People Management

Listen to the words, but notice the facts

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A few days ago I was talking to a Project Manager who was saying that it’s hard for her to distinguish some people’s real intentions, despite her not being naive. In many social interactions we can distinguish negative emotions hidden behind gestures, by analysing body language, or even interpret choice of words. Human behaviour, however, is not constant, it keeps evolving luckily. Sometimes for the better, other times for the worst. There is however one thing we should be paying attention on the longer run and that is the deeds, the actual actions a person takes.

People who appreciate your worth will say it out loud. There is absolutely no positive reason, if you appreciate someone’s work or actions, to not say it out loud. There are plenty of negative reasons however: envy, wanting to take the spotlight or even credit for somebody else’s work. I’ve met several managers who were afraid to express appreciation, fearing people will ask for a raise if they do that. Positive recognition can help people grow wings, but that doesn’t mean they’ll fly away.

Observe who really is present when you are talking. We have all attended meetings or taken part to private conversations where you are exposing a point of view and the moment you ask a question, testing the participant(s) attention, you’re being asked to repeat. When someone is interested in your work or what you have to say, that person pays attention. These days we are easily distracted by multitasking, we lose focus easily or find it hard to maintain it, but we’ll go deeper into that in a future article.

Notice who really helps you, not just say it. “You can count on me” / “If you need anything just reach out”. People who support you, will really be there, not just say it. So when you’re going through a rough patch, notice who was by your side and not just pretended to be there. “I will make sure you get that raise”, “Next year, we’ll get you promoted”. Did it happen?

When you are important, you are also a priority. When your kid has had an accident at school, or a water pipe broke at home or your bank account got locked, suddenly everything else you had to do goes to second place, doesn’t it? Because it’s something you can’t neglect. Unfortunately, many people take things for granted and forget to treat right the people they care about, employees or not. “I’ll call you back as soon as I can” – and that moment is actually weeks away. “I’ll make sure you get what you need”, followed a few days later by “I completely forgot about it”. Don’t try to use your schedule as an excuse, you’re lying to yourself. I’ve had times when I was hyper-busy, yet for some things I was finding time and for others I wasn’t. It’s a poor excuse, but we may be involuntarily sabotaging ourselves.

Notice who is reachable anytime you need help. I guess you’ve had the chance by now to be new to an activity / job / role and perhaps someone was in charge to guide you or got assigned as a ‘buddy’ or ‘people manager’ for you, but that person was impossible to reach. At the same time, we all have a story about the moment we started a new job, feeling completely lost and a colleague supported our first steps. If you’re smart, that colleague is now still around you and called a friend now.

Knowing all this, why do we fall for words instead of facts? Because we often lie to ourselves. Reacting can take you out of your comfort zone or clear the smoke around and put you in front of a mirror. That’s what we’re running from. Seeing facts for what they are, may push us to end work relations or intimate relations. Sometimes the promises we hear, help us procrastinate, which is a form of self-sabotage, keeping us in a miserable, but familiar state. Witnessing, but refusing to see means declining ownership for your life.

Fearing what people may think if you react, is a typical syndrome of avoidant personality. Putting others first, always, is a strong sign of poor self-esteem (“make things better for everyone else, but not for me”).

It’s up to you if you want to react to facts and not words. Like it or not, you are the sole owner of a property called ‘your own life’.

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