Most of us can probably think of a co-worker who we work really easily with regardless of how challenging a project or issue may be. You always seem to see eye to eye and find your way together to good outcomes to hard problems. Working with that person is like business relationship nirvana.
Then there is the other side of the coin. Unfortunately, most of us can probably also think of a co-worker who we have a really difficult time working with – even on stuff that’s supposed to be easy. You always seem to be at odds. Nothing comes easily. Your head hurts after most interactions.
What’s behind this?
It could be competence (or lack thereof). Many of us have had challenges working with others because it seems as though the other person just doesn’t know what he or she is doing (or he or she may think that we don’t know what we are doing). Many times, though, we find ourselves having a hard time working with someone who we know is actually very competent.
Interpersonal skills are also huge drivers of why some business relationships feel easy and others feel hard. It isn’t as black and white as saying that bad interpersonal skills are always behind why working with that person is hard, though. In many cases, you may have experienced a challenging working relationship with someone even if you acknowledged that his or her interpersonal skills were pretty decent (and yours were, too, of course).
If it isn’t a competence problem and it isn’t that the other person has the interpersonal skills of rhinoceros, what is behind why it still feels hard?
What it often comes down to is that you simply see the world through very different lenses. Here are two common examples of how this plays out.
Some of you are hard drivers who work fast, make bold moves, and push for results and outcomes (and lots of them) quickly.
On the flip side, some of you feel better working at a methodical pace. You want to move towards outcomes and results also, of course, but with more focus and time for thoughtful reflection on how you get those results and move from point A to point B.
Some of you may be somewhere in the middle.
None of these pace preferences are good or bad. They simply represent your comfort zone. When you work with someone who shares your comfort zone around pace – whether that be fast or slow – it feels easy. When you don’t share the pacing comfort zone, it feels hard.
A person in the methodical camp may feel like the co-worker who works fast isn’t thinking about the implications of fast action. A person in the fast pace camp may feel like the methodical person thinks too much at the expense of action and getting to outcomes.
People Orientation Vs. Problem Orientation
Some of you are oriented towards thinking about people first. Some of you are oriented towards thinking about problems first and removing people from that equation. For the second group, it isn’t that you are heartless and don’t care about people. It’s just not the first thing you are thinking about when solving business challenges.
Similar to pace, neither orientation is right or wrong. The orientation simply represents your priority focus. And similar to pace, when you work with someone who shares that priority focus, you feel comfortable. When you work with someone who does not share that priority focus, you feel as though you are not aligned.
Lack of priority alignment can make you feel like it is hard to work with that person.
Filling Blind Spots Is Necessary But Often Feels Straining
What do you do if you end up not sharing pace or orientation with someone else? In other words, you want to go slow and methodical and focus on people. He or she wants to go fast with a focus on business challenges.
Do you give up and go home? I’ve wanted to at times. These are often the people we feel we have the hardest time working with. Ironically, these are also the people who might just be the most important people for us to work with. Here’s why: they fill our blind spots.
For example, if I’m fast and furious with a focus on “the business thing”, my blind spots might be the details of execution and the implications on people. My exact “yin to my yang” is the person who wants to go slow, methodical, and detailed with a focus on people. What I’m missing as key focus points is going to be exactly what he or she is going to catch and pick up as his or her main focal points. It works the other direction, too.
So the next time you are having a hard time working with “that other” person, it might not be that they are totally incompetent or have horrible social skills. It might just be that he or she is just filling in everything that you are missing. It may not feel comfortable or easy, but it might be really valuable.
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