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Business & Real Estate

Work would be great if it weren't for the people

Jean on the Job

Have you heard the sentiment in this title before? "I sure could get some work done if it weren't for the people around me." Or "I do just fine when no one interrupts me ... or interferes ... or wants information ... or suggests anything ... or wants it their way."

There is a new book out by Ronna Lichtenberg, called "Work Would Be Great If It Weren't For the People." Cleverly, she included a jacket undercover which you can switch if the boss comes along. Dan O'Donnell, my Rotary colleague, loaned me the book. The inside cover is called "Another Great Day at the Office; Winning Strategies for Working with the Wise and Wonderful."

Of course, it is easier for some people to work alone. They seem to think it is more efficient just to make one decision - not a consensus one, or a majority one or a democratic one. If you find yourself bothered by the people around you, take a look at your working style. If you do live in a collaborative world that requires cooperation and sharing data, it is as important to learn to get along with your colleagues as it is to learn the content and processes of your tasks.

The triple trap for the introverted worker is 1.) that his internal processing slows down or masks the big picture for others; 2.) He doesn't really want to explain the way his mind works; and 3.) He feels frustrated by having to process out loud.

I hear too late: "But we told John to make people as important as his projects." John didn't get it. He saw his colleagues as interference and he just couldn't accept that two or 12 heads were better than his own. Brainstorming does take time. Persuading others does take time. Compromising does take time. Being a good listener does take time. In the long run, however, a cooperative project or decision is more efficient. You get consensual buy-in. Everyone knows why you have made the decision. Everyone knows how the decision came about. Nearly everyone will want to cooperate with the decision, even when it was not his or her own idea.

Without consensual decisions, your ideas must withstand the backlash, sabotage, and the misunderstanding around it, and the possible multiple directions which an unclear goal creates.

If you don't love working with people, ask others to try to understand your impatience. This means explaining yourself, of course. The very thing you hate to do! But do it anyway. Sit folks down and tell them what an independent thinker you are and ask them to be patient with your frustration. You can even ask to have your own way now and then, just for the heck of it. Encourage others to remind you when you seem to be doing solo again, and ask them to give you updates on how you are doing.

Jean A. Hollands, CEO, Growth & Leadership Center, was voted Business Woman of the Year in 1986 and 1996. Write to GLC, 1451 Grant Road, Mountain View, 94040.

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