Discover more from Human Skills
Human Skills 001 - Communication At Scale
with Lea Kissner
How do you create positive relationships when a large part of your job is telling people ‘no’?
Or run a whole-company initiative across thousands of people getting them to do boring, frustrating things like updating Access Control Lists to prevent security problems?
These may seem daunting to you or me, but Lea Kissner is different. They’ve run privacy and security for organizations like Google and Twitter, and once told me that “If a job doesn’t involve facing down hostile state actors, I’m just not that into it”.
Key Insights from Lea
Your job as a communicator
Your job is not to say ‘X’. Your job is to say whatever it takes to get ‘X’ into the brain of the person that you’re talking to. If you need to say it a different way, you need to say something that to you sounds kind of different but causes them to understand the thing you were trying to convey, that’s what you need to do.
On finding language that resonates in an organization
I will literally A/B test language on people. I will say okay well we need to think a bunch about, I don't know, not launching incidents or compliance. Almost nobody outside of an extremely highly regulated industry where it's drilled into people finds compliance very motivating. It might be very important but they don't find it intrinsically motivating and a lot of especially tech folks are like, “It's so boring that I don't care”
They care about what the actual thing is, just you need to find different language about it. So I will just start using different bits of language until I start hearing it echoed back. And once I hear it back getting echoed back from people other than I said it to, I know i've found something that like it's that resonance frequency of the organization, and I'm like great - I found something that conveys that message and we can start using that it's going to help people move just in the same way that finding the resonant frequency of an object moves it much more - language does that exact same thing.
Magic trick to reduce the amount of complication in discussions:
I try to get everybody to just say the freaking thing that they are thinking. Because if people are thinking a bunch of things and they don't tell me... I can't help you. I'm not a mind reader and I can't help you.
There are a couple things. I'm super open - you want to know something, I will tell you. You probably don't have to wait I will just tell you anything that i think might be helpful for you. I'm very clear that I am there to help. I have no secret agenda, I will tell you exactly what my nefarious plan is.. I will use those words. I will say, "Ohh i have a nefarious plan - my nefarious plan is to get the CI/CD pipeline to work really well with this thing and then we will have this other thing and also it seems like it will make everybody's development in life better" - and people will be like "cool!".
But then I ask them... "I am gonna try and help you, and if you tell me what you WANT, I'm gonna be much better at it"
Quick Links to Lea
Thanks for reading Human Skills! Subscribe for free to receive more interviews like this one every week.