Effective communication in the workplace would solve most of the problems we, engineers, face every day. Yet it’s incredibly hard to achieve it. Do you feel like heated situations in the office could be avoided by simply knowing how to deal with other people’s personality traits as well as your own? Well, then this episode is for you.
Salman Raza has been advising companies on their organizational culture, strategy, and infrastructure for a long time with his consultancy business Razalution Bureau. He teaches managers, leaders, and employees how to communicate and interact effectively in professional settings. Tune in to find out how you can do the same!
What You’ll Learn:
- How Salman Found “What Makes Him Tick”
- Why Most Engineers are Introverts—And How to Use It as a Strength
- How to Have Effective Communication in the Office
- How People’s Different Personality Traits Influence Communication
- How to Assess Your Individual Situation in Your Workplace
- Why Managing Your Own Emotions Can Influence Other People’s Behavior
- The Power of Vulnerability—And How You Can Use it to Your Advantage
Built Bar – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/built
Late Night Entrepreneur – https://latenightentrepreneur.com
Resources Mentioned (some links are affiliate links):
Salman Raza (LinkedIn) – https://www.linkedin.com/in/salman-raza-a6173926
Razalution Bureau – www.razalution.co
Life’s Non-Conformities, by Salman Raza – https://salmanraza.net
Hofstede Insights – https://www.hofstede-insights.com
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – https://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics
Keirsey Temperament Sorter – https://www.keirsey.com
How Will You Measure Your Life?, by Clayton M. Christensen – Click here
The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course – https://civilpereviewcourse.com
The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course – https://civilfereviewcourse.com
CEA Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPeFLBZ2gk0uO5M9uE2zj0Q
CEA Free Facebook Community – https://ceacommunity.com
CEA FE and PE Practice Exams – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/exams
CEA Newsletter – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/join-our-newsletter
CEA Website – https://civilengineeringacademy.com
Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
Transcript of Show
You can download our show notes summary here or get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: All right! Welcome to the Civil Engineering Academy Podcast, Salman. How are you?
Salman Raza: Doing well. Thank you, Isaac.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. I'm so glad that you joined us today, and excited to kind of share your wisdom and knowledge. It sounds like you've got a lot of experience doing a lot of fun things. So before we dive into the podcast, I have a very small biography about yourself, but I would love for you to try to describe a little bit about your background and what you do today.
Salman Raza: Well, thank you. Well, I'm a biomedical engineer by qualification. I've done my bachelor's and master's in biomedical engineering. And then that led me to medical device design and development. And then eventually medical device regulatory audits. So I've done medical device regulatory audits for a number of years. And then a couple of years ago, I switched things again and I became consultant. Now. I help small startups and medium to big size companies in strategy, infrastructure, and soft skills. Soft skills is one of my favorite area now. So I spend a lot of time teaching people, and managers, and leaders, how to communicate and interact in professional settings. So I run a consultancy called Razalution Bureau, and I'm part of an international cultural institute called Hofstede Insights. So I deliver awareness courses of intercultural communication. And that's what I do. And I'm glad I happen to share with your audience the experience and things that I have. And I forgot to mention one of the most important things. My first book, just published a couple of days ago. So it's Life’s Non Conformities, and in the book we are talking about all the good stuff. How to interact with people, telling my mistakes and my stories. So hopefully, we'll get to talk a bit more about that.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, that's great. I'm curious. So you got a degree in biomedical engineering, you probably had a pretty decent career going on. Where was that transition into, "I want to", you know, be kind of this coach and help people with these things that you've noticed that people need help with, like soft skills and other areas. What was the mindset there? How did that transition happen?
Salman Raza: It's an interesting story and I find it very -- I switched jobs a few years ago, and now I'm taking you back about 10 years ago. So I was doing an audit, and I was fine, have a young family, paying mortgage, all that sort of thing. I switched jobs. So I switched same job, but from one company to another. And even though it was exactly the same job but for a different company, and the company culture was different, and the expectations were quite different. And I got really stressed in this new workplace. And as it happens, coincidentally, as the universe transpired, I started reading a book by Christensen. What's his first name? It's Is escaping me. Very, very famous author. His book How Will You Measure Your Life?
