Every year as the year draws to a close and I knock off the mandatory learning hours (KRA hours) I go through books, essays and talks around corporate leadership. As I delve into subjects like bias recognition, conflict and trust management, managing effective teams I cannot help draw parallels to what I see in my day-to-day life. Everybody I know always complains about the boss who does not know anything, about the bad team players and corporate talk has sowed a sense of distrust among the workers. If indeed, the answer was as clear as it is made to seem then why do we still have teams that struggle to work together?
Work today doesn’t translate into a fixed 9-5 schedule, there is an expectation on employees to be agile, efficient and adapt quickly to ever changing needs. However, they are not given the liberty to do it on their terms. A great example of this phenomenon is the Work from home conundrum. Many managers see remote work as a major cause of drop in productivity, yet many studies have shown that on the contrary working from home boosts employee morale and productivity. While employees feel that working remotely gives them a sense of autonomy and feel more at ease, managers feel that many of the employees are not pulling their weight. Personally, I think I am more productive when I am at home. There have been times when I have taken a break in the middle of the day when I am not feeling it, and then there has been times when I work uninterrupted because “I was in the Zone”. I mean it is not that I cannot do this at the workplace, it is just that I am able to be more comfortable in my natural setting allows for this ebb and flow. It also takes away the distractions from social interactions in the workplace. For an introvert it is a dream come true as they can be left alone. now my manager on the other hand is a social being. He thrives on the interactions; He believes that “in person” work is the best way to deliver results and would rather have people work pre-covid times than embrace the hybrid work culture. It is differences like these that fuel the Us vs Them fire further.
It seems our personal preferences get in the way of making rational choices at the end of the day. So how do we break the barrier and seek common ground? The answer would be to try to understand what drives people? What makes people do things that they do? I do not think you can arbitrarily classify them as intrinsic or extrinsic. People rarely fit into a single category. They always are spread out in a spectrum. Being aware of your own biases is probably the very first step in trying to solve this problem. It is counter intuitive to think that to address a problem with someone else you have to begin with yourself. I find it difficult to trust people who are not competent enough. I rarely stop to think about the personal experiences that have shaped their career. I tend to be judgmental and dismissive as I see no place for incompetence in a professional setting. I never once stopped to ask if the person had the right training for the job. I never did once try to understand their experiences that shaped their career. It is remarkable on how just thinking about the two statements made me rethink my original assessment of the person. This just goes to show how we fall prey to our biases all the time. I don’t think it can just be categorized into intrinsic and extrinsic preferences. If everybody was given the same salary, same education can you still expect an equality in outcome? The answer is still going to be a resounding no. People are fundamentally shaped by their experiences, their beliefs, and their environment. Understanding this probably will help make inroads into the defiant mind barriers.
This sort of does tie into an earlier conversation that I had with someone as well, a critical aspect of leadership that is more often overlooked is emotional intelligence. I think when I seek autonomy in how I do things, it is only fair to expect to give others the same flexibility I seek. I don’t think this means that one has to compromise on results, it just means that people must find their own way of delivering it. One of the subjects that I had the pleasure of finding more about from a mentor is about understanding headwinds and tailwinds. the simple exercise of identifying and recognizing headwinds/tailwinds can introduce a sense of empathy in your thoughts. I also found it very helpful to go through an exercise to identify the values that you personally associate with. You will notice that you tend to agree more with people who resonate with your values, even if they have different opinions or preferences. The trick is to try to understand that there are several other values that drive people, and it may not be the ones that you prefer. The values that I seem to connect with are
It is ironic that I sometimes find the most important lessons about things from trivial things that I do not look forward to at all (KRA trainings). But as I slowly take steps forward in my career, I think there are opportunities for me to learn about the skills to help others grow around me. It is a different experience from what I have been used to, but it is something that I want to get better at.
Until next time.