CEO Mike walked into my office a couple of days ago and told me something so weird it inspired me. And here’s the secret- it’s about him, and it’s about you. And you won’t like it. Here it is. Read it and you will never forget it.
CEO Mike once described me as a ‘tricky character’ to an external supplier who was about to deal with me. I did not like that descriptor, but with time accepted it. Why did I accept it? Because it is true, dammit. I was reminded of this when CEO Mike shared with me (“Hey- you could use this for Possums”) an insight in to human nature he’d just heard at breakfast from a Northern Englishman supply chain expert (I was having voluntary root canal work done so could not attend).
It’s an old expression that I have never paid attention to. But in its telling, CEO Mike reminded me that it is one of the most critical insights we need to know and accept if we are to work with and lead people, and manage ourselves. This is what that Northern Englishman said about you, about CEO Mike, and- yip- it’s absolutely fair to say, about me:
“There’s nowt so queer as folk.”
That’s it. Very simple. People are weird. The way they think, react, behave, decide, are motivated, inspired, irritated. The things that delight and infuriate. What slights and what boosts. What’s important, and what’s not. Every single person we deal with has their own unique weirdness. (And OF COURSE people are also absolutely wonderful and the most vital and critical key to our engaged, meaningful and inspired, love filled lives- but please, go with the flow of the intent here…thanks).
How many times have I heard successful agency leaders say, when reflecting on careers and ‘what’s next’: “I’d do it again if I did not have to deal with the people.”
So here’s the insight- recognize and accept that people are weird, and you are most likely the weirdest of the lot. I know I am. Crikey- I am weirdness on a double dose of crack. “Tricky character” is just about the most gentle thing CEO Mike could and has ever said about me.
So- now that we have ‘People Are Weird” branded into our brains, what to do about it?
- Recognise that everybody is different, and will react in their own way to circumstance. Be alert to that reality when dealing with an individual.
- Become an outstanding listener. Another CEO Mike insight: ”Listen to what is being MEANT, not to what is being said.”
- Put yourself in their shoes: as you are talking with them, try to see their reaction and the impact of the discussion on their reality and view of the world. It won’t be the same as yours. It makes absolute sense to them, from where they are sitting.
- Be kind. As Plato said, “Be kind, because everyone is fighting a tough battle.” And that includes you, and it includes me.
- And underpinning all of that, accept that you are a bit weird. To others, you are. Keep working hard to understand yourself, to understand why you react the way you do and feel the way you do. Sometimes it’s fine. Other times, you need to manage and control your own weirdness to ensure you get on with teams, colleagues, bosses, clients, families, friends.
We’ve been lucky at STW HQ amongst the most senior leadership team for a few years now because we’ve created what colleague Peter Cullinane calls ‘the mystical power of we’ : a strange chemistry created by diverse individuals who come together and stick as a team at a certain period of time. Special things happen. Big results are achieved. Lots of fun is had. It does not last forever. It is a special ‘force’.
My point here- you create ‘mystical power of we’ by recognizing that we’re all weird. Pay attention to ensuring your weirdness, and theirs, is managed and used to the over-powering benefit of all.
Is that weird? Probably.