Salman Raza: So in that book, it asks you certain questions and takes you on a journey. What makes you tick? And I start asking that question, why I was enjoying my previous role and why I'm not enjoying this. And because the long story short, I realized, actually I like teaching. I like coaching. I like helping people. But that realization, I'm thinking, "That's too late now." I have a career, I have invested a lot of time in this career, and now I have a family and mortgage. I cannot go back to teaching to start from scratch. So all that conversation that happening in my head. And then I had an "AHA" moment. I said "It doesn't have to be teaching". And I found a way to do my day job in a way as if I was teaching, even though I was in auditing medical device companies. So I went in doing exactly the same job, but I switched the way I did it.
Salman Raza: So instead of asking direct questions, "Where is this document" and "How you have done it?", I started using the boards and start explaining what the regulations is expecting from the manufacturer. So, "Okay. This is the regulations". A lot of times in my experience, people didn't understand the regulations and that creates frustration on the auditor's part and a communication gap exists. So what I started doing, I said, "Okay. This is what the standard expectations are. This is what regulations are requiring." So I take my desire and urge to teach in a setting where I'm explaining what the requirements are, and then asking them, "Show me where you have covered that." So in a nutshell, what I've done, my intrinsic need to teach and coach, I adjusted it within my profession. And it did me wonders. Not only to me, to my clients. I became a very popular auditor because people thought "We are getting two in one", because we getting not only training, we're getting audits out, and it's very conducive interaction.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great.
Salman Raza: And then, of course, once I realized that's what ticks, then I gradually started taking interest into teaching and coaching and finding other soft skills. So that's the long story short.
Isaac Oakeson: That's an amazing story. And I imagine every engineer kind of ask the same question to themselves. But I'm glad you were able to figure that out and the success that you've had and where you're at today. So I guess one of the questions I wanted to ask is, as being an auditor and doing your teaching and explaining, how important is communication that you've noticed as you've gone through being an auditor?
Salman Raza: It is fundamentally paramount. A lot of engineers, including myself, when we choose professions, it's a lot to do with our aptitude and how our mind is wired, and how we think and how we come across. And because of that aptitude, we excel in this profession. So in my experience, I have observed a lot of engineers, including myself early days, we struggl to communicate in teams. A lot of them happens to be introverted, reflective type. We love innovation. We love coming up with ideas, but we find difficult to explain our ideas and express ourselves. So communication is very important. So once you understand your own strengths, it's not weakness. I tell my clients now, and I tell all my engineers, being an introvert and being quiet person is not a weakness. It's a strength. Use it as a strength. Just be aware of it. So once we understand and become aware of what dynamics I have and the dynamics I'm going to interact with, half the battle is won. And then you realize, "Okay. I need this strategy to effectively communicate in this audience group." And it's paramount. Doesn't matter if I'm auditing or I'm doing a sales pitch, or I'm doing an idea pitch, or innovative. It could be anything and everything, once we realize the dynamics of the situation.
Isaac Oakeson: That's amazing. I know communication is such a huge part in engineering. And many times it's not quite taught in colleges until you kind of get out of school and start dealing with real-life situations. And you know, big errors can be made if you're not communicating, or issues can't be resolved if you're not communicating. This is kind of a big deal. So thanks for touching upon that. In your book, you do talk about knowing the traits of people. How have you managed to understand the different traits of people?
Salman Raza: Yeah. Very good question. There is no one source that I could say, "Listen to this podcast" or "Read that book". It's a journey and everyone is different. Some people find that reading books will give you that awareness. So it's a journey. So the way I have found it, with my inquisitive mind, I learned about different tools that are readily available, whether it's Myers-Briggs or Keirsey Temperament. It gives you basic level of awareness. "Okay, what's going around us? What different types of people exist and where I am in that scale?" Once you have that awareness, then it's trial and error. And then you use some methods. And even though these courses and these techniques they take you a certain level, but we have to find as an individual, what makes us tick, you know? What works for me as an individual? And it is like a trial and error. And consultants and coaches they can speed up that process, but ultimately it's an individual journey that we all have to take. So yeah. I did several courses and several awareness sessions and then continuous observation of people and their behaviors in certain circumstances.
