It’s not wide-reaching – I can’t pick the next hot stock or predict who’ll win the Superbowl next year – but it’s extra-sensory perception nonetheless. In defiance of all known physical laws, I boast the singular ability to know precisely when my wife is craving Taco Bell. Or Sushi. That’s it.
Granted, this inexplicable talent isn’t going to place me in any scientific journals. But from my lovely wife’s perspective it’s absolutely uncanny.
I’ll bet many of you can identify similar skills you possess with regards to your significant other. It’s a wonderful byproduct of living together and becoming as one.
The relationship between manager and employee is much like a marriage. In fact, many of us will confess to clocking more hours spent with boss/partner/employee than with our actual spouse. So like a successful marriage, a few key tricks will foster a healthy and successful working relationship with that boss or employee you spend so much time with. Start by focusing on these three tactics:
- Pick Your Battles.
The first piece of advice I give to newlywed couples is this one. Successful collaboration — with a spouse, boss, colleague or employee, requires quick and early identification of conflict. Once identified, a tactical decision must be made: Is this a fight worth having? Those who thrive on conflict and drama will default to “yes.” These are the same folks who can’t keep a relationship, have three ex-spouses and a new job every six months. They haven’t learned the fundamental lesson of picking one’s battles. Working together means living together, and living together means compromise. You must identify which issues are worth going to the mat over. Don’t draw a line in the sand every time you disagree; let small things go and focus on what’s critical. Mutual respect, collaboration and progression is the nature and byproduct of healthy compromise.
Observe a long-term employee — or a couple who survived 30 years of marriage and you’ll notice the ability to give on certain things and hold ground on others. You don’t need to be a pushover — you can assert your opinions and garner respect without unnecessary conflict. Needless strife creates wedges that will worsen over time.
- Identify Intent.
About 90 percent of conflict originates from communication breakdown. How many times have you offended someone when you didn’t mean it? How often does someone say something stupid that makes you angry?
The key takeaway is this: DO NOT take offense where none is intended. Period.
It’s natural to be hurt and angered by others who say or do inconsiderate things. So when it happens, you must first identify: Was this statement/question/act/email/joke/remark done with the intent of hurting my feelings? Did the sender intend to make me angry and/or offended? Was the action specifically designed to make me look bad? If the answer is no, then get over it — because it wasn’t about you. That said, we all struggle with this notion. When someone says or does something stupid — whether by a rude comment or inconsiderate freeway merge — our immediate response is to counterattack. We’ve been violated and therefore justice must be metered-out in kind. Yet in 90 percent of cases, you and your feelings were never part of the equation. The offending party was focused on themselves; either trying to get people to like them with a funny remark, trying to communicate in a curt manner because they had other things on their mind or whatever. In any case, it was never about you, so don’t waste energy with frustration or defense. You don’t have conflict; you simply have a breakdown of communication. And the best remedy? More and better communication.
- Listen for what they Want, not what they Say.
This one is almost cliché among married people. A husband or wife, when hearing, “Oh, I don’t want anything for my birthday this year…” had better learn quickly to hear the message, not the words. This same skill is vital in the workplace. Listen to your boss’ meaning when he/she is asking for something; not just the words. Often managers struggle to verbalize precisely what they want, so great employees learn to read the overall intent rather than just what is spoken. This applies to strategic concepts as well as daily management. A team leader knows exactly what the boss wants before he/she asks for it. When the boss talks about tactics, the strong employee knows their vision and focuses on executing that vision rather than simply carrying-out specific orders. By the same token, a good manager knows the needs of his/her team long before they speak up. They’ve learned to read body language and intention of staff to manage accordingly. In either case, the skilled colleague uses this ability to spot storm clouds far into the horizon, addressing issues before they arrive in-force.
Ultimately, you’ll develop an uncanny talent for reading your boss’ mind; providing solutions to problems they haven’t even verbalized yet. Not unlike the times you’ve taken the words right out of your spouse’s mouth — you’ve developed a working synergy — the definition of true partnership.
Although not all relationships — business or otherwise — are destined for the long-term, let’s face it: Divorce sucks. So in order to reduce the likelihood of employer/employee divorce, it’s important to build your working relationships as you would a personal one. It’s not enough to simply perform at your job; you must develop business “marriages” to work happily ever after.
Oh, and don’t forget to pickup some Taco Bell on the way home.
Chris Clovis has had the honor and pleasure of 25 years in the Powersports Industry, currently serving as Vice-President of EagleRider Motorcycles [www.eaglerider.com]. Chris’ opinions are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of his employer, publisher, clients, or Taco Bell.