I’ve joined Stanwood about a month ago and as always, I tried to listen as much as possible, to get insights and to understand how the company works.
My mistake was to not proactively listen to people I selected but to go with the flow: to only talk with the people I was working with.
Being hired as a Project Manager, I mostly talked to project managers and even if I learned a lot from the people I talked to, there is a huge chunk of the company that I was missing: developers. But this is not what I want to talk about here.
Humans are emotional & biased
As always, we forget that we are humans and by our very definition, biased and emotional. When I joined the company, I wanted to create connections, I wanted to make friends, I wanted to get intimate with people, I wanted others to like me. And that’s absolutely fine, we all want that and it’s a legitimate goal to pursue.
The second thing that I wanted was to trust people. Joining a company is like landing in the desert. You want to define the territory. You want to know who likes what, who you can talk to about specific things, who will have your back, who has mixed feelings about you and so on.
In theory, this is fine but in practice, given the little samples of interactions I had since I just joined, I quickly defined people: this person will always have my back, this is the one who says the ugly truth, this is the one who doesn’t like me, this is the one who is right but no one listens to, …
Obviously, this is completely wrong but somehow I can’t avoid putting etiquettes on people. To me, it feels like it’s in our nature to want to define people even if it’s wrong.
Back to my story. After a few weeks of putting etiquettes on people, I had ended up with this very mixed feeling that things were actually not great at all, that people were leaving, not feeling well, unhappy and so on but that the management team was somehow not aware of it or unwilling to deal with it.
I felt like if this was the case, I had to investigate it and that it was part of my role to make the company better. So I started to confront my (false) beliefs to the reality through talking to people and the results where shocking.
We are always wrong
The guy I thought everyone hated was actually loved, things I thought people enjoyed were a big source of stress to them and every single issue was not due to any policy or decision taken, but solely due to communication issues: people misinterpreting each other.
The biggest problem in a company is people misinterpreting each other
And the reality is we will always misinterpret people because we are emotional beings who want to put things in a box: black or white. This leaves us with one simple solution: Always voluntarily misinterpret positively.
“Is this ready yet?” means “Hey! Have you had a chance to work on this?”
“ You’ve done x…” means “Hey! Can you take a look at this, there might be something wrong, thank you!”
“No.” means “Thanks for the idea but we won’t be able to do this. Let me know if you have further questions :)”
You get the idea. It makes me sound like a hippie but since we’ll always misinterpret, it’s the best way to avoid issues and be happy!