I once had an assistant that worked hard to get 90% of the project done, but couldn’t seem to wrap it up. It was frustrating. A project could end up on the to-do list for months, when really, it would only take an hour to put it to bed! I finally figured out the problem. She insisted on doing things her way.
How we work is personal. Some of us create to-do lists religiously. Others work on what’s urgent and forget the rest. A lengthy meeting where the project strategy is presented in detail is perfect for some workers, whereas others would prefer to read a long memo. A CEO might be the big thinker – willing to publish his/her ideas to the company – expecting others to figure out the details. We are all different. Figuring out the best way to work with others can significantly increase your chance for success.
Making changes for the benefit of the team. How we work may depend on our age, culture, experience and geographic location. But at work, we’re all on the same team. The success of that team may depend on how we work with each other and what changes we make in consideration of others. Here are some tips for working with people who have developed habits that are different from yours.
- Build a common understanding, trust and commitment. Easier said than done, right? To build a common purpose, it’s imperative that we consider what is important to people, what is below the each person’s surface (what you cannot see), and the inner layers of values and beliefs. As a team, when we create common ground rules we help build trust and commitment in our purpose.
- Instead of lamenting our differences, focus on the strengths everyone brings to the table. The truth is, the more opinions, and the more variety of ideas around the table, the more likely we will be more creative and innovative in the solutions we develop.
- Celebrate collaboration. If you always have a habit of wanting to do things on your own, think differently. While independence is good in some situations, generally people who are team players experience more success at work.
- Listen, and be empathetic. Being respectful builds trust. Knowing how you work, and understanding how others work, strengthens the communication among all team members.
As for my assistant mentioned in the beginning of this article, she insisted on closing the loops in projects through email. It was her preferred method of communication. But many of the people she needed to communicate with were either very busy, or travelled frequently. By adjusting her habit and putting aside an hour to either walk to each office (we were all in the same building), or talk to them on the phone, solved the problem. A simple changed proved successful.
If you type “successful work habits” in any search engine, you’ll find numerous articles on what habits we should develop if we want to be successful. So why can’t everyone just understand and foster those habits? It’s not quite so easy. There are some habits ingrained in our personalities because of various factors. Consider the following:
- Age. How old we are dictates subtle differences in work habits. Consider the following. 60% of people 55 years old and older prefer to meet face to face. Of those 24 – 35 years of age, only 35% prefer to meet in person. When asked if they should be promoted every 2-3 years if they’re doing a good job, 43% of those 55 and older agreed, while 61% of 25-34 year old agreed.
- Culture. Values and beliefs are part of our national culture. Some people may not even be aware of these values and beliefs until challenged by others. Different values lead to different behavior. It’s important to learn these differences in order to work with people from other cultures.
- Experience. The more experience we have, the more problems we’ve encountered. We believe we know what works, and what doesn’t work. Those with less experience however, are willing to try new ideas. Sometimes we clash over those ideas.
- Geographic location. Sometimes our culture and our location work together to influence our work habits. You can even see the difference in the continental U.S. Very often Californians are at work early in the morning – as early as 6 a.m. They work with colleagues on the east coast who are sending email and conducting meetings on our side of the country. Consequently, they’re gone from the office by 3 pm their time.
Considering all of the complexities of a team, if we can create some common ground rules for everyone, we can help building trust and commitment.