Walk a Mile…

“We always admire the other fellow more after we have tried to do his job.”
–William Feather (1889 – 1981), American author and publisher
An age old problem in business is how individuals work together. I’ve had several leaders say to me, “If we didn’t have to deal with all of this stuff, we could concentrate on running the business.” The “stuff” in question is human dynamics—what makes individuals and teams work; and, what most definitely gets in the way of productivity and performance.

One way to begin to address many interpersonal conflicts is to help people walk a mile in the shoes of the other party. While this can be accomplished through job shadowing, it can be time-consuming to get a full appreciation of what the other party contends with on a regular basis.

Another approach is to facilitate a dialogue between the two individuals (or even teams). The goal is to better understand (and appreciate) what the other party contributes, the value they add, and the challenges they face. It is helpful to remind everyone that it is beneficial to listen and understand the needs of the other party first (Covey’s “seek first to understand”). This is accomplished by increasing an understanding of what is/isn’t working from the other parties’ perspective.

The following questions (while not all inclusive) are useful for both parties to ponder as a way to prepare for the conversation:

1. What are your biggest challenges to being as successful as you can be?
2. In this conflict, what are the core needs of the other party? What is important to them?
3. What are your core needs? What is important to you?
4. What do you value about the other party? Appreciate?
5. If you could change one or two things that would impact the overall effectiveness of how you work with the other party, what would they be? (Be sure to focus on what you can do, not just what they can do.)
6. What are one or two first steps you can take that will help you move in the direction just outlined.

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