It rarely pays to take business personally.

Emotions are often tough to control. If someone pisses you off, it is hard to take that as not being personal. You are now pissed off, does it matter why?

It really does matter. Many people have two (or more) sides to their personality.

  • Home version – what they are like with friends and family.
  • Work version – what they are like with coworkers or clients.

These two versions of a person may not be anything alike at all. They have different goals, objectives, and audiences. There are different ways of being successful. You end up with different bosses that drive some of your actions. It’s often the case that the person you deal with at work is not trying to be rude or difficult intentionally, they are just trying to get through the day and get the job done.

Essentially, all this is to say that you should put the shoe on the other foot. If someone is causing you difficulties at work, try not to take it personally. If they piss you off, tell them because they may not have realized it. If they piss you off and don’t care, just focus on getting your job done because ultimately the person doesn’t matter. You still have a job to do and you will likely have to deal with that person again.

There are only so many times that you can say “I can’t work with that person” and actually get to not work with the person again. We don’t get the opportunity to pick our colleagues.

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Building out the team is the first step to improving operations.

The best type of team is one that works well together. For people to work well together, it’s best if they know and understand their counterparts. It’s possible for people that only know each other by name to be productive, however, they are unlikely to be as productive as if they knew the nuances of each other’s skills.

A well-functioning team is extremely difficult to build. It takes time, effort, and money to put it together. You need people to separate themselves from their normal jobs and come together. As a leader, you need to value the effort and sometimes force the issue.

You are a small part of the team. It’s fine to focus on yourself but there are more of them than there are of you.

It’s easy to focus on yourself and your job. After all, you live in your own head all day every day. You don’t have a direct window into the motivations, drives, and actions of others. All you can do is go by the clues that they give you.

Trust is a hard trait to foster. It’s easier to remember the times that you’ve been burned by others than the times they picked you up. Over time, those negative occurrences¬†continue to add up making it even more difficult to trust. There’s a reason that people are generally more jaded as they get older.

Teams can always accomplish more than individuals. Even the biggest individual accomplishments in history owe some of their success to teams. It’s really difficult to train completely in isolation. New ideas usually need someone to bounce them off of. New products take a team to build even if the conception happened separately.

Foster your teams. Make sure you participate and help pick everyone else up.

Do you factor culture into your culture?

One of the great things about diversity is that you get the benefits of different cultural viewpoints into your organization. People from different regions and countries approach problems differently. You and your team get exposed to different work styles, work ethics, and operational mindsets. This exposure will make you more appreciative of the different views your own customers have.

The problem with diversity is that highly diverse teams are more difficult to merge into a single organizational culture. The features of the organizational structure you are trying to build may be at odds with how some of your individuals approach productivity. Merging their cultural background into your team culture is hard but worthwhile.

Diversity is an asset, even when it makes some things more difficult. It is something to be embraced. It also means that you may need to spend more time ensuring that your culture is designed to embrace that diversity.

For long-term success, it’s better to have a great team than a few strong individuals.

There’s a fine line required for team¬†chemistry when balancing short-term and long-term success. Short-term success is driven by concrete and measurable actions. You can achieve short-term success through individual heroics. Long-term success is dependent upon a strong team.

Over any defined period of time, you can do everything you want by trusting in a few key individuals. You can hand things off to them and just let them do their thing. Individuals within the framework are usually going to color outside the lines and generally do things with a single-minded focus on the outcome.

When planning for the long-term, heroics go against the team grain. You need to have confidence across the board for achieving long-term stability and success. Any given individual contributor could leave which would throw the balance out of alignment. A team-oriented view means that you likely will not have the same degree of peak performance, but you will also be managed against troughs. Consistency becomes the key.

As a manager, it’s your job to balance these needs. Knowing when to go back and forth between the worlds is how you achieve peak performance. Ultimately, if the team collectively knows what you are trying to achieve they will help with the balancing act.

One of the hardest things to do is to not take credit for success you caused.

One of the frustrating things in life is not getting credit for the work you do. Married couples know this to be true. I still feel the need to be praised for emptying the dishwasher without being asked. Parents know this to be true as it isn’t until later in their lives that kids truly can appreciate the impact their parents had on them. Anyone with a job knows the frustration when their boss takes credit for their work.

Credit is one of those issues that is extremely difficult to navigate because it comes in many forms and often follows a hierarchy. The boss gets credit for the work of her team. The CEO gets credit for the successes of everyone in the firm. There’s nothing either right or wrong with this system, just the way it usually works.

The desire for credit comes from the need for our work to be rewarding. No one wants to work most of their life at a task that isn’t appreciated. If you develop software, you want users to appreciate your systems. If you run a bank, you want customers to trust you with their money. If you answer phones, you don’t want everyone you talk to complaining about you.

When we have big successes, whether individually or as part of a team, we really want that success to be recognized. Big successes don’t come along every day. But the thing about credit is that the more it is shared, the less anyone actually gets.

All of the above is true for a view of credit as something that comes from above. I’ve developed a different philosophy though:

The most valuable credit you can receive is the type that is never spoken.

The credit that comes from being trusted, given the hard tasks, asked for help, and generally counted on to be there in tough times is better than anything else. Reflected credit cannot be taken away because it’s not just one-time. It comes from building trusting relationships that makes all work better.

It’s easy to group the world into two groups (us and them) but it is almost always counterproductive.

The worst thing about US politics these days is Republicans and Democrats. Keep in mind that these are private organizations that talk about their members doing public service while their primary purpose is to further entrench their own interests while making money. Too many individuals believe they have to pick one of these two teams even though there’s very little room for nuance once you pick a side.

While this isn’t a post about politics, that example is perfect for what happens when you start dividing things into two teams. Almost all sports are about two teams facing off and having a winner and loser. Wars are usually positioned as two sides fighting between good and evil with winners and losers.

There is power in the story of us versus them. It instantly gives individuals a framing for their behavior and an understanding of who they are competing against. Even without additional direction, this framing gives momentum to future actions in the direction of us versus them and striving for “victory.”

Most things in life are not zero-sum, us-versus-them. It is almost never advantageous to divide up into two teams and go head-to-head. Staging pseudo-gladiator style matches between people may feel like something gets accomplished but more is lost. Battles don’t build a long-term culture, they focus on the short-term. Battles destroy the bonds between large numbers.

Two teams take away our ability to focus on nuance. Nuance is important.