Living Together

Living Together by Dr. Robert Gerwig

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Words can’t express the numerous thoughts that went through my head as I looked upon these three cars. Maybe they were friends and parked together. Maybe the drivers of the cars sandwiching the one in the middle knew they’d only be parked for 5 minutes. Maybe the drivers on the “ends” didn’t really pay attention. Or care. … One thing seems certain, the car in the middle wasn’t the LAST of the three to park!

I was tempted to name this article, “Working Together.” I could have. That’s what it’s about – well, sorta. It’s more about living together while at work. Or getting along with each other while living together while at work. … Hmmm. … Well, anyway, you get the idea. It’s about NOT parking on either side of a car and squeezing him so tight that he can’t leave (without wrecking one or more cars).

Unless you are an independent business person with only one employee, a solo consultant, independently wealthy, or, in some other fashion, an Army of One, you work with (live with) people. And even if you fit one of the above categories, you likely have to work/live with others. Even an organization of 1 generally has to work with suppliers, customers (hopefully you have some of those!), and other key stakeholders. Right?

Relationships are important. Teamwork is important. Getting along is important. Though I’ll be the first to admit not all people are easy to deal with (some are Freaks), it’s worth making the effort. Your results will improve if you learn to get along with others. The results of the organization will improve as well.

Be aware of others. Recognize they exist. Recognize their value. Some people have to “work at this” harder than others. But that’s no excuse. You simply must pay attention. You’re not the only one who exists. You’re not the only one with needs. Listen. Be on the lookout for others. Pay attention to their needs. If you’re so focused on Your needs, Your wants, Your tasks, Your time, Your money, Your effort, Your promotion, etc., it’s easy to overlook the car right next to you. Even if you don’t run ‘em over, you might impede their progress (and limit the output of the organization).

If we’re really honest, people can be a pain AND people can be amazing! Sometimes, it’s the same person within the same day. One minute they have us laughing, the next minute we wanna punch ‘em in the throat! Hopefully, if they make me mad, I won’t squeeze their car so they can’t leave. Hopefully, I will let it go (if it’s minor) or have a direct (and professional) conversation with them if it’s major. That’s the thing with people, we’re complicated. You’re complicated. It takes work and effort – day after day.

The world-class leader recognizes that employees can’t move forward if they’re “blocking” others in. He requires (and shapes and coaches) others to demonstrate good teamwork skills and behaviors. If you have a good team, you can do anything. A bad team? Not.

On occasion (though rare), I’ve had to terminate an employee for performance. This is generally after significant coaching (establishing clear expectations, providing training, giving feedback, etc.). In the end, the employee usually approaches me and says “it’s not a match” and resigns.

There have been exceptions. The employee who couldn’t get along with others was one. What? Terminate an employee simply because they didn’t get along with others? Because he demonstrated poor teamwork skills? Yes. … Sadly, this employee was blind to his fellow co-workers and their needs. He was a poor team player. He didn’t work well with others. Though his individual performance was outstanding, he continually ran over others and could never learn to see/value them. In the end, it was an easy decision (not fun, but easy). He was kicked off the team – permanently. Terminated because he never “saw” his co-workers and parked too close without a thought about their needs. … Without him, the team soared!

What are your tips for how to “see” others? How does the world-class leader Live Together with others at work?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

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