Have you ever made a decision you didn’t even think twice about and to your surprise that decision set someone else’s nerves on fire? I have experienced this unpleasant situation in both my personal and professional lives, and while I might not have handled it as well as I could have in the moment – I did learn some powerful life lessons from those experiences.
Quite a few years back, I accepted one of my first big promotions into a somewhat prominent position in a very professional environment. What I didn’t know in my first few days in this new role was the importance and value each person in the office placed on their specific projects.
Being the good ENTJ leader that I am, I simply jumped in “to help” my very first week.
If you are not familiar with the Myers Briggs Personality Traits Indicator – it may be worth your time to look it up – it is a fascinating, researched, highly respected tool for giving the test taker insight into how they perceive the world and in turn, make decisions.
Little did I know this was going to ruffle some serious feathers. To be honest, I can’t even tell you what the project was. It was probably something very unimportant in terms of who did what, at least from my perspective at the time. What I do remember is bringing my experience and knowledge to the table to ensure an effective, well organized, and efficient contribution to the project. Excited to contribute and feeling good about things, I next recall being summoned into a “private emergency meeting” and being told to stay in my lane.
I remember thinking “you ungrateful … uh…women”…yeah…that was the word I was thinking. And the next few weeks were somewhat unpleasant and painful as we learned to work together, yet staying in our own lanes. Those lines were not black and white by the way; they were a soft hue of gray because of the overlap between our roles and the execution of the final product that usually involved us all.
A few weeks later: In an attempt to make my quaint office space, which also housed the office’s huge commercial sized printer and a student desk, a little more cozy , I brought in one of those lovely smelling plug in contraptions. Thinking I was really doing everyone a favor, I plugged it in, went back to work, and waited for someone to say “Wow, thank you for bringing that in. The office smells great!” A few days later – guess what?!? Yep – another “private meeting”. Instead of someone just saying something when I plugged it in, there were office meetings taking place about how to handle talking to me about people’s sensitivities to smells and perfumes and my “stinking up the place”.
Heaven help me – I had almost had enough and I had only been in this new role for a couple of weeks.
Just when I thought the way these new colleagues of mine were acting was going to be more than I could handle, we had one of those “Come to Jesus Meetings” where everyone lays it all out on the table. In that meeting we hashed out some serious issues and bared a lot of feelings. I confess, I am very guilty of having way too many “feelings”. What I’ve learned is, I can still have all those feelings, but in the work place, sometimes less is more!
During this meeting I learned there were transitional issues in play that I was unaware of. I’ll be honest – I was a bit naive to this high level support role, and truth be told, I was very fortunate to have these ladies mentor me, train me and guide me in the inner working of office politics. I learned there were feelings of possession and pride over responsibilities, not because they didn’t want to share, but if those things were screwed up in any way, they were the ones held responsible. I learned that it wasn’t that they didn’t like or respect me, I was just different than anyone else that had worked in that office, in that position and in their entire careers.
We were all beginning to realize that different personalities didn’t necessarily mean anyone was more right or more wrong than another. We had to learn to appreciate each other and our unique personalities. We learned to rely on and trust each other. That meant they had to be willing to train and teach me what they knew, and I had to be willing to learn. They had to allow me to observe their way of handling various tasks and projects, and I had to listen. Many times I learned that a certain process was in place simply because that was the way it had always been done. Sometimes I was able to share a new idea or a streamlined process, and they were willing to listen with open minds.
“Sometimes the most influential thing we can do is listen.” –Bob Burg
They had to learn to respect me, even though my way of doing things was different, and I in turn had to do the same. This learning process didn’t happen overnight. In fact, I would guess this took a good portion of my first year there for all these organizational changes and great teamwork to come together. Once we completely embraced open, safe communication and we all put in an effort to tackle everything under the umbrella of TEAMWORK, our office was running like a well-oiled machine. So much so, that other departments would ask us to share the secrets of our successes. It was at that point when I realized that I could have never created that teamwork environment on my own.
It took a myriad of personalities; several strong minded, professional women, and a boat load of hard work to turn our office into such a productive, team-oriented success! When team members have each other’s backs, pick up the slack when another needs it, offers time saving suggestions, and lift each other up on a regular basis – only then will working with others be a joy and a blessing!
It turns out that several years later I am still very good friends with these ladies! It’s pretty amazing what happens when we listen more than we talk.
I have a friend who runs a large organization. He often shares with his support team, “My mama always told me, ‘I have two ears and one mouth for a reason; I should always listen twice as much as I talk.” That’s a great way to always be thinking!
It’s really amazing what happens when we respect those we work with and spend time with. Every single person has something worthy of respecting. We just have to be willing to find that something and focus on it; not on the negatives that are so easy to identify!
You have to get along with people, but you also have to recognize that the strength of a team is different people with different perspectives and different personalities.
Of all these ladies that gave me such a great experience and taught me such great life lessons – one in particular has become a very, very close life friend. Had I given up too soon in this new role, or if I would have not been open to building relationships with people with such different personalities – I would have lost out on a friendship that today is so important to me!
Our actions and reactions have consequences!
Friends, putting this philosophy to work can help you too! If you will:
- be open to listening to the “why”,
- be open to allowing others to share their thought processes with you and;
- be willing to look at things from their perspective, you will find that alone will break down walls and open doors of opportunity for great teamwork.
Ask yourself, “What things in my life are really so important to me that they have to be done my way?” Once identified, fight the good fight for those things and those processes. Allow yourself to be flexible and open minded in the many other things that come to our attention every single day. If you do this, I promise you will be happier. Probably healthier. And certainly more at peace than if you choose to fight for your way in every situation. Being right is important to many people, but it will not always make you happy.
Why did I roll my eyes when she said she would call me back?
Why did I lose my temper when she missed that deadline?
If we all, myself included, start making a conscious effort to appreciate the strengths of other people’s personalities, and stop making mountains out of mole hills, our lives will see an immediate positive return. Try it this week!
- Awareness of various personality differences can lead to an appreciation of the strengths each brings to the table
- Listening more than talking can break down barriers and open windows of opportunity
- In every situation I can be grateful for an opportunity to learn something new
- Being humble and sharing my knowledge and expertise with others helps me grow
- Great friendships can come out of any experience – never overlook that opportunity to connect
Food for Thought:
Is there a situation you are currently dealing with that you could potentially turn around by first appreciating someone else’s personality? By giving them an opportunity to talk to you (while you listen)? By looking differently at the situation and being willing to learn something? Or by sharing your knowledge with someone this week?