Have you ever counted the number of communication services and applications that are installed on your smartphone? In 2022, our online presence is as important as our physical presence. Either it is the increased time working at home or connecting with distant family and friends – the average person in the world is increasing their online presence in every aspect of their lives. Although many of the applications that we have downloaded have had a positive impact in our lives, one tradeoff of increasing communication online is that it has also affected our interpersonal skills.
Content is king. Despite this, our Team Lead, Nenad Kovačević, also highlights the importance of communicating to be able to produce the best content. Nenad thinks that communication is king. As someone who coordinates and communicates between many stakeholders in Serengeti's projects, we sat down with Nenad to discuss the importance of interpersonal skills and how these skills help drive Serengeti team to deliver successful projects.
As a team lead, you are a person that is in continuous contact with clients and with team members. As somebody that is constantly communicating, most notably in your professional life, how would you quantify the importance of effective communication- in other words quality communication?
The most important thing is communication, either being with the client or with my team. I have had many experiences where bigger problems could have been completely avoided if a few emails were exchanged and the details of the solution were ironed out over a 5-minute phone call. I strongly believe that every relationship is predicated on communication, and communication is the foundation and the mixer for every successful team. As team lead, I try to build a good channel of communication with all my clients and team members.
When you work with delicate situations, do you have to navigate between the side of the client who is financing the project, and the employee with whom you work? Has it ever happened where you had to choose a side in a conflict between the two parties?
That is a daily struggle and task for me as a team lead to satisfy the client who is financing the project and the abilities of the team who needs to fulfill the client’s wishes, but as well as help them fulfill their own wishes.
Satisfying the client’s wishes and the wishes of my colleagues is walking a thin line. As we all know, the customer is always right but on the other hand there is a team that has entrusted you to lead them. That is a team of people that you are in touch with every day, and you are there for them when they need something. The narrative that the client and the development team are on two opposite ends from each other, I find, is not a correct assumption. Without one or the other there would be nothing to do. That is why I see it as everyone is here for the other and we are all trying to solve a problem.
This is where communication comes in as you always need to find the simplest way of explaining to the end user why you are not able to do something and the possibilities that are available to them. In these situations, it is important to understand the problem and process in which to express the issue in layman’s terms. Of course, sometimes experience does not help in these situations, but it is best to recognize the situation when tensions are high and to adequately react. Other than communication in those situations needing to be clear to all the stakeholders involved it is also important that things are communicated at the right time like everything in life.
What is the best way to build your interpersonal and communication skills?
I would say socialize and talk to as many people as possible, especially with people of differing backgrounds and actively listen to them. Also, it is important to read about overcoming initial barriers and honing your skills by reading and educating yourself about communicating effectively.
Do you think that there are people that are naturally better communicators, as well as other who are shier in that aspect?
There are different people which also means there are different personalities. People with certain personalities more easily can communicate, but those that areshier doesn’t mean that it is a barrier for them to communicate.
People that have personalities that are more prone to being communicative also need to invest time in honing their skills and overcoming their initial barriers just like those who have shyer personalities.
How do you handle fights, misunderstandings, problems in communication, or other “white noise” in the communication channels?
I hope that I have handled them well. Humor always helps in those situations to release the tension, but at the same time you must be aware of your timing and the type of humor so that the situation can balance itself out.
And again, once the residual smoke and high tensions pass, we come back to communication. There needs to be a relationship and atmosphere built amongst a team in which it is normal to not think the same as everyone else in the same instant and to allow for open discussion and inquiry about anything without judgement. Conflict is not necessarily bad, it is just important that all sides involved in the conflict respect one another and that it doesn’t digress from a respectful conversation, meaning that somebody manages the conflict and mediates the discussion. Without other ways of thinking there is no progress and to my understanding, progress is something that is in everybody’s interest when working on our projects.
Programmers are victims of certain stereotypes, for example they are often categorized as antisocial. Do you think that these perpetual stereotypes are changing and that in these times programmers are also required to have certain interpersonal communication skills?
From all my experiences these stereotypes about us programmers are unjustified. Amongst the colleagues I have had the pleasure of working with up till now, there were many amazing communicators. Also, as with any population, there is a normal distribution of people with differing personalities. The extreme of the distribution was probably most pronounced and therefore these stereotypes came about.
Interpersonal communication is important, but I would not say that it is a disqualifying factor in these times. History has taught us that there will be Wozniaks and Jobs. So, then it begs the question of who the next Jobs to our Wozniak