We often think of business as a place where professionalism is the standard and emotional expression is unprofessional. I beg to differ. As human beings, we are emotional creatures driven by our emotional need for connection but forced to leverage logic and rationale to preserve professional decorum. Although the need to be accepted and valued by others may be different from person to person, it does not negate that the needs exists and is rationalized by our interactions with others. This presents us all with the challenge of how to be effective with others.
I spend a lot of time in my consulting practice listening to people share their perspectives about the issues they see in their organizations and teams. If I were to condense these perspectives down to a one sentence summary it would read “Communication is poor and the result is that I don’t feel included are that my opinion is valued.” Go figure.
The interesting thing is that when people don’t feel valued they are less engaged and less connected. Professionally, this results in lower productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness. Personally, it results in emotional detachment. In fact, it is emotional detachment that drives down productivity, efficiency, and efficiency when we don’t feel engaged at work. This begs the question “How do I know what makes a person feel valued?” The answer is simple, ask them. I know this sounds obvious. But, for whatever reason, you would think I were asking people to jump off a mountain top and trust that they won’t be injured when I tell them this. Their faces just go blank.
GETTING TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER
Why is asking is so difficult? It is easy in the beginning of a relationship but often difficult later in the relationship. Here’s why. Think about the people you work with, your siblings, your parents, and/or your children. Now categorize them. Which do you prefer and which do you least prefer? In other words, which are easy to deal with and bring you energy and which are difficult to deal with and drain your energy? Why do they impact you this way? What is it about them that make it easy or difficult? The simple answer is that those that you prefer generally meet your motivational needs and those you least prefer generally don’t and cause you stress. The preferred people respond well to your natural style and the least preferred people cause you to enact behavior that is less natural. Even more profound is that when people don’t meet our needs, we tend to make it about them and take it personally. The funny thing is, when we don’t meet their needs and get an adverse reaction, we also make this about them and not about us.
This is called Fundamental Attribution Error. We blame the person not the situation. It is a natural human dynamic. The situation is that what we are receiving and what we need to be our engaged and effective self are not aligned. Oddly enough, this is exactly what our least preferred people are reacting to from us. This brings us back to why it is easier to do this in the formation of a professional or personal relationship rather than later in a relationship when we have created baggage that makes the process more difficult.
The solution is found by engaging our logical and rational self when it is easy. This version of us actually has a place outside of work before there is baggage. This involves depersonalizing the differences and looking for what is at the root of the differences. In other words, don’t take it personally and approach it as a puzzle to be solved. Discover together. Show interest to get interest, Show compassion to get compassion. This process is called “building rapport.” It includes identifying differences, understanding differences, and eventually embracing differences.
What is the asking process? The best way to discover a person’s motivational needs is to ask open ended and non-questions. An example of an open ended question is “When I have a need to give you constructive criticism, what is the best way for me to deliver the message?” An example of a non-question is “Tell me about a time when you received constructive criticism in a way that was effective with you.”
It is also important to note that the question we ask are best aligned with context of the relationship. For example, in a working relationship that is both virtual and global, it is likely that you will need to understand the best modes of communication, response time expectations, email style, etc. Where in a personal relationship you may be more interested in understanding communication style, preferences for planning and activities, and/or preferences for how to feel listened to. The trick is to be authentically interested in hearing the other person’s story such that they reciprocate by being authentically interested in yours. It is in this authentic “story telling” process we build understanding and rapport. There is no greater feeling that to “feel felt.”
UNCOMMON PERSPECTIVE AND SOLUTIONS
There a two ways to become effective at this if you are questioning your ability to do this are you have relationships that have baggage. Your first option is to have the involved parties and yourself take the Birkman Method® Assessment through us and do comparative reporting between to identify issues to watch and the differences that are impacting your relationships.
The second is for your and the involved parties to attend our Maximizing Personal Effectiveness (1 Day) program which is a condensed version of our T Leadership program. The assessment is an objective way to identify the root cause of issues and the training programs build the skills necessary to build rapport and manage differences effectively.
If you are in a situation where your hair is on fire and a teaspoon of water would feel like relief, then our T Work program would be your best option. This is our best prescription when you just want to stop the pain and too much baggage to get people to authentically tell you their stories.
Love in business. Is it an Oxymoron?