I failed quite hard several years back and I have been using it as a reference point to how I currently conduct my professional career and conduct. From that point forth I have been trying to be a force for change within my workplace and have seen quite a lot of good side affects come from this behavior. I noticed those with similar interest and personalities were drawn to this positive behavior and many of us were able to accomplish great things in a short amount of time. We started by empowering ourselves and removing all obstacles mainly excuses for not being able to deliver. While a large percentage followed this example and were excited about the potential opportunities when empowering themselves, others were resistent to any change to their current work habits.
It has been two years since I changed to this new behavior and it has paid dividends, but I am still purplexed by those that lagged behind. Why haven’t they been interested in changing their work habits to align more with this customer focused environment we are fostering in our organization? So, I have spent time on thinking about this question and I realize that I need to put myself in the same frame of mind I was when I was failing at my job not when I was succeeding. Here are my thoughts.
Let’s start with the most human point. One’s relationship to others.
Trust and personal relationships
My personal relationships started off okay with those in my previous employment but there it was poisoned from the start. I did not trust those that I worked with. I did not have the maturity to know how to compromise or how to listen to others. Did not look at the bigger picture when I was just heads down trying to get things done and pulling 20 hour days. A mixture of being constantly tired and lack of people I could call friendly at work caused me to stress beyond my breaking point. With the lack of support and those I could count on, my lack of trust just compounded the problem to the point that I lost sight of everything that was truly important in the being part of startup; the customer.
Without the customer there will be no company. Without the customer, all you are doing is for self satisfaction - “Look at how I was able to spin this code into the most elegant thing since the Mona Lisa.” The problem is that while taking pride in the small parts of you job is able to keep you going in the short term; without anything to show for it, you won’t have a job. A customer is not going to pay you for how cool your code is when they are getting nothing in return.
I lost myself in the minutia of the day to day just because I could not resolve my trust issues with those around me.
Know your situation and purpose
When I agreed to participate in this startup I underestimated what type of personal toll it would take on my mental health and my relationship with my family. I expected that this was going to be fun and games and we were going to deliver the latest and greated pieces of technology that mankind has ever seen. But it soon became apparent that time was not on our side. I was not going to create a product that would take over the market. We were creating something for a single client. We were essentially a services company that delivered software.
There was no money to take the time to truly plan out technology, there was only the limited amount of money that the customer was paying us to deliver functionality they requested. Thinking about scale was not their main concern. The customer’s single focus was to replace their current system with what they currently had. Plus, the startup’s main objective was to fund their ability to grow into something beyond what they were delivering for this one customer.
So what did I miss here? I didn’t fully understand why I was there. I was there to make our company money and was through focusing on what the customer wants.
How does this apply to my current situation?
So trust and relationships, finding purpose in work and focusing on the customer or the lack there of is the difference between my current successes and previous failures respectively. Now understanding this, how does one connect with the other that is on the other side of this large divide? Does one throw up their hands and forget and/or replace those on the other side of the divide?
Finding new tactics
While some of my tactics have worked with the majority of people I interact with there is a subset that is flat out rejecting my approach to things. This has caused me to be frustrated which continues to compound the ability to connect with them.
I need to find another way to connect and reach those who are rejecting the change. I don’t have the answers yet but here are some of my initial thoughts.
- Relationship - Forget about work and take them out to lunch. I just need to turn off work for a week, month or more to build up a relationship with these other people. Somehow distance myself from them in a work atmosphere and build a personal relationship instead. Others can be incharge of interfacing with them in a work capacity while you let old wounds heal and allow for them to see a different side of you.
- Slow down the change - Some are not receptive to change and will flat out reject it if it is too abrupt. This will work in certain situations where the work is necessary but at the same time can be mitigated by other means. This also needs to be balanced with the simple fact that one cannot slow down the value-add that one is currently championing.
- Building leaders - Take a step back. Let others take the lead. Some people don’t want to follow but lead themselves. The issue comes when you need to course correct a leader who thinks their approach is correct and yours is wrong. There lies the need for my personal growth in leadership. How to face these very difficult personalities and try to change their minds.
- Servant rather than leader - Maybe the best way to build trust is to lead by example. Show them that they can be the customer and others are there to help serve them. Maybe being pampered and receiving support from those that are supposed to be your customer can help build that trust that was missing before. I am asking these others to do work like I do work but for what in return? Maybe that is the problem, they are not seeing the purpose or the reward that comes with servicing your customer.
Anyway, I hope this self help exercise helps others as it help me come up with some other ways to think about building relationships at work with those you find the most difficult.