Category Archives: Communications

Networking tips for introverts

Recently we had a staff day including an afternoon of professional development and ‘team building.’ Gulp. Are there another two words in the English language that can bring such dread to an introvert?

For me, it’s a double whammy. Not only do I not enjoy being in a room for 40 other people (4 is about my limit), but I have such a high degree of cynicism when it comes to team building that I find myself coming up with various schemes which may get me out of this exercise.

As for networking, I’d rather poke myself in the eye with a stick.

Thankfully, the facilitator of the session – the value of networking – was remarkably sensible. Sandra Wood ran the session. The timing was perfect as there was a supporters event the following week. When asked about how I felt about networking, I freely admitted that the idea made me feel rather ill yet I also knew there was no way of escaping the function I had to attend.

Sandra’s advice was practical. Eat before you go. Hold your drink in your left hand and keep your right hand free for shaking hands. And my favourite – if you need to join a group, go for a group of 3 not 2. Her practicality won me over. Here was a woman who took the time to acknowledge that this is something many people do not want to do; something people dread and then set about trying to ‘lessen’ the dread. Over the years, I’ve met many facilitators of professional development and in particular ‘team building’. Nearly all of them seem to have the opinion that introverts just need to become team players. Few acknowledge the challenges and for that I really do give Sandra credit.

Through the workshop, Sandra tried to get us to re-interpret our thinking. I was sceptical to say the least. However by the end of the session, I had realised that given I had to go to this event, I might as well try to make it more bearable for myself. Could I feel comfortable in myself doing this – definitely not! Did I feel proud of the work my employer does – absolutely!

That was my key which took off the edge. If I just focused on the positive feelings I have about my job, then that would negate any lack of confidence in a crowd.

I’m pleased to say that I survived the function and even managed to have a couple of good conversations with a some major donors! For that I have to give credit to Sandra Wood Consulting. I certainly won’t be volunteering myself for such events in the future however when I do need to attend, I think I now have a few tricks to get me through them with better results.

Excel graphs: Henry Ford style

My new staff member, Mr West and I, were discussing graphs. I know what you’re thinking. What a scintillating conversation!

It seems that we can only reach agreement as follows:

  • red and green should be used with caution as they sometimes can convey and unintentional negative or positive message
  • decimals places on currency is sometimes confusing and best left off
  • while some graphs are technically correct their ‘direction’ can give a false emotion e.g. a line that goes down often looks more negative than a line that goes up

Yet we are stuck on reverse type. We’ve conducted a straw poll in the office and it’s 3 votes for black background graphs with white text; (with one citing a caveat on whether they are to be printed or not); and 3 votes against.

Now Mr West and I have not known each other long. Less than a couple of months. Despite that, I think he may have already detected my slightly stubborn streak. It’s faint; undetectable really; it’s probably not that noticeable. I never argue a point; google the internet for data to support my point of view; threaten co-workers they need to agree with me (except for today; that’s how I’ve got 3 votes against the black!)

I am looking for the definitive article which says reverse type (white on black) is simply no good. Jeff Brooks in his new book calls reverse type a readability killer and a crusher of fundraising income.

I found one article on the readability of inverted color schemes from Accessible Web Design. After years of working in a blindness agency, I knew not to read further. If there is one thing that is guaranteed, it is that there is never agreement when it comes to accessibility.

I tried to push my way through ‘When Legibility, Readability & Usability Intersect, Then We Reach Our Target Audience’. Ironically I found it difficult to read!

Finally, I came across 14 Misconceptions About Charts and Graphs. It does diddly-squat to prove that black graphs are bad; but it sure does give some darn ugly graphs. (My personal favourite is the pie chart in misconception 9).

Until I locate some evidence to support my position that white on black is not as readable as the reverse, then I can see that my graphs are going to continue to arrive paying homage to Mr Ford.

PS: Anyone who can direct this monkey to any article which bags out reverse type graphs, I will forever by in your debt!

So perfect it doesn’t exist

Since a young age, I’ve been cursed, maybe blessed, depending on your view, with perfectionism. (Grammar nuts may point out that my perfectionism does not apply to the correct usage of a comma based on the previous sentence). I have often thought that perfectionism was a problem for me; a personal struggle between doing a good job and getting the job done. A personal trait which, for some, was confusing as I am also known for my seriously imperfect behaviour when it comes to tidiness. (Yes, my CDs are in alphabetical order yet my desk is a scattered paper abstract art piece).

