Combating the Sounds of Silence

In the supply chain and logistics, your job success depends not only on your own work but whether you can get others inside and outside your organization to work together on ways to increase efficiency and resolve problems that come up.  It is very dependent on people listening and hearing each other.  The data on your computer systems generate is only good if people uses it wisely.

Yes, there are times people will refuse to listen.  More often it is the case that a person does not even realize he or she is not listening. There is a silence there which is invisible with all clutter going on in everybody’s work life.  You probably not their direct line boss, so you cannot force them to listen, therefore one must provide benefits and reasons to listen.

Below are some thoughts on how to deal with this sounds of silence, but first here is how not to deal with it: telling people off, condensing to them, screaming and shouting, and plotting conspiracies to make that person’s life difficult. You are in this for long haul, and you will need these people support in the future.  People remember how you treat them. Logistics and supply chain have lots of details needed to be done right and they are easy to ignore.

Here are some keys to getting people to want to listen and hear.

  1. Know what the project or work objective is and why this is being done, and be prepared to clearly explain it. People will put no voluntary effort into any activity if its value is unclear and its objective unclear.
  2. Use your knowledge and empathy to understand what the person you are dealing is trying to accomplish in their job and what sort of work dynamic they are dealing with (i.e. is this peak season?).   Projects and work objectives has to placed in a context of their job, otherwise it will have no relevancy to them. Again, typically you are not their boss and you do not have power over them.  To get buy in, there must be some understanding why working together will be of benefit.
  3. Develop questions on the project that will help bring out barriers and concerns these persons will have.  Many of us, have been in situations where it is better to keep our concerns to oneself, but these concerns are landmines which could destroy the project and keep from being successful. Well placed questions will help break down this barrier of silence.  Respect the person and the experience of the people you need to work with.
  4. Provide feedback which is the best way to show that person concerns are being addressed and the project is moving forward.

There is one other element that is important. Be enjoyable to talk to. Who wants to talk to anybody who is difficult?  Part of being enjoyable to communicate with is making it easy for dialogue and communications to take place.  Respond to instant messengers, emails and phone calls on a timely basis. If you are too busy to respond, the other person will be too busy also.



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