Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 6, Issue 28;   July 12, 2006: We Are All People

We Are All People

by

When a team works to solve a problem, it is the people of that team who do the work. Remembering that we're all people — and all different people — is an important key to success.
White water rafting

White water rafting. Photo courtesy U.S. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Most teams solve problems, and that means working together in meetings. We meet in conference rooms, in hallways, at copiers, in cafeterias, at vending machines, by telephone, in virtual meeting spaces, on airplanes, and even washrooms (though washroom meetings are vastly over-rated). Working together, we can sometimes forget that we're all people, and that we have a common objective — solving the problem.

Here are nine guidelines that might help us all to remember that when we work together to solve problems, we are all still people.

Assume that you still don't understand the problem
You're more likely to be open to new ideas if you accept that your understanding is incomplete. At any point, it's safest to assume that some subtleties have escaped you. See "Problem Defining and Problem Solving," Point Lookout for August 3, 2005, for more.
Nobody measures status accurately — including you
How you look to others doesn't matter much, because the few who do keep score are mostly counting their own chips, not yours. They do compare themselves to how they see you, but you can't control how they see you. And your perception of your own status is probably way off, too.
Engage
Waiting for permission or space to participate doesn't work. If you have a worthwhile contribution, make it available. But remember — no elbows. See "What to Do About Organizational Procrastination" for more.
Make space for everyone
When teams engage, and some people tend to dominate, they deprive the team of access to the contributions of others. Take responsibility for making space for everyone. See "Plopping," Point Lookout for October 22, 2003, for more.
Balance task and relationship
Solving You're more likely to be open
to new ideas if you accept
that your understanding
is incomplete
the problem by trashing relationships is failure. Preserving relationships at the expense of solving the problem is also failure. See "If You Weren't So Wrong So Often, I'd Agree with You," Point Lookout for May 8, 2002, for more.
Give it a rest
When we work too hard, we tire. We can lose our creative edge. We can hurt one another. To recover creativity and humanity, refresh yourselves. Take breaks. Work in a variety of formats. See "The Shower Effect: Sudden Insights," Point Lookout for January 25, 2006, for more.
Increasing pressure eventually causes turbulence
A calm river can handle only so much water. Beyond that, you get white water. A little pressure does help the team, but more leads to conflict, errors, turnover, stress diseases, divorces, and other bad stuff.
Have special procedures for emergencies
Usually, we have time for research, detailed discussion, and consensus decision-making. In emergencies, we don't. Time works against us. Have special procedures for "condition red." See "Declaring Condition Red," Point Lookout for August 22, 2001, for more.
Appreciate differences
We're all different. We approach problems differently. We see things differently. Our differences ensure that we take all relevant factors into account, and that we try a variety of approaches to solving problems. Those differences are a source of great strength. See "Appreciate Differences," Point Lookout for March 14, 2001, for more.

When next you meet with teammates, focus on one or two of these guidelines. If you see a chance to make things better, seize it. Go to top Top  Next issue: Workplace Myths: Motivating People  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

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See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness and Problem Solving and Creativity for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Prof. Tom PettigrewComing February 21: The Ultimate Attribution Error at Work
When we attribute the behavior of members of groups to some cause, either personal or situational, we tend to make systematic errors. Those errors can be expensive and avoidable. Available here and by RSS on February 21.
Daffodils of the variety Narcissus 'Barrett Browning'And on February 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: I
Briefly, when people exhibit narcissistic behavior they're engaging in activity that systematically places their own interests and welfare ahead of the interests and welfare of anyone or anything else. It's behavior that threatens the welfare of the organization and everyone employed there. Available here and by RSS on February 28.

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