Today’s guest post comes from Ben Magee, the Wake Forest Fellow who has worked with the Office of Personal and Career Development this past year. I asked him to share things he has learned in his first year after college for the benefit of our current graduating seniors and their parents.
Many recent graduates will go to work in jobs that require them to work on teams. What I have learned this year through being a member of a team is that working together with others is more than providing your technical skills or defined expertise to complete assigned tasks. Teamwork also involves influence and getting others to rally behind your ideas and recommendations; which is more challenging that you may think. Listed below are three ways that I’ve found helpful when attempting to influence those around me this year.
Stephen Covey, the author of The Seven Habits of High Effective People, recommends that we seek first to understand others and be understood second. The times I have truly listened to my coworkers before diving into what I think is the solution to a problem has proven to be the most fruitful in terms of my influence. I was eager to get things done when I first started. I mistakenly thought that if others would listen to me first, we could get our problems solved quickly. I have now come to understand that when I listen well, my co-workers may have already come with a solution, and even if my original view has not changed (I am not sure what this means or if it’s necessary here), my coworkers are much more willing to collaborate with me to accomplish the task at hand.
2. Use relevant language
People want to help you once they understand how the work or idea you have relates to their work and goals. I am the type of person who did a lot of math in my head as a kid, so I rarely wrote down my methodology to get the right answer. At work, I notice the more I can share the logic behind my ideas, the more I am able to help others understand my approach and garner their support. Using relevant language to demonstrate how an idea is connected to the office’s mission and goals or my colleagues goals or challenges is imperative to influence others.
3. Be flexible
I have learned that I use my preferences as a default for interacting with others. At times, this has inhibited my influence as my coworkers did not receive and think about the information the same way I did. A good skill to learn is how to adapt to the style of others. If someone always responds to emails within 24 hours, is 10 minutes early to every meeting, and is very formal in their interactions, I realized that they would appreciate my doing the same when I interacted with them. I also learned to find out how someone wants information reported. Do they care about the numbers? Do they like charts and tables or bullet point statements or is a lengthy written paragraph more appropriate? It is OK to ask about your coworkers style and you can learn much through observation too. The key is to know your own style and be willing to adapt to others.