Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Working with Others - the unofficial guidelines

I once heard this from a very wise man. If you want to have a good career, you need to learn on how to work with PEOPLE because all the jobs working with dogs or trees are already taken.

In essence, relationship and building networks are very important to our career. This is more important when one goes higher in the career ladder.

Coming from technical background, it is actually very challenging for me to understand and put this in practice. So, I get started by being more observant these days. Thus, I cannot resist coming up with the following guidelines , although I am no expert on these fields :

1. Do not Kiss Up, Kick Down

How cool is this? Peter was having an one-on-one talk with his direct, Jolin. His boss called on his office phone to request to talk to him. Peter replied, "I am sorry but I am having one-on-one session now. Can this wait?". The boss said sure and Peter had show to Jolin that he has put her as his priority, over his boss.

Or how about this? Janice was discussing an urgent problem with her team. The phone rang and Janice picked up the phone . She listened a bit and said "OK", then turned to the team of 3 people and said "I need to go. We will continue this later." Then, she walked out and into her boss room to discuss something that may be trivial compared to the problems that she had just put on hold. Instead of working on the urgent problems with her team, Janice had chosen to put her boss as her priority, never even asking her boss how urgent her boss need to talk to her or maybe it can wait. Maybe Janice knew the what her boss asked is very important and thus require her immediate attention. But, anyhow, it may be better if Janice can explain to her team that she has some urgent things to do, maybe some big clients are waiting for her.

It is hard to respect a person that show only his support for his boss , but bully and leave his team to survive the cold war on their own. But, actually, all of us have that nature . If not, we probably be "the people person" but never would be recognized by any of our bosses and get promoted.

2. Help each others, do not just think only about yourself or your team.

If you find yourself saying "This is not my job. The other team should do that" or "Other teams is not doing their jobs", then you need to seriously evaluate yourself. This is not a good attitude to promote teamwork. Teamwork is not only important in your own team but with other teams and other departments.

However, I need to add, it is terribly normal to THINK like that. But , my point here is - don't sound like that. We are no saint and thus, definitely we will have some sort of negative thinking - we will think some of the jobs need to be done by others. The solution - find a democratic way to delegate the work or to let the other team or department understand that they need to do that. And, of course, offer to help out. If you know more than they do, offer for a knowledge transfer session.

3. When there is problem, cover for others or help others cover themselves.

If you ever send an email to your colleague about him making a serious mistake which can be avoided if he is more careful and cc to his boss, you are making yourself an enemy. If others are making mistakes and it does not affect you, let them decide whether they want to tell their boss. If it affects you, you have to evaluate whether telling your boss will help improve the situation.

Sometimes you need to give others some chances. On other times, you need to be strict and let your or his boss know about the mistakes also. There is no golden rules for this, but one really need to be careful on what to cover and what to tell. But, remember this - no one want to be stripped naked. If they are naked, offer them some clothes. That will kinda warm them up . :)

4. Trust others and sometimes you just have to bend the rules a bit.

I recently have this experience of asking a colleague to help me to bend the rule a bit. I was doing some planning and need to access to a server to gather information. I had the login to the server before but was removed due to some audit clean-up. I have requested the access through the formal procedure. But I felt I do not want to wait, so I asked one of my colleague to help me login to the machine through LAN connection for me to access some files through the network. I explained what I need to do, which was just to access some files.

Me: Can you help me with this? blah blah blah....(explaining what I need to do and what objectives I want to achieve)
A: Can you ask this other person to help to gather the information? He knows that, right?
Me: I was halfway doing that. I finished gathering information on the other machines. It is not hard . So, I just want to get this done with and do not want to pass it around and delay it.
A: There are many things running there, you know which one to look for?
Me: Oh, it is quite clear. I just want some initial study. Details still need further exploring later and need help from other team.
A: I can give you the list of the filenames. (assuming that is what I want, but in fact, it is not)
Me: (a little bit frustrated and felt the resistance) Never mind, then. It is ok. I will settle it myself.

My devil self concluded this:
There is no trust from this person on me (maybe I have to seriously evaluate myself). Just sort of let you know, I actually have the authority to approve access to the servers. In this case, I can approve anyone to access that particular server. I felt a bit idiotic when I cannot be trusted to access to the server. Also, the questions A asked, make me feel like I do not know what I am doing or I am one of those people who will probably accidentally delete or move out some files and cause major havoc.

I shouldn't blame A, right? After all, he is just following policy. But, his non-trusting and too cautious nature made me realize that I maybe cannot understand and mix with him much.

At that moment, I told myself this - if this person need my personal help one day (not work related) , I probably will say NO. If you want to have a nice growing plant, you need to nurture it.

Just my devil self- maybe I need to improve my thinking.

Anyhow, why some of us are so cautious about things? Like other people will hurt us if we let them have too much information about us? For e.g. if some people do not dare to tell their colleagues which company they are going to even when asked point blank (my other friends encounter same things also so it is not my problem, really). I think they scared that someone will call up their new companies and talk bad about them. I wonder who would really do that?

I also learnt from a great manager that sometimes we need to bend the rules a bit - especially to help the people and getting things done. For e.g. if company policy forbid you to lend money to your people in your company, you do not need to lend. Give them money if you find that they are skipping lunches. If company policy dictates that HR should be the one who should call up the candidate for job offer, as an effective manager, you still need to call up the candidates to offer them the jobs yourself. But you can let HR call again after you have done that (since there is such policy) . If you need to bend the policy a little to be more effective and not causing any harms, do it. Period.

5. Lastly, Seek first to understand , then to be understood

Try to understand other people problems' before saying that something are easy to do or anyone can do that. Things may seem easy to you, but in fact it may not. If you do not start to understand the difficulties others are facing and asking like "Why it is so difficult?", then you better really find a job that work with the trees or dogs. Or you can always get all the things done by yourself. Is that possible? Haha, maybe.

Hope I am having all these right. I definitely behave like the fat devil sometimes. Please feel free to drop me comments. :)


autumnmusic said...

"I think they scared that someone will call up their new companies and talk bad about them. I wonder who would really do that?"

my ex-manager did that to one of the ex-staff.. -_-''' according to my ex-colleague, the staff actually argued quite a lot with the manager, maybe that's one of the reason. especially since then, nobody in the department dared to tell anyone which company he/she is heading when handing in the resign letter. such distrust, sad. but that's the hard truth about people nowadays, lack of trust coz too many cunning people with bad intentions around.

Susan said...

Oh, sorry. I really do not know there are such "unethical" person. Now I know.

But, sometimes, should be be too cautious about people because of certain minority evil people.

For e.g. we heard cases of corruptions and cheating in handling the donation money. Does that make us not to donate any money at all?

If everyone be too cautious of other people, this world will be a very hard place to live in. :)