different

By Meg Manke

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to get on the same page with some colleagues? Really, why can’t those people see the logic in doing things the way you think makes sense? People are different in lots of ways and when it comes to the workplace those differences can be terribly troubling. They can take up valuable time and cause major rifts…if we let them. But conflict is normal as are those differences so how can we make sense of all these spinning dynamics to ensure a productive and healthy work culture?

Here are the 5 tricks to creating agreements between different types:

1. Accept that differences exist

My grandmother has always said, “takes all kinds to make the world go round”. It’s one thing to know that others might see the world in a different light but it’s an entirely different thing to accept it. Sometimes we may not at first be able to understand it, but acceptance is key. Think about a critical relationship in your life – personal or professional – that while you had to get along with that person you just could not see the world from their perspective on a certain topic (or maybe all topics). Now, think about the time that you simply accepted that they had different reality and how much that changed your relationship with them. If you’re not focusing your energy on how the other person is different and trying to convince them why your way is right, you can spend that energy on finding solutions for the issue at hand. There’s more than one way to skin a cat!

2. Learn the differences and what they mean

Now that we have accepted the differences our attention should turn to understanding why they exist and what they really are. In the small and connected world today, there are billions of iterations of reality and because of the connectivity we are exposed to lots more than we used to be. Think about the number of contacts you have on LinkedIn – my contact list is larger than the population of my home town was when I was 18! So, how do we understand differences? Ask questions, of course. But, here’s the trick, when you ask questions wait and actually listen for the response. It’s not enough to accept and walk away, you must listen for the reason. You may still not agree with their logic but if you understand it you’ll have an easier time sorting through their message in the future. Be sure that when you ask questions you mind your tone and body language – remember you are sourcing information and creating alliances, not interrogating.

3. Trust your gut, use the tricks you learn along the way

We learn people. Over time, we understand them better – we know their quirks, their habits, their tells for when they might feel upset, happy, frustrated, accomplished. Use that innate ability to qualify body language and actions to assess differences. You know that if Jane quickly escapes to her office she’s not running away from an issue, rather she needs some quiet to draft a plan. You know that when Bill stands at the whiteboard with a huge rummy grin and a purple marker leaving unintelligible chicken scratch, he’s not a lunatic, he’s excited and wants to team with everyone. Take the time to evaluate these actions and understand their true meaning. Trust your gut – even if your head wants to think Jane is running away or Bill is a lunatic really take the time to reflect on their actions. What are they really doing and how can you use that to better communicate with them?

4. Check-in often!

It’s not enough to check-in once, ask a few questions and then assume “boop!”, we get along now. Relationships take work (no, this is not turning into an article about your marriage), lots of work, assessment, patience and feedback. Ask the other person if you could both agree to a feedback schedule, follow-up meeting, or chat over coffee to learn more about each other. Continue to ask questions to clarify what those differences look like – maybe they prefer details and order when you prefer a little more chaos in your day. Perhaps they look for opportunities to do team work as much as possible when your best brain work is done during an early morning run. Whatever the case, be sure to stay in touch with that person, it’s the best way to know what they’re thinking.

5. Keep the goal in mind

Lastly, always remember that the goal of your organization, department, team is the real focus – not your differences. Our reptilian brain always tries to rule the day with emotions and assumptions. Our fight or flight kicks in first to save us from conflict. That’s why it’s so important to focus on strategy and goals in order to keep a logical approach and path for the team. Make sure your team has a set of goals in mind and not just those ones you are sent from corporate. Sit down and make your own goals – how are you going to meet the ones from corporate? What are you tracking? Who is responsible for what task? Make sure the goals are important to the team, clear and concise. Then you have something to use as a focal point if you become frustrated with a difference.

There will always be differences in the world, but they don’t need to run your world. Look to employ the 5 tricks in this article to be sure you manage your day with strategy and logic. Look for opportunities to work with those who are different from you, the difference in perspective will be refreshing and spin up new and innovative ideas!

Meg Manke, MSSL, Senior Partner at Rose Group Int’l, is a culture and leadership expert with years of experience leading companies large and small through transition. For more information about Meg’s book, iX Leadership: Create High-Five Cultures and Guide Transformation, click here. For more information about Rose Group Int’l, please visit https://rosegroupintl.com/. Connect with Meg @meg_manke on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

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