Of my pretty surprisingly random but adventurous and eventful career, I have worked with and for some amazing people. Just like you, unfortunately, some aren’t as easy. I thought I’d summarise what I’ve learnt from the people I enjoy very much to work with and respect; and most importantly tactics to deal with their antithesis. Here we go…
Regardless of ranks and years of experience, these people have time to listen to you. They might be very good at managing up, but they are even better than managing down. You know you can trust them, because they genuinely believe that you have something to offer that can help the collective goal be achieved better/smarter/faster.
Anti-thesis of #1: People who throw ranks, people who talk more than listening. You know the worst kind? People who pretend that they are open to listen, only to drive everyone back to their own drawing boards.
How to deal with anti-thesis #1: Would you consider bending your will to massage their ego to ‘seed’ you good ideas (think Inception) and make it sounds like the great, brilliant, fantastic ideas come from them? Would you be okay if they take the credit so long as the ideas get done?
2. Ability to track progress and communicate success, as well as failure
‘We agreed 3 weeks ago we would achieved xxxx under the assumptions that A would deliver X and B would deliver Y. A worked, but B failed. What are we going to do with that?’ Have you EVER heard this rhetoric at work? It is so freaking unbelieveably rare that sometimes it makes me feel sad. I promise myself that I’d try my best to do this more often. When you meet people who have the uncanny ability to stay focused, and most important, the leadership quality to keep the team accountable, stay close to them. It’s a very rare attribute in corporate environment.
Anti-these of #2: People who keep on generating new ideas and projects, and delegate to implement, then pressure if/when they remember one of the many random projects. These are the people who want to be seen as the great inventor, but very likely they are generating pressure to the people who actually do the work. You know what is worse? They do not apologise when things go horribly wrong. And you know what can EVEN be more worse than that? There is not even an acknowledgement that things have gone wrong.
How to deal with anti-thesis #2: This one is actually relatively easy, if you stick to what #2 should be, truth should speak for itself. It also helps you stay objective and reasonable to dodge the politics.
3. Signs of expertise
You know when you want to find out more about Facebook’s APIs/Accessibility/User Experience Design etc there are that few names in the office of which you can lean on? These are the people who actually continue to attend workshops, meet-ups & training. You’ll hear typically they’d say, ‘I might be wrong, but we can probably try this, this, this and that.’ and BAM, 50 great ideas appear and they help you to trim it down to the feasible few as minimal viable product/tactics. They help you track and measure. When there is a problem within their expertise remit, even through it might not be within their expertise remit, they can’t sleep until they figure out a solution, not for you, but for their curiousity.
Anti-thesis of #3: People who do everything themselves and refuse to seek external help despite low quality delivery. People that never seem to go for trainings or reach out to learn from the experts. People who always have the answers <– Very dangerous.
How to deal with anti-thesis #3: Continue to sharpen your own expertise and focus on your own growth. People come, and people go in jobs. If you love what you do and you are very good at that, you can make your way and create a career that works best for you. ‘Find a job you love and you’d never need to work again for another day.’
4. Ability to connect and relate
You just come out from a frustrating meeting. That someone glanced over and gave you the look. Instantly you know that he/she was thinking the exact same thing as you; you both smiled. Thing seems less bad – even though there is still a lot of work required to undo the damage in the meeting, someone else gets it. Isn’t it great if everyone just GETS IT?
Anti-these of #4: However and whatever you try to get across to this someone you seem to be hitting a brake wall. You realise the other person sitting in front of you (1) doesn’t care about how you feel; (2) doesn’t care about how you think the work can be done better; & (3) it’s obviously that they have hidden agenda that have something to do with their personal gain.
How to deal with anti-thesis 4: Repeat this mantra: ‘You can’t manage people. You can only mange process.’ (was it from Joe on Software?). Yup. Admit how helpless you are in changing people’s attitude is actually super empowering because you can then focus on where you can still make a big difference, and not waste your energy being frustrated or continue to victimise yourself. <– that would be sad and pathetic.
5. Strong Bias towards actions
Instead of getting everyone in a meeting room, these people have an uncanny ability to identify the 20% of the Pareto’s Principle (20% of your effort yields 80% of the results). Meeting them 10 minutes would energise the team to be super productive and motivated and deliver awesomeness. They generally detest meetings, expecially anything that is more than 30 minutes. They don’t eat in front of their desk and they have time to dance and check out the sunset. When they come to work on Monday, they remember to check how your kids/pets are.
Anti-these of #5: You know the type. Everything has to go through that special type. They would call 3 meetings just to discuss objectives. Everytime when you come out from these meetings, you’d be like, ‘Okay, I’ve just lost 1.5 hours of my life that I can never get back…’
How to deal with anti-thesis 5: Really – decline the meetings. At least try to see if you can get things sorted by proposing a plan and walk off; let them mull over the ‘contention’ points, while you continue to hunt down and tackle the 20% quietly and deliver results that show. Hopefully with a great track record, you can get away as being the ‘tormented creative accentric type’ who fidgets awkwardly/mercilessly in extended fruitless meetings.
Have I missed anything? Does the counter-anti-thesis strategies make sense? Do these types make you smile?