By Barry Maher
I’m writing this in Las Vegas in the midst of the holiday season. So since I am of course overflowing with the milk of human kindness, here’s a holiday-type suggestion:
Try to like those you have to work with.
Try to respect them. If you think business is war, remember the first casualty of war is truth. And the first truth that dies is the truth that the other guy is a person much like ourselves, with good and bad qualities, with hopes and dreams. A person who probably believes in what he is doing exactly as much as we believe in what we’re doing.
That type of reverse-Pollyanna thinking might work fine if you want to fight wars all your life. It’s a lot easier to kill a demon than it is to kill another human being who’s basically much like you and me. Though even in a war, I’d argue that if you’re running that war you’re better off with an accurate, non-propagandist view of the enemy.
But neither your co-workers, your people nor your boss should be the enemy. Not if you can possibly avoid it. Your customers—the customers of the company you work for—should never be the enemy. Too many of your competitors are anxious to have them as allies.
Creativity lecturer Mike Vance says Dale Carnegie’s advice was basically, “Smile even if you don’t feel like it,” but maybe what it should have been was, “Find a reason to smile so you can feel like it.”
You don’t have to trust those you work with, just like you don’t have to trust customers. You might keep a very wary eye on them. On the other hand, they should be able to trust you.
Appropriate to this time of year, Jesus CEO (from the business book of the same name) might have told us that sometimes you can better empathize with someone who’s giving you problems by “hating the sin and not the sinner.”
Your subordinate missed the meeting. He wasn’t doing it to spite you. He had a reason. He probably even thought it was a good one. You may not see it that way—and you may have to impress that upon him—but the issue wasn’t personal and you shouldn’t make it so.
One management expert cites the famous scene in the Wizard of Oz in which Toto pulls back the curtain and reveals that the Wizard is a technologically-augmented phony. Outraged after all she’s been through and obviously taking the deception personally, Dorothy calls him a bad man.
“I’m not a bad man,” the humbug replies. “I’m just a bad wizard.”
We are all the heroes of our own stories. An astute philosopher named Ken Koserowski used to tell me, “Everybody is a jerk in somebody’s eyes. But nobody’s a jerk in their own.” Most of your peers or subordinates or bosses are not really bad people. Some of them are just bad wizards. Perhaps very bad wizards. It’s seldom personal and if you can avoid taking it that way, you’ll be way ahead of the game.
Salespeople are paid to get along with their customers. The rest of us are paid to get along with those we work for, those we work with, and those who work for us. As well as with our company’s customers. Since we’re being paid for it, we might want to try to get good at it.