What a Great Mess It Can Be!

Metallic & Gel ink on watercolor- Words: Mark Twain

This past year of living life from a remote perspective has greatly increased the world of online learning. Information is readily available on any topic, any place, any time. Having access to that much knowledge is incredible, and a great starting point for learning. This quote from Mark Twain reminds us that reading information is not enough to understand and develop positive people skills, we have to include our hearts in that process.

Knowing and doing are two different things. I talked with a bright engineer who wanted to become a people manager. After about a year of managing his new team he asked me for every possible option he might have to deal with so he could create a spreadsheet to refer to in his future conversations. I told him if I knew that I would sell that information and become a bazillionaire!

People cannot be managed by canned responses from a spreadsheet. People are messy, unpredictable and even frustrating. No one sentence will ever get the exact same response, so as the manager we have to listen to what the person is actually saying, digest what they mean and then craft the appropriate response for this situation. And sometimes this needs to happen in a very short span of time. Sure experience helps provide some words that have worked in the past, those are only reference points not perfect responses.

As we get to know people – colleagues, direct reports, family, friends, and even our children – we must spend the time and engage our heart to understand who they are and how may we best help them become who they want to be. Not who we think they SHOULD be, who they truly know they want to become. What is important to them may not make sense to us, so we have to disengage our judgement and values to listen to what they are actually telling us. Watching, listening, growing to know them as people and what they want out of life. If we don’t take time, engage our heart, then we might as well have a spreadsheet and be content with everyone we know leaving us alone because we are too lazy to invest in the relationship. Knowing people is messy, what a great mess it can be, and what a great gift we are given as we become part of their lives. Engage your heart, let them in, apply the information to each person as a unique gift and treasure.

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