Perceiving

We’ve been talking over the past few days about the basis for establishing relationships and managing interactions at work. The basic premise is that you should always ask yourself what you want to accomplish, what objective you want to advance, what purpose you want to serve whenever you deal with coworkers – whether they are your peers, your juniors, or your seniors.

Moreover, you should consider that question from their perspective as well. In doing so, you want to bring to light how your various answers can influence or alter your individual responses to the interaction. The ultimate result should be a collaboration based on a solid and productive assessment of how you each can contribute to each others’ – and the organization’s – goals.

And that points to a key feature of the approach that bears examination on its own: perspective. When you do these calculations about what you want the outcome of an interaction (whether it is a tasking, a delegation, a proposal, a negotiation, or even an offer of assistance) to be, your result is obviously going to be influenced by how broadly – or narrowly – you view the context in which it takes place.

For example, you may simply want a junior to do something, with that as the extent of your evaluation of your desired outcome. As a result, you could default into a view that his or her desired outcome is little more than accomplishing your tasking. In such an event, with such a narrow and shortened perspective, the manner in which you approach the interaction might seem to be of little importance to you. In fact, you may simply determine that the most efficient use of your time is to bark out orders and impatiently demand results.

But what if you backed away a little, and considered the matter in the context of your unit’s mission, your role as a manager together with the obligations it places on you with respect to that mission, and the potential and ambitions of the junior. Does this suggest any different concerns to incorporate into your interaction?

The thing is that both approaches might seem perfectly appropriate and natural if you are comfortable with the perspective from which you engage in them. But a problem may be that you don’t consider the possibility that there are other, more suitable perspectives. And another suggested by that one is that you even if you do, you may not settle on the appropriate one.

Better to have the second problem than the first. Whenever you interact with anyone at work – again, regardless of their specific role relative to you – develop the habit of not only examining carefully the nature and demands of the encounter, but also of evaluating and determining the best overall perspective from which to do so. You will be looking for the one which best balances the various and sometimes conflicting factors of the situation, and which makes the greatest organizational sense of them.

Time and urgency may compel you to take recourse in a narrowly focused perspective. But doing so may also prove shortsighted, complicating future interactions and undermining broader goals. On the other hand, taking too expansive a view of things may develop into its own bad habit, merely offering you an excuse to prevaricate, or depriving you of sufficient contrast for making needed decisions.

Making the effort a part of your operational discipline and managerial instinct will help you add perspective to rapidly developing events on the fly, and to incorporate meaningful and actionable traction into the long view.

And it will do something else for you, as well. We’ll look at that next. See you then!

Today’s tip: Speaking of appropriate perspective in varying situations, you will surely want to see what Michael Wade has to say about brainstorming and narcissism at work.

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