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Seeing a clear reflection of ourselves, others

Published: Friday, June 21, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

In his book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” Patrick Lencioni reminds us of a simple fact that is painfully obvious in our workplaces: “Human beings are messy, fallible creatures, and when you put enough of us in a room and ask us to work together, problems arise.”

So, how can we expect to achieve the competitive advantage that results from a healthy organizational culture if we look around and find our workplaces filled with Lencioni’s “fallible creatures”? Taking a good hard look in the mirror – at ourselves and at our co-workers – provides an excellent starting point.

What is it that you see when you look into the mirror? Are others seeing the same image that you do? Our ability to see a clear reflection starts with the relationship we have with our self which serves as the core foundation for all interactions with others, interactions that take place both inside and outside the workplace. To a significant degree our overall effectiveness depends on the ability to see actions and behaviors as others perceive them. From our standpoint, whether others get it right or wrong is less important than the fact that perception becomes the reality upon which others base their actions.

It certainly isn’t easy to see ourselves through the eyes of others; the reflection of behaviors we see in the mirror is colored distinctly with our own intentions. And while we may judge ourselves based on our intentions, others base their judgments solely on our actions.

To better understand what others see, invite co-workers, friends and loved ones to honestly share their reflections of your attitudes and actions. Remember that in soliciting feedback there is no right and no wrong, only what others observe and use as a basis for developing their opinion. Welcoming the perspectives of others may provide insights that can be used to adjust your performance. Repeating this process of appraisal over time builds the ability to view our actions through the mirror that others will use.

How does your team show up in the mirror? We want the mirror’s reflection of a team to be one of orderliness and efficiency as each team member adds their individual contribution to the advancement of the organization. However, as Lencioni reminds us, anytime we bring a group of people together it’s inevitable that some degree of interpersonal friction will result.

Responding to the fact that frequently the toughest part of any job is dealing with the people around you, authors Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster wrote “Working With You Is Killing Me.” Their book serves as a field guide to recognizing and freeing ourselves from emotional traps in the workplace. By working from the inside out you can learn to change your response to the actions of others. Time spent feeling angry, frustrated or trapped is time lost in pursuit of potential opportunities. As team members, we each have the ability and share the responsibility to contribute to changing our team’s reflection in the mirror from hazy to clear.

In the coming weeks the McHenry County College Workforce Training Program will be offering training sessions designed to help individuals and teams sharpen their reflections. You can learn more at www.shahcenter.mchenry.edu/catalyst.

• Catherine Jones is executive director of workforce, community and business programs for McHenry County College’s Shah Center. She can be reached at 815-459-7752 or at cjones@mchenry.edu.

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