Polymath and one of the founding fathers of the United States once said, “…tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
Every day at work you are given tremendous opportunities to acquire knowledge.
This past week, even as I am taking a break in my wife’s hometown in Austria, I had an opportunity to help a key member of my team, back in Kuala Lumpur, to learn and grow.
I had to create an experiential process that helped her learn.
Through my work, I have understood that the biggest contributor to your growth is your ability to use very opportunity to learn. So, I helped my direct report with these vital lessons.
The first is about attitude.
Your attitude or way of thinking, without doubt, is the most important asset you have at your disposal.
If you do not understand this, you are never going to achieve much in life. Become a constructive and optimistic member of your team. If you can do this, you will become an invaluable asset to your line leaders.
The reality is that your work-life is going to be fraught with complications, irritations, and a multitude of problems. And, significantly, you will have to deal with people who do not share your mindset.
It is so easy to be dismissive about people, and think that you are better than them.
I had to remind my colleague that she just cannot do that.
Tell yourself every day that you need the people around you to function and perform well, in order for you to get your own results. The relationships you need to cultivate have to be symbiotic in nature.
The key to your success depends on your willingness to be fair and good-tempered, even with the people who are different from you.
Learn to respect others, especially those who are dissimilar to you. They too have a right to exist.
Next, there’s a very high likelihood that you might not necessarily share the same values with your leaders. In fact, you don’t even need to like them.
In my work as a management and training consultant, I have to ask people to give me anecdotes about their superiors. Often, their narratives will be about how difficult or ridiculous their bosses are.
I am not asking you to accept that your leaders are all great people.
A study by psychologist and author Robert Hogan, in his book “Personality and the Fate of Organizations” showed that about 65% of managers are incompetent or poor leaders. This ranges from managers who are simply in over their heads, to those who are truly awful and destructive.
But unfortunately, they remain your managers, until you move on.
My recommendation is that your learn how to peacefully co-exist with people, especially superiors, even if you do not subscribe to their way of thinking, or working.
I showed my direct report that she cannot resolve a problematic boss (me!) by being belligerent. Instead, she needed to learn to manage her own reactions, and to work within the conditions she faced.
The art of managing a difficult boss is founded on your ability to keep all your interactions with them relevant, and by showcasing your value in the communication. Even if your boss does not reciprocate immediately, your role is to continue to persist while being civil and pleasant.
I have to do this with my clients, who are technically my bosses.
And, as you develop a stronger and more connected relationship with the people you report to, you will find that things become easier.
If you concentrate on learning from your interactions with them, you will build the necessary muscle memory to manage future dealings or collaboration, better.
The third lesson is that you must remember that you have been hired to solve problems.
Really, this is your job. Even if it is not categorically stated in your employment contract, believe me, this is why you have a job.
Many people capitulate whenever they encounter problems. I often have to remind the participants in my executive leadership coaching sessions, that without problems, they would be out of a job. Most people shun problems, or start looking for a new job, or become the “problem” when they are faced with complications at work.
Condition your mind to the reality that you will be inundated with problems at work.
And this is, in fact, a good thing. Do not dwell on the pain of the problems. Instead, focus on solving them. People fall broadly into two categories; they are either problem-oriented or solution-oriented. I know who I’d rather promote.
These are the three most valuable lessons you need to learn quickly at work.
Keep your attitude in check, and have a learning approach to everything. Manage your emotions with your bosses, especially if they are highly driven individuals, because these are the best types to work for.
And, focus on resolving problems, rather than contributing to them.
My team member understood this. Do you get it?
Shankar R. Santhiram is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”