Isaac Oakeson: That's interesting. Are there certain character traits that you feel like can really help engineers excel in their careers? What have you noticed maybe are traits that we could strive for that we might not have? Or is it just kind of the natural things that we already have in us and we're just trying to recognize what those traits are and play to our strengths?
Salman Raza: Yeah. Once we know this is our strength, and once we know what our counterpart is dealing with and what these traits are, then we have to find a way. So let me share an example. So an introverted person, like me or a lot of engineers, we are reflective types. So if someone asks you a question, we like to take a few moments to think through before we answer. A lot of extroverted people, they start talking, and while they're talking, they're thinking. So there is a communication gap. And then what happens is that, if an introverted person is thinking through, that few seconds of silence is killer for extroverted type person. So they try to interject by clarifying their questions, whereas the clarification wasn't needed. It was just silence that was the need of the hour.
Salman Raza: So I realized, "Okay, that happens to me." A lot of people trying to help me in their mind, but they're an extroverted type person. So the way you manage that, the way I have managed it, I let them know that I'm now thinking. So when I receive that information and I need some time to think, I [inaudible] "Let me think". So just by the little gesture of "Let me think", now they know I'm thinking and I'll come back to you. That's one way of doing it. The other potential way of doing it when I can, not always can be possible, I start thinking loudly so that they know what I'm thinking.
Isaac Oakeson: I love that.
Salman Raza: So there is a tactic and strategy that I found myself effectively working for me because now I haven't changed my trait. I'm dealing with my trait and strength, but with an extroverted type person. I have tried to address their need of knowing what's happening. So that's one example. There can be several others that we use in effective communication.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. No, I love that. Just letting people know that "Hey, give me a second to think about this" gives them, you know, some clarity on knowing that you're going to take a little bit of time to think about what's going on. And yeah, I agree. Most civil engineers or engineers in general probably feel like they're more introverted than extroverted. So I think that's a really great tip. You mentioned working with a lot of workplaces, a lot of different businesses and schools, and things of this nature. Are there soft skills or character traits that you feel or that you see repeatedly that are lacking in the workplace?
Salman Raza: Absolutely. There is a big gap wherever you go. And a lot of times, we call it work politics. It happens because of a lack of awareness of aptitudes and communication. So if I'm working in an R&D or engineering, we have a certain way of thinking and certain way of putting things through. Conversely, if you are in marketing and sales and HR, they are very, you know, very expressive environment. So what happens unknowingly and unnoticeably, people start going into the judging mode. They start judging people. "This is right, this is wrong", "They don't hang out with us", "They don't do". All this is unnecessary because people fail to recognize that I work effectively if I'm left alone with my deadlines. I will come to you, if I need anything. You don't need to come and hug me every single second. But the same time, the others, they like, they get energy from people. So they need that interaction. So awareness of these different traits, and different skills, and different preferences, makes us be mindful of individual need and then say, "Okay. This person is s very important part of my team. I will allow them to work with their style so that become benefits and the work benefits from that". So there is a lot of potential in that aspect.
Isaac Oakeson: I want to throw out a scenario to you that I have seen personally in a workplace scenario, and just kind of get your thoughts around it. But in places that I've been to, I've seen where the work environment hasn't been necessarily trending upward. It's been trending down. And managers feel like they're handcuffed on what they can do in terms of, let's say, if it was just to hire more people, because the work is just so much. So you're an employee, but you're trying to voice your opinion, not only to your manager, but maybe even a director above them to really let them know the issues you see it at ground level, and whether that's like hire more bodies, because we simply can't keep up with the work.
