Chapter 9: Peers
After her discussion with her employees Scarlett thought about the colleagues she would want to target for lunches. She decided to start with Miles. They always had a cordial relationship and he had many good relationships with other colleagues at the firm.
She went into the lunch with a bit of trepidation after her talk with Melissa. “So how was that case a few weeks ago that you were stressed about?” Scarlett asked remembering their conversation.
“Oh it actually was a crazy case. We had a few problems that took a couple of extra days to work through, but it was worth it because in the end, as we won!”
“I’m glad it worked out.”
They bantered back and forth a bit before Scarlett finally brought up why she had asked him to lunch. “I have been realizing that I have not been taking the time to really get to know you and some of our other colleagues at work, and wanted to change that. I have started to understand the importance of building stronger relationships with peers, and I wanted to start with you because you are so good at building relationships with our colleagues.” Scarlett said.
“Well, I’m glad you reached out. I was always curious to learn more about you.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure,” he replied.
“What do people think of me at work? I want an honest opinion, especially from our peer level. I had a 360 review done, and some of the feedback was a surprise to me. That’s part of the reason I want to get to know people better. I feel like the impression they have of me and how I see myself are two different things, and I want to balance that out a little bit.”
“Well,” Miles started slowly, “I think people respect you and the work that you do, but do feel like sometimes you might be a bit abrupt and only focused on work, and therefore they don’t really feel like they can joke around with you or have fun with you.” Miles wondered if his honesty would result in their lunch being cut short.
But Scarlett rose to the occasion. “Yes, I guess I can see how people may perceive me that way. I have been so motivated to become partner by a certain timeframe that I may have somewhat overlooked the importance of connecting with people,” Scarlett said.
“Yeah, the people part can be the hardest part. I realized that early when my first job out of college was a sales job. Sales is all about working with people, creating relationships, and knowing how to persuade them and influence them in positive ways. Even though I went into law after that, I took those lessons to heart; getting along with people and working with them is essential for success, no matter what the field.”
“Miles, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the people skills aren’t my forte. I always believed my most important job was to get the work done and make the clients happy. I knew how to do the work, but training my employees always felt as if it took too much time. So if they didn’t do it as well as I did, I just took the work away from them, which never allowed them to learn.”
Miles was nodding his head knowingly.
“You’ve been so nice to indulge my questions—I hope you don’t mind another. How do you make the upfront training take less time? I’m swamped—I’m sure you are, too—and I don’t have as much time to train anyone new as I would like.”
“Well, it does take more time and effort in the beginning, but it’s worth the initial investment because as you now know the payback comes back in spades. Don’t you have someone on your team now? Steve, right? If so, couldn’t he help train someone new as well?”
“Yes, I have talked to him a bit about it, and I think he would actually enjoy it, but there are also some things that I will of course need to show a new person.” She paused. “I will work on my patience a little bit. Honestly, I have started to open up with them as I am doing with you and seeing the changes in my relationships with Steve, as well as the openness and honesty it’s bringing with Melissa is a big eye opener about what it could really be like to hire someone new and spend time working with them. It could actually be fun.”
Miles smiled. “I never thought I would hear you say that!”
“Me neither.” She smiled back. “Thanks, Miles. I appreciate your honesty and openness. It really means a lot to me to be able to talk about these kinds of things with someone else who is going through a similar experience.”
“No problem. Whenever you want to talk, drop on by or let’s have lunch again.”
They walked back to the office, and Scarlett felt good. For so long she had really shut herself off and kept a tightly closed attitude toward her coworkers. Now she realized how helpful it was to have someone to confide in at the office, get advice from; annd bounce ideas off of at the same level. She was going to thank Jack when she saw him the next time.
Monica Thakrar has over 18 years experience in business focused mainly on strategy, change management, leadership development, training and coaching resulting in successful implementations of large scale transformation programs.