I’ve been married a really long time and besides feeling blessed to be married to someone I not only love but truly like I am grateful, too, that I live with a man who’s incredibly insightful about people. One of the things he says about people who seem to fall off track do so in part because they are not self-aware. So I smiled a little when I read in Tim Irwin’s Run With the Bulls that people “who derail are usually blinded by their own lack of awareness; they miss the connection between their behavior and its impact on others.” He goes on to describe other common derailers that I’ll share with you in a minute.
First, I want to emphasize how incredibly important it is to watch and learn from those around you. You can take a workshop every week of the year and learn less from the lectures and handouts than you can in a few days of observing your co-workers. Maybe you’ve watched a colleague who’s particularly adept at getting along with others. How does he do that you wonder. You know, you can always ask. Or perhaps you marvel at the woman down the corridor who never makes mistakes. I’m going to almost guarantee that she makes some mistakes, but if it seems as if she doesn’t, well, she probably covers her tracks pretty well. Maybe she puts in time after work or she’s learned how to ask the right questions the first time out. Instead of just envying others for their skills try to find out where they come from. In some cases, you may even be open about your “research” and just ask. Maybe you’re having coffee and you say, “You seem to get along with people so well . . . how do you do that?” You may learn something not just about getting along with people but managing them as well. There is a connection, you know.
Now some of those unfortunate ways that people get off track in their jobs:
- Poor Interpersonal Relationships. The most important point here is that even the people who have stellar technical skills at one point or another suffer because of their poor interpersonal skills. According to Irwin, this occurs with more frequency as the person moves up the corporate ladder. So if you’re wondering how someone like that progresses, consider the fall they might experience once this particular character flaw is revealed.
- Arrogance: A Terminal Case of Certainty. Oh, one of my personal favorites. Really. Arrogance. Sometimes I’m absolutely speechless when I encounter that kind of behavior. Here’s Irwin’s take: “Arrogant individuals have tremendous trouble adopting the new frameworks and behaviors necessary in rapidly changing business conditions. They don’t adapt well to changes they haven’t authored because they cannot condescend to support a position created by others. Their egos constantly get in the way of their flexibility and their objectivity.
Look around and see if you can identify these characteristics in yourself and/or in others. See if these behaviors can get in the way. Then look around for the people who have humility, a trait that author Jim Collins (“Good to Great”) attributes to high-performing leaders. Where does that come from? And how does a leader combine humility with a hard-driving desire to succeed?