June 29, 2011

Playing Well with Others

I am currently trying to teach my two-year old son how to play well with others.   While I may be jumping the gun a bit, I believe it’s a valuable lesson that cannot be taught too early.  While we focus on this principle when it comes to child rearing, I have found it odd that we often forget about it when it comes to our own professional lives.

All projects, whether big or small, experience personality and work demeanor differences.  By creating a harmonious, or at a minimum agreeable, work environment, morale will increase and productivity improves.  The following principles can help establish this type of environment:

  1. Focus more on how to solve the issue rather than what caused the issue.  While it is important to understand root cause, spend more time on how to move forward.  For some reason, people love the “blame game”, wanting to make sure everyone knows it is not their fault. But what does that get you?  The culture of pointing fingers needs to be eliminated.  If people could spend the energy towards mitigating the issue, projects/assignments would get done a heck of a lot faster.  Pointing fingers is an ugly habit that can become contagious and can destroy any team.
  1. Determine which disagreements, or “battles”, you want to win and the ones you are willing to lose.  If you try to win all of them, you will be viewed as a combative person on the project.  Once that reputation takes hold, people will automatically put up defenses when working with you, and as a result, you will ultimately lose many battles to come.
  1. Get to know the people around you and understand what motivates them.  If you can crack that code, the world is your oyster!  In all seriousness, people are more willing to work with you when you can adapt to their working style.  There are very few people that invest the time and effort to do so, but a little investment in the beginning can result in a big payoff at the end.
  1. Keep the personal and the professional separate with decision making and expect the same from everyone else.   Professional decisions are made (or should be made) based on what is best for the company.  It has nothing to do with you as a person.  If you make that known and carry the message out effectively, people will better understand why decisions were made a certain way and will most likely move forward even if they don’t necessarily agree.

While I kept the title of this blog light, working well with others is one of the most important factors, if not THE most important factor, to success in the workplace – success for you individually, success for the project being managed, and success for the company involved.

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