Internal Customers: Applying Effective Communication to Our Teams

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In a recent training event, we learned about more effective ways to talk, relate, and sell to our clients. It’s all about responding to and understanding what causes them pain. It’s about accepting that humans are emotional animals and relating to each other more effectively by allowing or encouraging emotion to be part of the conversation. Too often in the business setting, we are working hard to pretend that we are all about logic, statistics, and numbers, which really isn’t true at all.

Then a recent conversation with some of my colleagues got me thinking. We’re all enthusiastic about relating to our customers this way, but what about each other? What about our daily interactions with our own teams? Do we talk to each other in ways that we would never, ever do with our customers? Is that OK?

Sometimes our team interactions are really straightforward. “What do you think of this process flow?” or “How do these two systems integrate?” are not really opportunities for an exploration of deeper emotional meaning. But training meetings, coaching sessions, planning sessions, daily disagreements, encounters over the coffee maker, and all these things that actually form our team relationships are places where we are either going to enhance and deepen our relationships with each other or completely screw them up.

shaking hands

For example, I was in a meeting a few weeks ago with someone who said “I don’t think anyone cares as much about this as I do,” and my response was “I disagree.” In retrospect, I realize that was a terrible thing to say. I would never have said that to a customer.

At a moment when a colleague was exposing emotional vulnerability, I turned it around and made it about me. Yuck. “Wow, what makes you say that?” or “It sounds like there’s a backstory there; can you tell me more?” would have been much more human things to say and would have opened the dialogue instead of closing it.

It turns out that building good team relationships is about more than “Please” and “Thank you.” I’m going to look for opportunities to do this better. After all, I spend 8 hours a day with these people. We might as well talk to each other.

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