Yet all this was not a big deal. I never really considered it’s impact on others. After all it was my perfectionism.

Then I met someone more perfectionistic than myself.

I’ll call this person FISH. Those of you who know me personally, don’t try to figure out who FISH is because the name is completely random and has no link to the real person – or none that I know about! Perhaps I plucked FISH out as a name because secretly I’d like to get a fish and perform the monty python fish dance on said person. Of course, I want to be John Cleese not Michael Palin. (Should I be showing my age and baffling any readers: refer to youtube video of the infamous fish slapping dance).

As Fish wants to be sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed, the ducks are in a row and the documentation completed down to the gnat’s ass, Fish does not move. Yes that’s right. Everything stops, stalls, halts, is shut down or nipped in the bud.

If I’m sounding like a thesaurus tonight, it’s because I’m being perfectionistic with my descriptions of my irritation. You see just using one word to describe Fish’s inaction, would be, well, inadequate! A single word does not convey to degree to which Fish can drive me up the wall, round the twist and down the rabbit hole! Fish is such a dyed to the wool perfectionist that I’m struggling to remember the last time I managed to negotiate task completion without a hiatus to allow for due diligence to occur!

All this has got me wondering – am I like fish? Do I drive people doolally with my perfectionism? Then I realised that the answer must be no. After all the name of the blog is the data monkey not the data fish. A good thing really as wet data may be a very bad idea as I’m not sure data has been given swimming lessons. With that piece of unfettered nonsense I shall endeth today’s rant before I decide to attach floaties to my date fields and flippers to my text strings!

Email the brave

There’s a woman on the loose with a machete. The workplace is no longer safe. She tears her way down the corridors on a mission to slice off the head of the nearest person who dares do it again. She is planning a new release a new virus which targets perpetrators and slices their heads off in one swoop. The target of her mission? Reply all and CC loving emailers.

Email was invented in 1971. Yes, the decade which gave us the disco ball also supplied this electronic workplace nightmare. I’m wondering what would happen if my colleagues and I were transported back to, say, 1965? How would we cope? If we couldn’t email each other, then that might mean we have to use the telephone, or worse, talk to someone in person. Would we be more or less efficient in our communications?

I will confess, I sent a lot of emails. But my source of wrath at the moment is not about email per se. It’s fair and squarely focused on ‘Email all’ and  ‘Reply to all’.

When I worked for larger organisations, inappropriate use of ‘Email all’ was rare. Occasionally someone would stuff up and tell us that the ladies toilet in the Western Australian office was broken and a plumber had been called. At this point all the office workers in Sydney would don their compassionate hats and courier buckets to the other side of the country. (No. I lie. They hit delete.)

Yet it’s not the Email all, or even ’email a big group’ which really gets me hot under the collar. (Let’s face it. There are times when it is essential e.g. ‘there’s chocolate cake in the kitchen, help yourself’). No, the thing which really irks me, which has me heading for the vending machine in an attempt to eat my way out of biting someone’s head off is the ‘reply all’. Grrrr.

Take this example. Colleague needs some help – ’10 volunteers needed for event’. Appropriate. Fair call. Good use of ’email all’. What I want to know is why someone would ‘RSVP’ copying in the other 199 people in the company? It’s not my event. I don’t care.

As irritants go, this one is probably not deserving of the machete wielding treatment. Although, perhaps once it would be nice…

More deserving of imminent death is the ‘can of worms reply all’. It’s the one where someone posts a question. It’s a plea for help. ‘Send me information and I can get on with what I need to do.’ Instead of replying with an answer, these soon to be dead people, press reply all and ask a question. No. Let me rephrase. Not a question, multiple questions. They make a salad of complications, alternative views and general ‘food for thought.’ This in turns, produces more ‘reply alls’, until the point where in the time you go to the bathroom and back, your email has been populated with another half dozen emails of ‘salad’. Is there anything more frustrating than needing information and getting salad back instead?

I’m half tempted to make a heart felt plea to our IT department to ban people from using the reply all function.

There’s only one thing stopping me.

I think whoever eats the last piece of chocolate cake should let everyone else know that there’s none left.