Being assertive (being concrete)
Being specific and assertive has always been one of our credos. A previous talk with a good friend of us got us inspired to write down our key findings of the last few years when it comes to communication.
There are many situations where abstractness, subtlety, and carefully crafted diplomacy in communications are critical. But most of the time, plain directness is the key to successful projects. A lot of times while in meetings with clients or project partners we’re getting really twitchy if people are talking about business, money or timings in abstract terms. “Being direct” is a straightforward technique that is one of the most important assets we have. When you want something, ask for it and get straight to the point. Especially if you’re running a small studio with multiple projects at the same time (like we do) — time is getting really precious. This is were the concept of being assertive is really helpful. We try to hold meetings short or even avoid them completely.
Set goals for meetings
Setting goals and bringing them to the table at the beginning of a meeting helps you to be more specific. Always point out the „why“ of a meeting and set clear objectives. Initial project meetings are mostly about getting to know each other, however in order to be direct and assertive make sure to agree upon something (project start, project timing, next meeting, a call, etc.) at the end.
Always — and we mean always — finish meetings with a list of todos and actions
As you might have already read between the lines, we are not fans of the meeting. This is because most of the time meetings are just project-delays on purpose — procrastination of the actual work that has to be done. However, talking in person and giving project updates does of course have its upsides. Hold in mind that you always set clear and decisive todos and call-to-actions at the end of every meeting. There is nothing worse than going out of a meeting without knowing what to do and without having a clear agenda for the next steps.
Work towards project completion
This sounds harsh, but when it comes down to it we’re always about completing and terminating projects. Our business is ultimately about business — not passion or anything else. Sure, we like what we do and we’re getting a lot out of it but essentially it’s about being profitable in an econmic way. This is why we try to be as specific and decisive as possible to finish projects as fast as possible. On the one hand this is important for us to operate as unwasteful as possible and on the other hand this is of obviously also in favor of the client to get what he is paying for.
Don’t avoid bad news — it’s not heart surgery
If you’re not able to hold the promised timing of a project or it’s not running as expected make sure to be as clear and direct as possible and talk about it. Don’t be shy to tell the truth, people will eventually be grateful that you are. A website, a piece of graphical work or a product release is not heart surgery — nobody is going to die after all. At the end of the day this fact keeps us pretty relaxed. Also getting out of your comfort zone every now and then feels pretty good.
Go ahead and ask
And finally: If you want something don’t be afraid and hesitant to ask! Some of our biggest projects started because we simply asked for it. „Hey, how is it going? We really like what you’re doing — how about working together on this“. Amongst others this is a key learning of the last few years that got us to where we are now.
Clarity saves time, reduces misunderstandings and other people don’t have to second-guess what you’re thinking. If you’re not direct things don’t go the way you like them to.
Also being assertive and direct does not need to mean being cold and hard. The tone you use and the words you choose matter a lot. But you will likely get more respect from being direct than by overthinking the positioning of a message or meeting. Have the courage to be direct!