Isaac Oakeson: It seems like in today's year, the big word is "burnout". A lot of people, a lot of employees are feeling burnout. And you, whether that's COVID related or all of those things. What advice would you have when you feel like your communication -- Most employees don't feel like they can overleap a manager to go talk to a director about stuff. I don't know. How do you create an environment where you can communicate the issues that you see, that you have? You would probably stay with the company, if you could just, you know, communicate what the needs are a little bit better and actually have those needs be heard. Do you have any advice on those kind of scenarios?
Salman Raza: There are several layers to this question. And if I can briefly list the potential areas for improvement and then we'll -- So there's one thing that we teach is Organization Culture. So as an organization, we need to decide, these managers, senior managers and owners, what type of organization we want to create. We want a goal-oriented or means-oriented? So there are several dimensions that we go through to assess the organization and where the organization wants to go. And that, slightly different conversation, but you have to have teh right vision very clearly defined, and the vision is clearly communicated, and then strategies aligned with this, and then everyone knows what's going on. And then it becomes easier in terms of communication, because we all trying to achieve the same thing. Because it's so clear in terms of communication.
Salman Raza: And then the focus will shift on "How" rather than "Who". So once we know, and then when we focus on how we are not achieving and what is happening, then it becomes more scientific to assess. "Okay. 9 out of 10 times, the issue was because of lack of resource." And then you say, "Okay, my system, my data is suggesting that I need more resources." So it becomes more objective-driven rather than individual subjective opinion. So part of the solution is the organization culture. How do we create an organization with clear communication of clear vision identification, clear strategy, and communication to all levels so that everyone knows what their role is?
Isaac Oakeson: I like it.
Salman Raza: Now, that's the organization level. Now at the personal level, I cannot change everything for my company. I can do to a certain extent, but I cannot change the world on my own. So in that scenario, in that context, we need to see, as a person, what my individual is, what my strategy is, and if I can influence that within my sphere of influence. If I have tried several ways and my organization is now becoming misaligned with my vision, and my strategy, and my progression, and my communication is not solving that, then perhaps it's the time to reassess whether you want to be here. Whether your vision is well-served staying at that organization, or whether I should start looking elsewhere. But there is no easy, right answer that we can say, "If you do this, it will solve the problem". But we need to see things from several angles. Organization, cultural, and personal management, and communication. And then of course, personal vision and personal strategy.
Isaac Oakeson: I think those are great answers. I bring that up because, you know, I have read that we're calling this period, The Great Resignation in the workplace these days, because there've been millions of people that have said, you know, "I quit" to a job. So it seems like there's some sort of cultural shift where the employer is not aligned with employees. There's something missing there. But good advice. If you're at your workplace and you're dealing with someone with a big ego, what advice would you have to manage that ego?
Salman Raza: That is a great question. Ego is one of the most important aspect that's almost always overlooked. And in my book, we have captured it at great strength. We have to understand the ego and the principles of ego. It's deep in our psychology. It gets triggered and we need to identify those certain triggers. So once we understand my own personal triggers and my personal things, because that I can control. Once we know the dynamics of individual, my person, my personality, what are my trigger buttons and triggers phrases, or trigger situations, then I can manage how to handle a passive aggressive or someone who is very egoistic. So emotion plays a part. And someone says something that makes me feel really angry, now sometime my ego is triggered. And now I'm feeling all sorts of emotions. And when my emotions get triggered, a lot of time my rational mind stop working and I just start making decisions emotionally.
Salman Raza: So the important thing is to check the stock of your own personal emotionals. What I'm feeling right now? If I'm feeling angry, what level of intensity anger is that? And the other important thing is I need to disassociate that emotion from me. I'm not angry, there is an anger in me. So straight away, I realized I'm not angry. I should not be associated with anger. There is an anger in me, so I need to get rid of that anger. So that's not me. Anger is not me. There is an anger, somehow uninvitingly penetrated inside me. So that's the first step.
