by Keith

Hey y’all. This is the first in a series of quick business tips based on my lessons learned starting a small business.

To kick things off I thought I’d go with something I’m seeing as being more and more important — being easy to work with. It’s not a big surprise actually, in the past when I was asked to interview people I almost always went for personality before skill and experience. Someone who meshes well with others is hugely important. After all, you’ll probably be spending lots of time with that person.

I’m seeing this being a huge factor in the success of my own small business and I’m trying really hard to mold myself into someone that people really enjoy working with. In order to do that I’m:

* Making sure I’m flexible as possible. One of the reasons why I went into business for myself was to have more flexibility with my time, the least I can do is pass that flexibility along.
* A good communicator. In many ways this means over-communicating. I find that it really helps to make sure my clients know what’s going on at all times.
* Available. With some exceptions (I like to keep work and life separate as possible) I want to be able to be reached easily.
* Positive. A positive attitude is key.
* Not defensive or pushy. I really try to communicate in a positive way at all times, with everyone I work with. This can be a real challenge and I find that the closer I am with someone (my coworkers) for example the harder I am with them. But, hey, I’m a work in progress.
* Honest. I feel it’s important to be transparent and as up-front as possible.
* Fun. Humor goes a long way, and even if people don’t share my funny-bone, a lighthearted attitude can be felt by everyone around me.

As you can see, I feel that communication is a big part of being easy to work with. I want people who work with me to feel like they can talk to me about whatever they need to. Being open and responsive, available and flexible is very important. It’s an ongoing process but one that I feel just about anyone could benefit from.

19 Comments on Be Easy To Work With

  1. I think being a a good communicator and being fun can be the key. If you aren’t fun then work can be a little bit bored and if your skills on communication aren’t good, well, things can be impossible.

    Being open is a must be for anyone doing business; I agree. I think GOOGLE may be a good example of easy people to work with; they are all you said and even more.

    Javier Cabrera

  2. Mariann says:

    I used to be proud of my “easy going” nature at work, but lately, I can’t help wondering if it’s possible to being easy to work with results in becoming a pushover. How does one reconcile the expectations of colleagues to be flexible when they secretly describe us as worker bees? I guess that’s where communication comes in handy.

  3. Ivan Minic says:

    Another great article!

  4. Great article Keith. I couldn’t agree with you more that these are absolute locks for success, at least for sustained success. Thanks!

  5. Sergei says:

    I absolutely agree. I also tend to overcommunicate in order to keep my clients 1) in the loop and 2) happy.


  6. Gary says:

    I agree these things will help you gain satisfied clients. However, one of the lessons I have learned during the last few years as a freelancer is that it is possible to be *too* nice and *too* accommodating. Early on, I found myself so eager to come across as “good to work with” that I allowed too many change requests, rework, indecision, additional requests, etc., to slip through without putting my foot down and billing for them. Once the precedent was set I sometimes ended up losing my shirt on projects, working way more hours than I expected to when I originally bid. So, another important lesson is to be firm, professional, and remember that you’re in business to make money, not friends. This can be done in a well-balanced way, and often clients will respect you more for this, I think.

  7. Jill says:

    Have you gotten any feedback from your employees on whether or not it’s working? Your perception of your behaviour and theirs of yours could be radically different–The Office is a great example of this. Have you noticed any improvement in employee relations in your business?

  8. Pops says:

    So, how would you rate Steve Jobs using your criteria? What would you say is the basis of his success at Apple?

    It seems there needs to be an underlying unwillingness to compromise on issues that are important (quality, design features, requirements). Better yet if they can be communicated / enforced in a humane or personable way, without ego getting involved…

  9. Keith says:

    I see some of you are curious (worried?) about being too nice or too easy to work with. I don’t think that’s possible (based on what I’m trying to get across) and think maybe you’re missing my point a bit. Which, ultimately, is my bad. Sorry.

    Part of being easy to work with is being honest and sticking up for what you believe in when you have to. Sugar coating something important just to make a client happy will have dangerous repercussions down the road.

    Now, on the other hand, sugar coating minutiae to make someone happy — that’s not a bad way to go.

    If, for example, a client or customer makes an unreasonable request the thing to do would be to communicate, in as positive a way as possible, why it’s unreasonable and what can be done about it. Offer a solution or a way out.

    Being easy to work with is not about being a pushover. It’s mostly about how you communicate and interact with others. You will need to say “no” and put your foot down and not compromise on quality, etc. — it’s how you go about doing these things that can make you easy to work with.

  10. jorge says:

    Keith can you send me a copy? to my e-mail I think this is important to me on the future I will have a business….. thx.

  11. taorist says:

    Yes. I agree.

    Attitude and personality are hard to “curb” or improve vs. skills. Skills, depending on their difficulty, can be learned over time.

  12. It seems it depends on who you are when it comes to being able to “put your foot down and not compromise on quality”. I find people do not like it when “I” tell them something but people are always telling me stuff and teaching me things. Now pushing fifty I have a lot of knowledge that nobody wants to listen to.
    I have always listened to others and consequently gained a lot of knowledge about a variety of types of work and feel like nobody wants to hear it from me. I do not understand.

  13. saleh says:

    good stuff. I only wish most managers would read this, or some equivalents (books by Dale Carnegie or Stephen Covey).

  14. saleh says:

    Brian, I’d recommend Dale’s “how to win friends and influence people”. I think it was in that he talks of positive criticism, or at least ways in which your criticism/advice will be well-received. a lot of it might seem common sense, but if we’d spend a moment to think about how we can sugar-coat advice before giving it, i think the chances of it being received and complied with will be much higher.

  15. I have a number of people who do actually listen to me I just believe they do not take me or themselves seriously enough. How would you communicate with them other than what I am doing this instant. Writing.

  16. These suggestions are right on target. Another thing which is always helpful is to try avoiding “I-centric” and personal pronoun content within communications. Starting every-other sentence with the word “I” can be a real put-off to the reader. The focus is on the client, not the one communicating.

    For example, the above reworded:

    I think these suggestions are right on target. I always try to remove any “I-centric” content from my communications. When I starting every-other sentence with the word “I”, I find that it’s a real put-off to my readers. I make sure the focus is on my client, not on me.

    The two paragraphs have a completely different tone, yet communicate exactly the same content.

  17. Miles Burke says:

    Great article Keith. As a fellow small business owner obsessed with ethics and building a great small business, I wholeheartedly agree with what you’ve said.

  18. Constant communication with clients as well as co-workers ensures higher productivity. There are no insecurities, no negative thoughts but there is a sense of openness and positive attitude.

  19. TeamGrowth says:

    To be easy to work with is extremely important for any person in a working environment. It ensures higher productivity, enhanced communication and better performance overall.

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