• Judy McGinn
  • 26 Jul

Have you ever tried to step into another person’s shoes?

I’m inviting you to do that right now. Take a moment to think about your team (whether you are a leader, manager or part of a team) and consider one particularly ‘tricky’ individual. Close your eyes if that helps. See that person now. Consider what it is that they do or don’t do, or do or don’t say, that might be difficult to understand from your perspective. Just for a moment step into their shoes. Take a deep breath. From what you have observed or know about them see if you can get a felt sense of what it’s like to be them. It may help to relate this to a current issue at work. How might they view it? How might it make them feel? What are they likely to do or think in response? Do you have any insights or understanding in relation to how they might be responding? Have you talked with them to understand their perspective better?

Now open your eyes and consider anything you felt or saw.

In this brief reflection have you already managed to see something about this person in a different way?

The three most basic emotional human needs are to feel safe, to feel valued and to be loved. In the workplace these may translate to the need to feel that you belong, are accepted, that your contributions are valued and listened to, and that you are respected. With the best of intentions this can be a challenge for a leader who is doing a juggling act with many personalities and the group dynamics that these present, not to mention delivering on results.

So where do you begin? Well focusing on what matters most is a good start. People produce profit but they don’t show up on the P & L. They do show up on team morale, motivation, commitment and in client feedback however. I wonder if you make the time to develop the character, confidence, skills and relationships of those you lead.

I wonder if…

You know something personal about each member of you team?

Do you make time to chat with them informally, outside regular planning meetings or performance development sessions?

Dr Stephen Covey’s metaphor of the Emotional Bank Account, whereby your deposits are emotional units instead of monetary ones, is a powerful concept in relation to the development of interpersonal relationships. The emotional units are centred around trust. The more you build it and have a positive reserve the more you can handle the withdrawals.

I learnt a valuable lesson during my time in the Kimberley. When a new colleague started work the first thing she did was to email the whole team to say hello, introduce herself and tell us all about ‘her mob’ and ‘her country’. Later, when we gave her a welcome morning tea, she gave us more detail. Initially we didn’t hear that much about her work history. That wasn’t what was most important to her. It was important that we saw her first as the person she was; not as the woman with the degree and the credentials that had won her the job. Needless to say she built open and warm relationships with us all very quickly and, even better, this was reciprocated.

It is amazing how when you seek to understand the differences in people the difficulties will actually disappear.