Thursday, July 22, 2010

Catching Bees

In my last job, I was basically a glorified personal assistant. I had a big role in running the company, but I was also obligated to help the owner and CEO of the company with his niggling annoying personal tasks to free up his time to do other things. Every once in a while he would hand me a bill and simply tell me to get whoever sent it to reduce their fees. I got pretty good at arguing with people and steamrolling them. I thought that those talents would help me in my current job, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

At work, my job is essentially to mediate between the wants of the people who are paying me, and the people who are supplying the labor and materials that make the wants a reality. This often requires arguments over money, responsibility, and work that was done to one party’s standards but not another. Further, this can involve ugly contract disputes, withholding of payments, and severed professional relationships. Working with the alpha-male personality types that are frequent in my industry means, surprisingly, being sensitive to the hurt egos that seem to abound. Often, even if you are telling someone that they didn’t do their job properly and need to re-do it at their own cost, if you deliver the message with empathy, then you are more likely to get what you want.

A lot of calming an agitated situation is simply listening. Letting every party know that they are being heard, and that you are not trying to lay blame or place responsibility, only solve the problem. It’s tempting, in a lot of instances, to point fingers, but that often leads to anger, or defensiveness. Invariably, the easiest way to getting things done is to get buy-in from all parties involved. And that’s really, to me, the essence of power. Not forcing people to your will.

This is a skill that I am still developing, and I think I will continue to work on throughout the rest of my adult life. For a long time, I thought that getting your own way was all about pushing people around. It’s really humbling to see people who are able to conduct themselves in a way (even through difficult situations) that maintains respect in the relationship, builds loyalty, and creates a learning experience for all parties involved.


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