Salman Raza: The second step is what level or what intensity I'm feeling? So do I feel like I'm annoyed or I feel like I need to punch someone? So there is a different level of intensity of anger and frustration. So once we have gone through the stock of emotions and intensity, every intensity, every emotion will have a different strategy to cope with it. Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and walk away, change the topic. Or sometimes you have to completely walk away from this. Sometimes you have to drink water and you don't do something extraordinary. So it is a journey and we, individual, we have to figure out. "Okay, what is happening? What has just happened? And where I am at? What can I control?" So that's my personal strategy, dealing with my personal ego triggers.
Salman Raza: Now, the second part of the issue is individual. That is not in my control. I'm dealing with someone who is showing the behavior that is triggering that emotion at my end. So my role in that is try to control my emotions and, believe it or not, we can make changes in other person's emotion through my emotions. So for example, if someone starts yelling at me, there are different levels of sound, you know? Loudness and pitch. If someone is yelling me on a scale of 10, yelling me at sound levels six or seven, and my response is six or seven or even eight, don't expect it to go down.
Isaac Oakeson: Explosion.
Salman Raza: It will go higher and higher. But if I start responding with level three, you will see in the next few sentences, the other person will automatically bring their tone down. So with my behavior, I'm bringing the situation into a manageable situation. So instead of instigating or encouraging uncontrollable, irrational behavior, because I'm mindful of what is happening, I can control other person's behavior by just calming things out. Take a deep breath, start responding in a low-tone voice, calming voice. And then slowly and gradually, they will realize actually there is no need for be that high pitch.
Isaac Oakeson: Calm down.
Salman Raza: So that's the emotions that I can control, and that will trigger the behavioral change in someone else.
Isaac Oakeson: I love that. That's a great way to deal with egos and manage personality kind of conflicts that come up. So great advice. You have so many other tips in your book, but I want to get to this. I want to know your thought process on how your book came about, which you've titled Life's Non Conformities. You talk a lot about all kinds of great information in there. One of them I really liked was called Powerful Vulnerability and what that means. But could you take us through how you went about writing this book? What was the drive for that?
Salman Raza: Yeah, that's an interesting question. I won't ruin the story. It's very detailed in the book, and we even have a case study that revolves around that incident. But I was stretching for my life. So there are two extreme stories that I have used in my book that happened. A few years ago. I was auditing a company when I -- I should say more than few years ago. 10 years ago. Maybe more. I went to audit a company. Very nice professional environment. And I had to write a non-conformance because they were doing something illegal. So it was a very nice company, nice professional people, but I had to write a non-conformance and I communicated them. And as soon as I communicated the non-conformance, they kicked me out of the building. And they said "Just leave the building now."
Salman Raza: And that was the most embarrassing and insulting experience in my whole life. I was literally shaking. I said, "What did I do wrong? I was doing my job". And I did the right thing. And I had to do it. And funny enough, I realized that even though technically I was right, but I did every single possible mistake from a soft skills perspective and communication perspective. And I was at fault, even though technically speaking, I was 200%, right. So fast forward 2016, I think it was. I'm at a situation where similar non-conformance. I found that the individual, he was very, very aggressive person. He had access to firearm and he threatened. I got threatened. I felt threatened that I will not go alive from this situation. And it was life-changing. So in between those 10, 12 years when I did my job correctly, and they were perfectly nice professional people, but they felt they had to kick me out. And now I'm in total opposite situation where this gentleman is very aggressive and I am threatened. But in between, I have learned a lot of soft skills and a lot of techniques. So somehow I managed to use all those things. Somehow I came out alive without compromising my job.
Isaac Oakeson: You brought his voice down. You calmed him down.
Salman Raza: Not only on voice level. On several levels. I connected with them on emotions, and at the end I shook hand. We came out impeccably. So when I came out of that situation, I was shocked. How did that happen? How did that happen? So I started sharing that story to a lot of my colleagues and a lot of my colleagues started saying, "You should share that because people will benefit what you did here". And then, if you remember, a few years ago -- Still is, our US society is very polarized, there's a lot of police aggression and views was in social media. And a lot of those things were happening. Society became very polar. So people started saying, "I think people will benefit from this." And that was the trigger to write the book. And that's why we have a book. So I haven't written books just because I want to become famous. I am writing the book because I feel, and a lot of people have told me, that people will benefit from it. And society will be a better place if people learn more about it. So that's the inspiration behind it.
