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See work from another angle(s)

Thanksgiving! A holiday with no gift giving requirements and a distribution of household labor (the cooking, the baking, cleaning the dishes, turkey carving, beer fetching, cocktail mixing…) where the expectations are inherently agreed upon.

It also gives many of us a reason to think about other people—a collective, country-wide exercise that happens on the same day each year.

And if you’ll pardon a blunt segue from the dinner table to the boardroom table, thinking about other people is something much of the workforce could do more often—and specifically thinking about work situations from the perspective of another.

Thinking about work situations from the perspective of a boss, employee, colleague, etc. is a critical tool that separates strategically-minded achievers from the rest of the workforce.

Because most of us rarely see the world from any other angle than our own. 

I was reminded of the idea this week while listening to Brian Koppelman interview Jenna Fischer—you might know her better as Pam from The Office—on his podcast The Moment. Fischer tells the story of sitting through a network test audition for a pilot episode of a new TV show in a room full of actors, writers, producers, and network executives.

An actor thinks everybody is just thinking about their performance and how good they are but in reality everyone has something at stake because when the actor goes in the room and starts performing the material if the actor isn’t “doing well” … I talk to writers and directors who are like “oh my god it’s me, I wrote wrong” or “I’ve directed that person wrong” … everybody is feeling the nerves in the room and that’s why those rooms are so tense I think because everybody thinks it’s about them but it’s about all of our parts.

The actor thinks it’s about them. The writer thinks it’s about them. The producer thinks it’s about them. The network executives definitely think it’s about them.

But of course it’s about everybody. The actor needs the writer and the producer. The writer needs the actor and the producer. The producer needs the actor and the writer. And everyone needs the network executives. The end product suffers if anyone loses sight of the intentions and motives of any other.

In the workplace we call the intentions and motives of other people an agenda. It’s usually used with a negative connotation but understanding another person’s agenda is key to achievement in the workplace. Knowing why other people are making the decisions they’re making will help you make your own. 

Lacking agenda awareness as you sit around a boardroom table is akin to arriving at the Thanksgiving dinner table with the intention of having a sensible political discussion. It could be bad for your relationships.

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