APPLE OF MY EYE
Empathy is defined
as identification with and understanding of another's situation,
feelings, and motives. If we are going to be effective in having
our team work well together, it is important that each and every one
of us have empathy for one another. This is what I loosely call
"growing teamwork." We cultivate this skill of empathy by practicing
the art of looking at things from another person's point of view.
But some managers
say that the only thing that is important is to see the situation
from the company point of view, that is to say, from the boss's
viewpoint, who knows all and will say who will do what, when, and
how. This is the classic Taylor approach to doing work where the
boss thinks and all the other people just work.
In today's tough
marketplace it is important to utilize all the skills of all the
people. Things are getting so complex and moving so fast that no one
person can keep up with the fast pace that business must move today.
All of us are smarter that each of us. Every person on our team
comes to the task with different skills, experiences, and
background. It is important that we recognize all these diverse
skills and put them to good use.
Some have said that
a person is a person—all people are alike. Companies that do a good
job in today's fast-moving economy will invariably engage all their
people and put all of their diverse talents to work. A company I
know of in rural Arkansas told me that none of their workers had any
skills beyond just running the machines. However, one person in the
direct labor ranks was the second-highest ranking Boy Scout
volunteer leader in the state. Here was an employee who could, on
the weekend, plan and lead Boy Scouts on trips. Not only that, he
also had skills to motivate teenage boys to do good and be model
citizens. He had a wealth of skills that the company did not utilize
in any way until they started growing teamwork.
You can develop
that skill of empathy by paying attention to the people. Focus on
each individual and their background, culture, education, and
What skills does
each person bring to the task that is entirely different from
everyone else? Search out information about each person and treat
them as a valuable individual. As one person said to me, "It is
important to consider each person as the apple of my eye."
So, how do we
consider each and every person and become aware of their unique
ability to contribute? The answer is to listen to what the people
have to say. I do not mean just to listen to the words, but rather
to open up and practice the skill, perhaps the art, of listening. We
must pay close attention to not only the words but also the meaning
behind the words.
In order to have
communication, it is necessary to have both a sender and a receiver.
The theory of communication tells us that the goal is to establish
understanding between these two parities. The sender is the person
who has a wish that needs to be communicated to the receiver. There
are several ways the sender may choose to try to convey
understanding to the receiver including demonstrating, writing, and
speaking. We are going to look at the art of speaking.
language is a wonderful tool of communication. However, there are
many words and phrases we use every day that do not have very
specific meanings. For example, what do we mean by the words hurry,
quick, quality, and a host of other words that are open to lots of
You see, each
person speaks through a filter of their own background, culture,
and experiences. I know of an aircraft company where "quick
delivery" means two years. On the other hand I know of a vinyl
siding company where "quick" means manufacture and ship within 24
As a matter of
interest, here are several written statements that try to convey one
idea, but that in fact create quite a different thought in the mind
of the receiver:
• I had been
driving my car for 40 years when 1 fell asleep at the wheel and had
• Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree
that I do not have.
• That guy was all over the road; I had to swerve a number of times
before I hit him.
• The pedestrian had no idea which way to go so I ran over him.
These all create a
smile on our face, but do not communicate effectively on a police
traffic accident report.
To have effective
communication we need to have some sort of feedback loop that we use
to communicate back and forth between the sender and the receiver.
Please see figure 3. If our goal is understanding, and I think it is
when working on a team, then we must have this effective
communication. The receiver can gain understanding by repeating
back to the sender what she heard. She could also ask the sender to
elaborate on what he meant to say and repeat the thought another
way. She could also say such phrases as, "Did I hear you to say...",
"Do you mean...", or "Am I to understand... ."As you can tell, all
these ideas are grouped under the heading of a feedback loop where
the sender and the receiver have an ongoing dialogue.
is a skill that all of us must work hard to cultivate. All too
often, particularly in industry and business, a non-listener manager
will in fact finish a sentence for the sender. This practice not
only cuts off effective communication, but will also send the
message to a team that the members' opinions do not count.
What we really want
to do when growing teamwork is to pool together all the talents and
information from our team. This requires that each of us on the team
develop excellent listening skills. Then we can take the collective
skills and effort of all the people to move toward the vision of the
future that our team will be trying to achieve.
To Be Continued