A series of really fascinating conversations at work last week left me pondering this question: What’s important?
Of course, some things at work are important because they just are. Company policies that need to be followed. Job expectations that need to be met. But there are so many nuances that extend far beyond those easy black and white expectations that if we’re not careful we can end up with misunderstandings and miscommunication.
For instance, I may not think responding to emails in the same day that I receive them is important, yet someone awaiting a response from me might feel otherwise. Or, I may feel that communicating information at the start of a project is fine, yet someone else might be craving more consistent and ongoing communication about the work. I may feel it’s important to show up ten minutes prior to the start of a meeting, while others may be comfortable allowing time to flow more loosely. I may think it’s important to take a proper break in the middle of the workday, while others are comfortable working at their desks for 8 hours straight. I may think outward praise and recognition is important, while a co-worker might be uncomfortable in the spotlight. I may prefer one operating system while others on my team would rather use another. I’m sure you’ve heard a million examples like these, or maybe even experienced them yourself.
Who among us is right about what’s important, when it comes to those seemingly little things? Who gets to decide? And how on earth does any professional community find harmony in the midst of all these conflicting ideas?
Now, I happen to think our company is actually quite a harmonious, loving, giving group of people—in fact my co-worker Carla just wrote a great article on LinkedIn about our office. I love the people that I work with and the work that we do. But even in the strongest of relationships (especially in the strongest relationships—we take those the most for granted) we can unintentionally slow down progress or build resentments if we’re not careful to honor what’s important; not just what’s important to me, but what’s important to we.
Come to think of it, how much better would all of my relationships be if I started to pay closer attention to the “we” importance over the “me” importance? Because I suppose the truth of it is, we’re all right about what’s important, right? If I feel it’s important, than it’s important, because that's how I feel. Same goes for you. So rather than trying to figure out who gets to decide which one of us is more important, why not try to hold both as equal? Because in the end we just want to feel heard; we want to feel respected; we want to feel understood. And the best way to do that for each other is to listen and ask questions… to take the time to find out what each other wants. To take the time, period.
How can you take time to pay attention to the importance of “we” today?