I was thrown to the wolves this past week while at TechEd. My new company, Confio Software, asked me to join them for the show and to work the booth with them as well. I felt like a shiny new toy. I was also asked to speak on occasion to attendees who came over with some questions. I did the best I could, and in each case I found that it was easy to have a conversation if I did something very simple at the start: I listened.
By listening to someone I could get an idea of what it is they needed. One person stopped by and asked if our product handled database security (it doesn’t). Another person seemed to want to know a lot of performance details but then said they weren’t the admin so they were essentially looking to recommend a tool for their admins to purchase. In both cases I was fortunate to know enough to listen to the person speak first in order to get an idea about their needs.
The entire experience made me think about a section in my book, DBA Survivor, where I discuss the importance of sitting down and talking with someone. This excerpt is geared towards your life as a production DBA, but the idea is the same; learn how to talk with, and listen to, others around you.
Pure and simple, nothing beats sitting down and talking with someone. The more people get to know you the more they get to understand what it is you actually do for work. Along the way they will get to understand the variety of tasks you perform and even some of the difficulties you face.
If your shop has multiple offices then it is going to be more difficult to sit down and talk with people. While it is more difficult, it is not impossible. No matter who you are talking with or where they are located the most important thing you can do is maintain an even tone of voice. I know that those are always the people I enjoy talking with every day.
Another tip would be to learn the power of the phrase “I understand”. Those two words can communicate a lot to the person you are talking with. You can be saying that you agree with them (“I understand what you are saying”), or you could be saying that you do not agree with them (“I understand what you are saying but I am still not convinced.”) The bottom line is that you can be a most agreeable person to talk with simply by using those two words.
Now imagine this conversation:
“Why the hell is that restore taking so long”
“Well, it looks like the database has grown in size. It should take another fifteen minutes.”
“We need it to be finished now, why is it not done yet?”
“I understand that you need it done quickly, and as soon as it is done I will send you an email or I can call you if you prefer.”
How could someone possibly be expecting you to do anything more for them at this point? By talking with them you have made a connection with them, shown them that you are human, that the desired results are coming, and most importantly that you understand their needs.
That might be the most important thing you could ever communicate to someone, and it is easiest to communicate when you sit down to talk.
At TechEd I had the opportunity to sit, talk, and listen with a lot of different people. I hope that I was able to offer assistance and guidance when necessary. And I would like to think that my years as a production DBA have served me well when it comes to having such conversations.