Five techniques for effective communications with internal stakeholders
Maintaining effective communications with your Technology Transfer Office’s key stakeholders—inventors, attorneys, administrators, financial personnel, public relations department—sounds easy, but quite often it is considerably more challenging and resource intensive than we expect. Many of us are working with colleagues who have too many demands placed on them with too few resources and too little time.
My tips for effective communications with colleagues within your institution or enterprise include the following techniques.
- Empathy: View your role as a “service provider,” and think of your internal colleagues and associates as “customers” or “suppliers.” Invest in understanding their goals, objectives, issues and challenges by exercising effective listening skills during your interactions.
- Connection: Speak in the language of your customer. Beware of acronyms and internal office or industry vernacular. Pay careful attention to whether your colleagues are actually listening to you (or reading your e-mails). Far too often our colleagues are paralyzed by information and assignment overload. Make sure you are actually connecting with them.
- Comprehension. Invest adequate time to ensure that you fully understand the needs and expectations from your customers (technical, schedule and budget). Identify the specific criteria for success for both parties and seek multi-dimensional win-win-win agreements. This information will allow you to be more effective in facilitating the partnership/project and will provide the foundation for effective communications with your stakeholders.
- Commitment. Credibility is another fundamental basis for effective communications, which is based on delivering results consistently and with integrity. Prioritize your projects and your time on a continuous basis. Remain attentive to key milestones and events and keep in mind that “no” is an acceptable answer if your current priorities do not permit you change direction or commit to additional actions. (Of course, most things are negotiable.) Bottom line is that results are generally commensurate with your commitment to investments in both time and resources.
- Relationships. Your professional network of internal colleagues can often be leveraged to your organization’s advantage to connect with key influencers and decision-makers throughout your institution or enterprise. Therefore, build relationships proactively. Remember that initial impressions are difficult to change, so initiate any new relationships in a positive manner. Once one of your internal customers or suppliers develops a negative impression of you, or your organization, you are faced with an uphill battle to change that impression, whether deserved or not.
Strong internal relationships are a function of trust through consistent and effective communications with integrity. They are essential for successful licensing and other technology commercialization agreements. Effective communication is also the vehicle on which to illustrate the positive results you have achieved, solidifying your reputation with and value to your institution. Of course, do not go too far and become self-aggrandizing, but do use effective communication to show how effective you really are in supporting the mission of your institution.
–By Jack Spain