Friday, February 22, 2013

Equipment or People: Which do you prefer?

If you could spend all day working with with equipment or people, which would you pick?

Nearly every person in a recent workshop with technical people chose equipment. Why do you think people would prefer to work with equipment over people? Some said…
  • Equipment doesn’t talk
  • Equipment comes with instructions about how it works
  • Equipment either works or doesn’t work based on what you do
When you buy equipment, for example, a laptop, what do you want to know before the purchase? Usually we want to know how it was made, how to extend battery life, how much it will cost, how to make it work.

If you think about it, working with people is very similar to working with equipment. These days, equipment even talks back when you don’t work with it the right way. It doesn’t cuss or yell when you make a mistake, but it talks nonetheless.

If we would take time to learn about people before expecting things from them, just like we do a new laptop, our interactions could be so much better.

While people don’t come with instructions, there are basic rules of engagement that improve relationships when used. 
  1. Listen to understand the other person. Usually, people think they are listening when they really are just keeping their mouths shut while planning what to say when the other is done yapping.
  2. Discern the other person’s mood when interacting. Don’t approach someone who is stressed out about a deadline in a casual, nonchalant manner. Speed up, get to the bottom line, and let them get back to work.
  3. Figure out the other’s communication preference when interacting with them. What if your preference is to be very detailed but the other person prefers the bottom line? You share details about a process used and the results that led to your conclusions, while the other person wishes you would get to the conclusion. When they rush you along, you consider them rude. When you don’t get to the point, they consider you rude. Without even disagreeing about anything, conflict can occur because of the difference in preferences.
Just like equipment, people will work better if you treat them well. Laptops won’t do anything unless they are plugged in and turned on. People are the same way.

When I thought about my preference of working with people or equipment, I almost hyperventilated at the thought of having to work with equipment. I know how to program the DVR, set up a new phone, set up a laptop, build web sites, etc. I don’t enjoy doing those things and try to tackle only a few each year because they are exhausting. But, what happens when someone can’t do those things? They have to rely on others, they don’t get them in a timely manner, they waste time, or they might over-pay for products or set-up.

Most of the people in the workshop preferred to work with equipment over people. They might even feel exhausted if they have too much interaction with others, the way I feel about equipment. However, what happens when they don’t hone their interpersonal skills? The same things that happen when people don’t learn how to use equipment: waste time, money, energy.

Whatever your preference is, the bottom line is that you have to work with people. The good news is that it can be easier than you thought if you look at it the way you look at equipment: it will do what you want if you treat it well.

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