Make Sure You Play Well With Others - Your Career Depends On It
Life would be very simple if everything were clearly defined and clean cut. No wiggle room, no grey area, nothing to figure out. Alas, the world does not work that way and your small business definitely does not.
While it's important to establish clear roles and responsibilities for people you employ, if you're a leader, it's also important to understand that it won't always be cut and dry. Sometimes you'll have to manage people who aren't your flat out subordinates.
The good news is not only is there a word to define that tricky area, there's an entire method to doing it well - it's managing sideways.
Think of some of the most famous and most successful executives. No matter the industry, most of these people got to where they are as much because of how well they managed subordinates and team members, and how they managed people that they are peers with - or even people who at once were ahead of them in the food chain.
Steve Jobs was a revolutionary force in the tech industry, but he couldn’t have been without working well with his founding partners, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. Wayne was much older than both Wozniak and Jobs and had more experience in computers and an as entrepreneur, so Jobs had to manage up a little in the early goings as well.
Now, if you’re up on your Steve Jobs/Apple history, you’re probably thinking that he’s an awful example of being able to manage up and sideways. And you’re right - Steve Jobs was essentially fired from his own company in the mid-90s for - you guessed it - doing an awful job of working well with peers.
Steve Jobs had quite a career turnaround thereafter because he was Steve Jobs and one of the most influential people in the 20th century. But, by most accounts, if it weren’t for his enormous talent, he would have been cast aside because he was so difficult to work with.
You want to be Steve Jobs, the talent; without being Steve Jobs, the guy whose peers try to squeeze out of his own organization.
The first step is making sure you listen and make an honest effort to work with and work for your peers. Just because a problem in the organization might be “someone else’s problem” doesn’t mean you should treat it that way. Learn what your partners have to deal with and find ways that you can help.
Next, when you need to ask someone that’s an equal to do something for you, be sure to watch how you phrase it. Ask them for their help on a project, and try to find ways that you can help them take care of something on their to-do list.
You can also endear yourself to your peers by showing that you care about their personal success and asking for honest feedback. If you care about their career and show that you’re willing to help, they’ll likely return the favor. Also, if you’re willing to ask for and graciously accept feedback and advice, they’ll respect what you do and be willing to take guidance from you.
Working with people is NOT easy, particularly when you might be placed in situations where roles and responsibilities aren’t clear. But it’s up to you to make sure you work well with others – it could cost you big if you don’t.