In my last post, I talked about the importance of understanding a person by asking the question: “Who are you?” A fellow blogger, Sara, offered this comment, “I would be interested to hear how Grace and you define the answer.” It was a simple statement, but really sunk in for me. Sara had held me accountable for following my own advice and in the days following her comment, I found myself being vigilant about observing Grace. How would I define the answer?
I see two prominent patterns. One is that Grace is frequently in a fearful mode. She might be reacting to something that scares her, or she might just be tense, in anticipation of something that could frighten her. The second pattern is how she’s so food driven. She goes in hyper-mode when any treat comes into her view. In both cases, these aren’t new observations, but the intensity and frequency of them has been heightened for me as a result of watching more carefully.
When I think about how I might change interactions with her based on a deeper understanding of her, I realize that I could (and should) be doing more to eliminate her sources of fear. One suggestion Suzanne Clothier had for me was to block the front windows so she couldn’t see the people and cars that went by. I haven’t made much of an effort to do that, mostly because it’s inconvenient for me. I don’t want to work in a darkened office or shut out the fresh air. But I need to work harder at finding some solution that will work for us both.
This makes me realize how easy – and common – it is for managers and team members to avoid or neglect making changes that we know could help, just because they aren’t a priority for us. Because I don’t have the fear of the neighbor kids walking by, it’s not a priority for me to change the sight lines in the house. But it continues to make Grace nervous each time they walk by. How would her life – and therefore mine – change if I did something about that? What would change in your work environment if you helped another person get through a difficult assignment or situation?
The other point about Sara’s comment that I’d like to point out is how effective her simple statement was in moving me into greater action. Based on other interactions with Sara, I knew her question was coming from genuine curiosity and interest about our next steps. Her probing came from the perspective of caring and support. When a manager has a sincere interest in the employee’s progress, it instills a trusting and productive environment. As problems come up, it’s more likely that candid communication can happen to address roadblocks. It doesn’t always have to be a complicated or cumbersome exchange to make a real difference.
So now I need to figure out how to give Grace a fresh view from the front windows.