People are Funny_IconEveryday in my work and in my life, I am reminded of just how powerful it is to understand a person who matters to me. The person may matter to my business results or career. The person may matter to me as a member of my family or community.

With each remembrance, I am also struck by just how difficult it is to truly understand another human being.

  • Each one of us is unique—not one person the same as another.
  • So much about what makes us who we are is in the fabric (i.e., wiring, etc.) of our being, often shaped at such an early age.
  • Many of the challenges we face or goals we set require different people to align—yet we often see “it” differently.

Of Course! You Say…But Do You Take The Time?

I can imagine you saying, “Of course, Mary. What’s new about your point?” But in my work with people who are frustrated or anxious or angry (choose the emotion), I often find a struggle in:

  • Slowing down to actually think about a person or a set of people key to an outcome.
  • Laying out what he or she knows—mining the data.
  • Staying in a state of curiosity, intentionally pulling out of judgment of the other.

We are in such a hurry to get the work done, to move things along. We do not make enough time to think about the people who matter most.

I’m not saying that’s not natural or fine in some situations. But, when the key to getting the best results requires understanding the player(s), it takes time to think.

It’s Really Difficult, But Don’t Give Up

Whether the person is the same or very different from you, it’s difficult to understand a person because there is so much in the background that either you don’t know or will never know (even if you think you know).

If you can use what you do know and ask questions to fill in the gap, you have a starting point. It takes discipline for most of us to pull back from telling, showing, or directing the action. We want to say what needs to be done and be done with it. That’s OK, if it works.

I Don’t Get Paid to Figure People Out

Neither your salary nor your bonus is  directly related to influencing people who matter. At best, you’ll get some calculation for  “managing people” which often means that you hired the right people, exited the wrong people, and conducting performance reviews in between. All good things (not simple either). But, the biggest outcomes are often more difficult to diagnose.

Have you ever had to deal with someone who is performing well to very well and:

  • Disappears or doesn’t respond to your emails even though a deadline looms?
  • Is hyper-critical and hyper-sensitive?
  • Doesn’t seem to want the next career step, but wants more money, and you actually need him to advance?
  • Does her own work, but never seems to collaborate with internal “clients”?
  • Seems easier to take on bigger projects, but is always too busy.

These are only a short list of some recent people challenges I’ve encountered through my  coaching conversations.

It takes real thinking to generate an insight into a complex situation and person. Not just the first or prevailing view of the person. Really think. This thinking is powerful and can be done on the train, in the plane, during a boring meeting,on a walk, or at your desk.

The $1,000,000.00 Question

What result could you accomplish if you only had a set of clear insights about the people who matter?

That’s the place to start or to deepen your ability to influence results through people.