The Center Of The Universe
This article first appeared in IMPO's September 2013 issue.
A few of IMPO’s regular readers do a fantastic job of providing us with feedback. Recently, one of these readers – we'll call him Paul – sent me an email lamenting some of the big business-big labor tensions that had been peppering IMPOmag.com’s news section. Paul’s point was about compromise, and how give and take was the necessary component to everything — whether it be tense negotiations in the workplace, or even a discussion with your family about how to spend your Saturday.
“A lot of your magazine’s articles have an underlying theme that says when people get together and work as a team, they can accomplish amazing things. I totally believe that premise; I have lived it in several arenas of my life,” said Paul. “People write books about making teams and crossing adversarial boundaries. And it is a really simple premise that makes all this work: You are not the center of the universe.”
I enjoyed this turn of phrase, particularly since I had recently read about a cable outage in Fairfield, CT that resulted in numerous 911 calls because it occurred in the middle of an episode of “Breaking Bad.”
You are not the center of the universe. Never has this concept been required more.
More to Paul’s point: Teamwork is an underlying theme to much of what we cover in IMPO. I don’t see any way around it. An industrial facility doesn’t function without a team of people working together and, since that’s the foundation to its efficiency and profitability, the relationships between co-workers are arguably the most important threads holding things together.
Visualizing this network of success, I try to assess my own workplace behavior and look for self-centeredness. Have I been as patient as I can possibly be? Do I go out of my way often to make sure what I’m doing is being done in the most effective way possible? Do I ask for help when I need it? Most importantly — is improving our products and processes at the core of everything I do?
Think about this the next time you are about to react badly to a change in directive or process. Maybe the reason for the process revision or policy change is complex. And yet, I've seen it in many workplaces where folks are so reticent to change that they spend more time explaining why something can't be done than determining how it can. It's all about give and take, and IMPO reader Paul gave me a little bit to think about during one of the busiest summers of my career, when some discussions around internal projects were becoming tense and hurried.
To me, the idea behind "give and take" is enabling all parties to participate in a meaningful way in the discussion. I know from experience how difficult it is to work through a shared project when everyone involved has a slightly different goal. It can be hard not to push your own agenda. And though it's much easier said than done to not put yourself at the center of the universe, it's a critical step to moving process change out of the realm of the theoretical and into reality.
Keep writing, IMPO readers.
You can reach me at Anna.Wells@advantagemedia.com.