Seek First to Understand
One of the things that has been on my mind is the idea of motivation–what makes us LOSE motivation in particular. We asked this question in our Sales Coaching sessions recently and heard a lot of people say that “problems between coworkers or with customers” cause us to lose motivation. I think we can all relate to feeling down (or upset or angry or whatever your go-to emotion is in times of stress) when we don’t see eye to eye with a customer or a coworker.
One little nugget of wisdom that stays with me is the idea that we should “seek first to understand.” We all have our own ideas, experiences and, to be honest, baggage that we bring to any situation. And that baggage can cause us to act (and react) without first trying to understand the problem completely. I’ll give you an example.
My husband, Nate, and I were in an airport a couple of weeks ago trying to find the international terminal. We approached an airport official named Colette and were in the middle of getting directions when another official walked up and interrupted. Nate and I immediately backed up and my first instinct was to think how rude the interruption was and to wonder about the service training of airport officials (naturally). But a moment later, I overheard the women in conversation. It seemed that in the airport there had been some type of death that really impacted staff, and grief counselors were on their way to talk to everyone. I quickly grabbed Nate’s hand and we excused ourselves to mind our own business!
My initial judgment of the situation was wrong, the second lady hadn’t been rude. In fact, she was trying to support a grieving friend. How often is our initial judgment wrong? These people were strangers to me and I misjudged them. Do you ever find that maybe you’re judging your staff or coworkers, people you know and (hopefully) like, a little harshly?
If you have an interaction with someone that triggers some type of negative response; maybe they said or did something that you think is wrong, I encourage you to seek first to understand. Ask them what they mean by what they said, or why they made a particular decision for a guest (TIP: watch your tone when you do it). Often, what I HEAR people say isn’t even close to what they really meant, and I find that people really DO think about what they’re doing. They even make some really inspired decisions sometimes. So I try to understand the facts first and reserve judgment (and coaching) for afterward. I think that if you’ll try that, you’ll find people to be pretty smart, and they’ll, in turn, feel respected if you try to understand what they were thinking instead of just telling them they were wrong. And I think that mutual respect can be pretty motivating. What do you think?