Over the years of working in government and then in higher education, as well as the years I have lived on this earth, I believe I know of one sure thing that keeps people from being successful, not only at work but in life. That’s their inability to get along with others. Like it or not, people skills are just as important, if not more important, than technical skills. In fact, you may not need any other skill when dealing with others than to skill of understanding how to get along with people. It amazes me when I see very smart people who find themselves isolated and wondering why. I have had such folks explain how they are feeling at work; they say no one includes them or they feel left out. When I move away all the peripheral, it becomes clear that the reasons they may feel the waythey do are because they haven’t learned the art of the dance.
That Art of the Dance is a slogan I came up with after watching a few people at work who said they felt isolated.
There was a person who was highly competent but he could not seem to gain the buy-in of his peers. It wasn’t that he didn’t get along with one person, he didn’t get along withany of them! I watched and determined that he did not set out to alienate them, but he did not have the emotional intelligence developed enough to figure out how to get them to accept him. He was very professional, highly intelligent, very candid, and easily took prisoners as he entered into his counterparts’ areas. It was his job to check on things; but he was checking on things in his peers’ areas. He had a job to do and he did it and did it well. What he neglected to think about was not what he had to do, but how he should go about doing it. Thus, he alienated himself from the entire leadership team.
Look, you may read this and think of someone you know who may have done the exact same thing this person had done. I found myself doing the same. One day he stopped in my office and asked me how did he had done in a particular meeting. It dawned on me that he valued input from someone he thought he could get friendly, yet candid, feedback from. I thought about every response because he was seeking help. I talked to him for an hour and gave him plenty of feedback. Finally, at one point, I looked at him and said, “You haven’t learned how to dance with your partners.” He looked at me and understood right away what I meant.
This is what I meant. We all come to the party (organization) with different skills, abilities, and knowledge. I think we all come wanting to do a good job and yes, we even want to be recognized for our contributions. The things we tend to rely on are those skills and abilities, sometimes never considering our delivery; never thinking about the benefits of having high emotional intelligence and most often never watching to see what steps our partners may be taking as we both dance around issues that need to be worked on together.
I don’t care how big we become; I don’t care how much we know, if people don’t think we care, we can ruin our ability to make an impact on them. If you haven’t figured out how to let others get pass your hard core that may come through in the way you speak, the way your act or the way you refuse to interact, they may walk off the dance floor and never return.
Before pushing your way forward, stop and observe. Watch your partner’s steps and learn how to dance well together.