Picture this. You’re in a 4-hour meeting. You’re tired, and you don’t want to be there. As the meeting drags on, it seems that there is one person in the meeting who has no idea what is going on. They don’t seem to understand the situation. The more they talk, the more you believe they don’t have a clue. To make things worse, it looks like more and more people are siding with them. “How could this be happening?” you think. “Am I the only one that understands how wrong this person is?”
Before you jump into the conversation to tell them how wrong they are, take a moment to understand your motivation. Reflect to see if you are doing this for yourself, for others, or for them.
Is it for yourself? – If you are jumping into the conversation just to build yourself up, it’s best not to say a word. You will come across as confrontational, and your comments could stop the discuss cold. It’s exceptionally important not to speak if you find yourself agitated or irritated, a clear sign that you have worked your way into fight or flight mentality. Give your emotions a chance to settle down before saying anything.
Is it for the other person? – Be careful with this one. It’s easy to convince our self that our motives are pure, but they rarely are. Double check to see if that is your true motive. If so, start by asking leading questions. Also, talk only about the situation, not the person. Avoid “Why” questions, as they can sometimes come across as an accusation. Stick to “How” and “What” questions, if possible.
Is it for the others? – At times, the other’s in the room might need a different perspective. What you say might bring up a different view on the issue or shed light on a possible pitfall. Whatever the situation might be, address the issue, not the person. Assume the other person is doing the best they can with the information they have
Saying your piece with the wrong motive can be worse than not saying a thing. It’s easier to say something later than fix a damaged relationship. (Exception might be if the building is on fire!!) We all have times when we “knew” we are right to find out later that we didn’t understand the situation. What other ways have you found to disagree with someone while preserving the relationship?
We have all found ourselves in a situation where we are either switching jobs or moving to a new team. I recently provided my two-week notice so that I could advance to an agile coach position at a different company. Along with the excitement of the new job comes the anxiety of working with new teams members and an unfamiliar company culture. Questions like “Will I fit in?” or “Is this a good change?” start swimming through my mind. To make this more difficult, I’m walking into a position where people assume that I am the expert.
Life changes like this are a great time to reflect on your attitude to change and others. What are the critical things that should be kept in mind when working with new people? What behaviors are the most important? In the brief time I had between positions, I pondered my approach to working with new people or starting with a new team. Here is my list of the top four most important ideas.
Assume the Best – Give people the benefit of the doubt. Beleive that everyone does the best they can within the time allowed using the information they had at the time. It’s easy to look back with hindsight to question the what was done, but don’t assume that poor decisions are intentional. (I’m sure you don’t want people to look at all your errors and believe ill intent.)
Be Humble – You DON’T know everything, period. We all can learn something from others, even if you are considered an expert. Others will have a different perspective on a situation and see an issue in an entirely different light. Spend some time trying to understand their perspective assuming you missed something. If you still have a difference of opinion, Assume the Best.
Be Kind – Say thank you. A smile and a kind word can help alleviate a stressful situation. Laugh. Be respectful to everyone, from the CEO down to the janitor cleaning the bathrooms. Regardless of how people treat you, treat them better.
Be Helpful – Find a way to help your new team as soon as possible. What you do might be small at first, but it builds relationships and fosters a team mentality. Let people know right away that you are dependable. Not sure what you can do to help, ask!
These four ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. What have I forgotten? What items would you include?
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