Every now and then a good "re-orientation" is in order. After an April filled with interesting exchanges and client issues, I want to focus on 're-orientation," seen from a few different angles. I hope that at least one of the angles catches your eye and leads to improved work relationships.
Back in March, I summarized David Maister's "Trust Equation" you can find right here:
According to the Trust Equation, the factor that can directly (and sometimes irreparably) reduce trust is "self-orientation." So my first whack at "re-orient" is a plea with any reader struggling with a professional relationship (boss, colleague, subordinate, vendor, partner, or any other) is to reduce your "self-orientation." Truly empathize. That is, "Walk a mile in the others' shoes" in order to see, feel, and express the issue from the other person's point of view. In other words, "re-orient" your perception so as fully understand where the other person is coming from. This is much easier to say than it is to do. Try it. See if you can express the issue from their side so well that they agree with how you characterize their take on the issue.
Some Ways to Tell Where Your Orientation Is
If you're engaged in any kind of conflict, here's a sure-fire way to tell whether you are oriented toward yourself or toward the other person: Who is doing the talking? And...what are they talking about? If it's you who is talking, unless you're asking the other person to expand on their thoughts, or you are seeking clarification of their words, then you are being self-oriented. And if you are saying things like, "You have to understand," or, "Here's how I see it," or you have just cut them off with, "No," "But...." or the like, you will most likely be seen as being self-oriented. If your intent is to "make sure" the other side hears, does, understands what you are saying for your sake, then you can guess where your orientation is. It's on you. As counselors often ask, "Do you wan to be right, or do you want to be happy?"
If you meet your boss with a pared-down list of 5 "most important items" (you've reduced the number because he or she is busy (as most bosses are), you may think you are oriented toward your boss, since you're "saving him or her time" from dealing with 15 other items. But have you considered whether or not even these 5 items are "important" to your boss? Maybe they are important to you, and by extension, you believe, to your firm, but where would your boss rank their importance? How do you know?
There's a fundamental flaw in e-mail programs that allow the sender to identify the level of importance of any given topic. Important to whom? The sender, right? What about the reader? And when it comes to time, I found a quote the other day in the New Philosopher Magazine that is worth reading a couple of times in order to fully grasp its meaning and let it sink in: "Such is the foolishness of mortal beings: when they borrow the smallest, cheapest items, such as can easily be replaced, they acknowledge the debt, but no one considers himself indebted for taking up our time. Yet this is the one loan that even those who are grateful cannot repay." That's a quote worth committing to memory.
Seriously, Another Re-orientation
A friend lamented recently that "too many people take themselves too seriously." He and I both believe that we're more likely to succeed if we take our jobs seriously, but not if we take ourselves seriously. Funny enough, when I have shared this philosophy, I find some people immediately "get it" and others are simply baffled. "What! Of course I need to take myself seriously!"
Do you? Have you noticed that people who take themselves seriously are less able to laugh at themselves, less likely to recognize the absurdity of the human condition, and, apropos to today's topic, are more likely to be self- rather than other-oriented.
How do you know if you're taking yourself too seriously? Where is your focus? If it's on your own issue(s), that's strike one. If you're stressing out over the issue(s), strike two. Baseball only gives you three strikes, so before you take that third swing, you might want to do a little re-orienting. Re-orienting can help with–what were those other words again? "Rebuild, fix, restore, rejuvenate..."