A couple of years ago, I started a new job with a great company that was doing a lot of exciting projects. I was thrilled.
As part of my induction I was to meet with each of the business team leaders to gain an understanding of what their teams did and any issues they had.
Although I hadn’t worked in this industry before, I had significant similar process and system experience. I thought I had solutions to problems that this company didn’t even know it had.
The first group of meetings went well and I figured that getting to know these stakeholders was going to be a piece of cake. Next on my schedule was to meet with a key influencer within the department. I had no pre-conceived ideas about her and did no preparation prior to our chat.
The meeting started off OK but quickly turned sour. Given I was full of my own ego, I started offering her some solutions to problems I had assumed she was having. I could sense that she was growing irritated but I didn’t appreciate the full extent of what I had done.
Later that week my boss advised that my meeting with her had been a disaster. Her view was that I wasn’t interested in listening to her or understanding her team’s problems. Rather, I had formulated solutions (that were not asked for) to problems I didn’t understand.
It took many months to fix this situation – which took all of five minutes to create. I listened more and worked on small value-add initiatives that solved real business problems and, in turn, showed my value to the organisation. I worked hard to find balance. Although I didn’t want to come across as a know-it-all, I needed to provide the necessary leadership and consultancy to justify my position. After all, they were paying me to bring about change and improvement.
Since that disaster meeting, I now take a lot more time to get to know people and the issues facing them and their company before I offer my advice or opinion.
The lessons I learnt are:
- Listening and asking questions are a great way to get to know people
- What works for one organisation may not work for another
- It is easy to come across as having a big ego
- It is important to take negative feedback on-board and identify ways to address it quickly
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Article written by Elise Stevens, founder of Fix My Project Chaos