Isaac Oakeson: And then you promptly left that job after being threatened. Just kidding.
Salman Raza: Not promptly. I left after five years of that incident. I left because my personal vision was misaligned with the vision of the company. So I couldn't do what I'm doing now, if I was full-time employee of that company, because now I can coach. Previously, my day was booked doing auditing. And I do less audits and more coaching now. The second part of your question was about vulnerability. And that is very powerful. And I'll tell you why it's powerful. I learned it doing the audit process, but it is valid and true in all situations. In the previous question we were talking about ego. No one likes to be told that they are wrong. As soon as any of those things happens, people go in defensive mode. And I start giving impression that I'm infallible and you are making mistakes.
Salman Raza: So the blame is on individual rather than the actual event or process. So my behavior is giving impression that I'm infallible. I am the ideal person, never existed in this world. And you have the old problems. So that unsaid dynamics -- Of course, the way I'm expressing, but people don't say it this way. But our actions and body language gives that impression and our mind proceeds this way. So once we create that situation, that dynamic, then it's never effective. People will resist you, people will resent. And as things progress, the strain will become more and more, and it's not constructive. However, if I am confident enough to share my vulnerability that I say, "Look, I know you made a mistake. But I have made that mistake too in the past. I'm not infallible. I'm just like you. I have made the mistakes."
Salman Raza: Once my listener or a counterpart start feeling that I'm not threatening, I'm not judging them, I'm relatable to them, I'm also human. Once people start seeing you as human, as they are, people start having rational conversations. I see what you mean. I know what you say. So the ego is managed. I [inaudible] the egoistic response of defensive mindset, and now I'm saying, "look, same mistake". I tell stories "I made the exactly same mistake." So what I'm doing, I'm showing my human side. I'm as human as you are. I'm not ideal, I'm not an angel. So one durability becomes more powerful because you are relatable. So once you become relatable, people want to follow you. You become a leader. In contrast, if I just start pedagogically keep giving them instructions and showing only my squeaky clean image, I'm not relatable. So if I'm not relatable, people don't like me.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. That's so true.
Salman Raza: That is the power of vulnerability. So if I'm a self-assured individual, I know I'm not threatned by sharing this vulnerability. Of course, you have to be careful and mindful and be intelligent. But at the same time, if you somehow show to the world that I am as human as you are, whatever thecommunication and disagreement we are having, is nothing personal. And that's where the vulnerability becomes a strength.
Isaac Oakeson: I think that's great. So man, we've hit ego, we've hit vulnerability. I think there's all kinds of other tips and tools that you've talked about in your book. So the book's called Life's Non Conformities. Where can our audience or someone reach out to you? Where can they connect with you? Where can they find this book?
Salman Raza: Absolutely. The book is available on almost all outlets, including Amazon. You can also get a copy from my website, salmanraza.net. I can type it for you so your audience can access it. So you can access through Amazon, Book Depository, Barnes&Nobles, iTunes, Kindle.
Isaac Oakeson: All the places.
Salman Raza: All the places. Hopefully all other bookstores, like Books-A-Million or whatever. The local bookshop. And you can find me on LinkedIn, and my website probably will be the best place to get a ahold of me.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. Well go connect with Salman Raza. That's salmanraza.net, right? Did I get that right?
Salman Raza: Right.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. So go check out the site. Go get his book. It's a lot of good information. And I think what you've presented with us, with our audience, civil engineering academy, has been very valuable. It's definitely given me some insight and some things to think about. So Raza, thanks for jumping on to the podcast with me. Appreciate it. And, yeah. Well, I guess we'll see in the next one.
Salman Raza: Thank you very much.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. See you, Salman.
Salman Raza: Thank you.
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