I am always looking for what's good in people. And then, I want to pump that goodness up, promote it, and do amazing work with others.
In the spread of my career I've moved from working solo to working on technology that was closer to people (UI) and later still, working directly with people. All of these phases have challenged me to improve my communication skills, and I'm still very much learning.
As such, I maintain a number of guidelines when I'm working with people for the first time. They inform the ways I communicate with others, conduct business... and everything else, really. That's not to say that they stay fixed over time; I respect the way the relationship naturally grows. But this is how I begin.
- The other person is smart. I have always hired people smarter than me and it has never failed me, and I take this assumption to my co-workers and co-conspirators too.
- The other person has good intentions and wants to succeed. This is putting an amazing amount of trust in the other person, but then, I assume she's trusting me just as much. No agendas, no twirling mustaches. We're here to make something fantastic and enjoy it.
- I will learn something from the other person. Her experience and her work can be incredibly influential on me because I allow it to be. People are fascinating.
- The other person is doing her very best work. This one gets tricky. Sometimes, we phone it in (and it's worth examining why that is – another time.) But I still treat each project and piece of work as the very best representation of that person's ideas given her constraints, limitations, and experience. I look for strengths in the simplest-seeming ideas.
- We both have a sense of humor. I can definitely read when Business Mode is fully required, but some things may happen that are stressful... and humor can be a release valve for that.
- And finally, we will connect and create something great. Connection only means that we need to work well together – in a flow, and in a collaborative way.
And that's it. Those are the guidelines I start with in just about any relationship or point of contact.