“For every man that eateth and drinketh, and seeth good of his labour, this is the gift of God.” Eccl. 3:13
Believing work is a gift can be difficult. After all, people bring with them conflicts, misunderstandings, and their own humanity. Ugh! Who wants that? Ask any business owner and the most important asset in their employees is “people skills.” What they are really saying is that they are looking for someone who can look at another with understanding and can help them overcome their fears in order to move forward. This is also the essence of management.
The path that I have discovered for developing these people skills is (and actually a lot more) is part of what I call “Doing the Work.” Doing the Work is an education of the heart and mind. It is the development of the ability to see ourselves and others with love, honesty, gratitude and forgiveness. Doing the Work is what leads us to truly working with our integrity, and acting within our power.Doing the Work may take many forms, that of self-help books, coaching, or even counseling. However, the first and most important aspect of Doing the Work is a daily process of keeping our priorities in the right order.
With respect to our working relationships, this priority set looks like this:
- Self Care
Most fundamental is self care. What self care does is give us the maximum control in our lives. If we are the usual combination of Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired or Stressed (HALTS) we are usually not exercising good self care. I cannot remember a time when I was any of these and also made a good decision.
- Key Relationships
When our relationship with our most key relationship, usually that of our supervisor, is on track, then we are able to function well. When our relationships are not on the right track, it is nearly impossible to get anything done or to feel empowered to do th
e work we need.
- The Good of the Team and Organization
Third, is the good of our team and organization. When we keep the overall needs of the team that we are on and the organization as a whole in mind, especially before thinking of the good of the customer. This is why Richard Branson’s Virgin Airlines does well, they put the good of the employee before the good of the customer.
- The Good of the Customer
Fourth, is the needs of any customer or individual within the organization. If there is an individual who is yelling for something that they cannot have today or who is any of the hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or stressed, we cannot handle them well unless we have the first three priorities established.
I use the word “education” to describe this process because this process is scary. Education, when done well, is the exposure to scary things, events, ideas in a controlled, non-scary way. Education causes us to look more deeply at the world and ourselves, walking away more attuned to the world around us and the mind inside of ourselves. If we do not take the time to educate ourselves by doing the work, we will be unable to approach the world with any real skill.
In fact, the role of the manager is to be an educator. Her or his job is to expose us to scary ideas, perhaps the idea that there are better ways to do something, but in a safe way. This requires trust, yes, but more importantly it requires a safe way to talk about these things. Some education is organization-wide, some is team-wide, and some is very personal.
And you thought it was just people skills? Try this, ask an excellent manager what how they developed their people skills? Also ask them what makes them an effective manager in these cases. I’m sure that the answer they give will be something like this.