like to have happen?". Assume that you've mastered this formula and have used it on a colleague who is now standing (spellbound) in front of...

Leadership and Resisting Other People’s Problems II

Leadership and Resisting Other People’s Problems II

As explained in a previous post, “And what would you like to have happen?” is a magic spell, taken from Clean Language and the Five-Minute Coach, that helps you inspire others to find their own solutions. When you cast the spell on someone, their desired outcome...

Leadership and Resisting Other People’s Problems

Leadership and Resisting Other People’s Problems

« Harry, do you know how this spreadsheet’s meant to work? ». It seems like a harmless question, but it’s really the beginning of a dangerous spell. Innocent in the ways of the Dark World, Harry responds, « Sure, what’s up? », then proceeds to spend the rest of the...

Leading Your Technical Sales Support Leaders

Leading Your Technical Sales Support Leaders

If you are running some kind of technical sales support team – a field applications organisation, a sales engineering group or maybe an R&D team that does direct customer support – then one of your major concerns is probably to ensure that your engineers are able...

Technical Sales Support Outside the Comfort Zone

Technical Sales Support Outside the Comfort Zone

I recently had a conversation with a Customer–Facing Engineer about what to do when a customer expects answers about topics outside of one's area of expertise (I use the generic term, "Customer-Facing Engineer" – CFE – because this case is relevant to any engineer,...

Will Things Get Done? How to work it out.

Will Things Get Done? How to work it out.

To the best of my knowledge, there are very few personal organization systems that can estimate when outstanding tasks will get done. I’ll explain why this is a troubling omission and how it can be removed using Google Calendar and Sheets (or similar technology). Over...

Helping Customers Navigate

Helping Customers Navigate

This month’s mobile bill was approximately €A_FORTUNE higher than expected, so I went to the “Help” pages on the web and tried to fix my plan. I followed links all over the place but eventually gave up, feeling powerless and in the dark. I wanted to understand my...

An Unhelpful and False Image of Work Pressure

An Unhelpful and False Image of Work Pressure

When setting up a Technical Sales Support training course, I ask the sales people and engineers that I’m working with about their biggest challenges. What would you think? The incredible complexity of multi-billion transistor chip? Software code written in 8 different...

I Need Performance; I Get CRUD

I Need Performance; I Get CRUD

Cynicism, Resistance, Uncertainty and Doubt (CRUD) are inevitable reactions to Learning Programmes set up to deal with performance challenges. Working out ways to avoid the CRUD is therefore essential to the success of such programmes, which are themselves critical to...

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