I was reminded this week that people are all different, even if they appear to be all the same. Some have big needs some have little need. Some people take lots of time, other people need no time at all. The more we know them and get to know their individual needs the more we are able to interact with them effectively.
Building relationships is not like turning a switch on or off, hoping that what works for one person will work for everyone. Building relationships means slowing down and listening to the other person as they provide clues to understanding their wants, needs and desires. If you listen closely enough people will tell you what is important to them. They tell you about themselves in how they behave, the words they choose, and where they spend their time. When you pay attention the information is there and there is no longer a switch to turn on or off.
People require time and attention. Knowing people and interacting with them means slowing down and paying attention, when in our current world those two skills – listening and slowing down – are not always valued. “Chop, chop!” let’s get it done, keep going, move faster, cram more into your day, hit the numbers, be successful, complete the task, hit the goal. All of these messages and common mindsets work against truly knowing the people in our lives. When we focus on the task we are telling the people they are not important or we only want to work with them when they do things our way. It can feel like when you hit the numbers you are good to go, slow down to know the people and you might get left behind.
In the end when we face our own mortality, when the health of the organization or group is in jeopardy, when we have to evaluate where we go next, it is the health and relationships with the people that will turn the tide. No one wishes for more email or text messages. No one wants less time with their family. No one wants to work for the boss who only talks to them about the goal and never asks about what is important to the person. Making time to know people and not simply flip switches can be the investment that takes things to a higher level instead of one and done.