Give It Your Best Shot

There is no doubt that life is full of surprises. Such has been my experience. I have had great days and days that were shot to hell. The internal spirit, call it your muse, guide or your pilot, is an ever present source of doses of motivation. Many of us heed its advice and then there are those who are in conflict with what it prescribes.

Retrieved from Google Images, August 30, 2013

On this journey, the professional one, I have been granted the opportunity to be who I am destined to be. Even in the embryonic stages of work life, I have been encouraged by those who mentored me to not extract an ounce of what they, at the time, thought to be great competencies to own. There were however a number of personalities that were in conflict with my ‘effervescent charm’ and to say the least were not inclined to embrace my perspectives about life. Undaunted by traditional responses to my untraditional approach to life, I continued to use what I suppose are gifts, to carve out a name for myself in the world of mediation and conflict management.As I matured in the ‘game’, I learnt to adapt and to be skillful in the art of dialogue. Humans are peculiar creatures, with no two person being exactly alike. Our socialization, cultural heritage, experiences, and education give rise to perspectives that come into conflict with someone else’s. Recognizing this in its rawest sense, was not lost to me and so as I made the transition from a subordinate to one who was given the authority to lead, I began to dissect how my own communication could incite or reduce the instances of tense discussions. The game, as I like to refer to the work environment, is a live combustible arena, which can be easily set ablaze if there is limited value placed on cultivating an environment that thrives on active communication. I did not know it then, but looking back, my early stint in conciliation, developed three attributes that I have now come to value.

The first is the power of listening. Listening, and by this I mean engaged attention on the narrator, allowed me to live the experience of the person with whom I spoke. I caught onto the non-verbal cues that added more to the mix of rich dialogue and helped me to progress the relationship towards trust and other positive outcomes. In the capacity of a leader, listening is an important tool to extracting information critical to any issue. Quickly diving in to dispense advice without ensuring that the other participant (s) has/have shared enough data, is a  sure way of missing the issue that provides a challenge. I have had to tune this skill as my natural affinity is to jump into dialogue, foot first. By taming the wild beast within, I was able to master how I used the information provided to minimize the nasty products of conflict.

The second attribute is to be assertive. Being assertive, particularly in some cultures can be seen as a disrespectful characteristic. Think of how you address persons who are in authoritative roles and the kind of discussions you pursue with them. In the work environment, are you willing to point out the challenges with a particular decision and to offer a counter solution that would yield better results? I have sat in many meetings, and observed the behaviors of men and women who are experts in their field, sit and accept decisions that are flawed. Raising an item for discussion which would run counter to their CEO’s imaginings, is simply out of the question. There are a range of reasons why asserting themselves is not the easiest thing to achieve. I have had discussions to this end with countless persons in the professional environment and the reason given is they need to be employed. Bread and butter narratives continue to be an excuse for challenging the ill-conceived ideas. I need to reinforce that being assertive is not to be mistaken for rude and petulant behavior. This idea I am promoting is of course guided by my socialization both in the context of my primary environment and all the secondary environments that have solidified my experiences. An assertive person, in the context of the business sphere, speaks to one, who in a bold and self-confident manner, gives voice to issues that may have been overlooked or not thoroughly analyzed in the pursuit of the enterprise’s goals.

Retrieved from Google Images, August 30, 2013

The third attribute addresses the need to be results driven. What kind of reputation are you seeking in the world of business? Are you reliable? As a young professional, we often waste valuable time in establishing who we are and what we are about. An enterprise sources talent that will allow it to survive. Productive companies have one thing in common. They boast a team of high performers who are excellent at driving results. The key business objectives, if communicated throughout the organization can be realized. I am cognizant that there are internal and external activities that may impact, sometimes severely on the outcome. That being said however, does not negate the fact that the contributions of talent, when pooled together, drive profits. Being results focused is having an awareness that what you do now will impact not just on your own survival but also that of the larger community.

As difficult and demanding as the professional environment is, the opportunity exists to define how you will shape the future of that organization. The choice is yours, show up and exceed expectations or show up and do the basics. Either way, there is an outcome.

Copyright SHC 2013

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