I’m a very “Point A to Point B” kind of person. It’s partially in my nature, and partially due to my time in the military. I want to have results so I can move onto the next thing. I’ve got stuff to do! Recently though, I’ve undergone some professional development that’s made me realize that soft skills aren’t something I can “get around to later in my career” – people skills are essential now, and at any age.
Throughout my career I’ve built relationships with all kinds of individuals in various roles. Usually these people are of some form of a “techie” role, especially in places where I’ve been under multiple layers of management. In the past I’ve let my work and the results of my professional suggestions and decisions speak for themselves. Thankfully I’ve had some pretty dang good results, but lately it’s become obvious that if I had gone a slightly different route in some of these situations that the end product would be much more palatable, and might even come about easier.
What’s that different route?
Simply realizing that people aren’t an obstacle to a quick result, but an opportunity to network and develop valuable allies in the workplace.
Learning this caused a huge shift in how I think. Really!
In the past if I found someone whom I didn’t immediately “click” with, they became an obstacle to my progress in my mind. Sometimes this meant I ended up deciding to go “over, under, or through” to accomplish my end goal instead of putting in extra work to be friendly and build trust and familiarity. No matter what short-term efficiencies this may have brought about, in the long-term it could do more harm than good. The result of that deviation from standard workplace processes can often affect personal perception as well as political clout. Not only that, but you’re having to work harder to accomplish your end goal. Knowing how to “ninja” things in the workplace is a valuable skill, but it is one that has to be done with discretion and should not be considered as your method of daily operation.
Instead of acting like Maverick from Top Gun on every project, build the team. Reach out to people in and around your workflow to build personal and professional connections. This not only makes the workplace more enjoyable, but it also can grease the wheels when you need help accomplishing a task.
Playing “Maverick” might get you a kill on Jester, but you’re going to get burned for operating below the hard deck and not working with your wingman.
“Crash and burn Mav, crash and burn.”