In our company, we work in an open-plan environment, commandeering empty exec office space to hold calls and meetings when all conference rooms are booked. When I did this last Tuesday, an interesting event occurred that later made me think about perception and judging by appearances.
I wished to introduce a new team member to an off–site product team and I happened to hotel in our Global Head’s office to do that. When I placed the call, the PM answering said, “Er, good morning Sir.” Anyone who knows me knows that “ma’am” is the preferred courtesy title to use.
Then it dawned on me. It was the phone I borrowed! Caller ID had me pegged wrong. We had a good laugh, yet I think there’s a lesson in this.
As Product professionals we all work with, discuss with, share time and often compete with all sorts of corporate types. But how often do we deal honestly and openly with the individual, rather than the title they wear?
As that PM was delighted to realize it was only I on the call and not the Global Head, we all can all realize greater collaboration by relating to the individual rather than pay homage to perceived notions about that individual, including titles, race, age, gender, rank, etc.
If we deal with the individual in that particular time and place, we move from making generalities and missing the mark, to being spot on. We connect, we collaborate, we win.
By making an effort to do this, besides making our offices more human friendly, I do believe there’d be a measureable uptick in productivity.
What’s not to like about that?
Practical application of the theory
Do you remember your first thought when you initially saw Susan Boyle?
Did you change your mind after she started to sing?
My guess is, if we decided that because she looked a bit odd, she couldn’t possibly be any good, we’d have missed enjoying that glorious voice, wouldn’t we?
That, my friend, is the danger of judging by appearances. Not to mention what it does to the person on the other side of the “judging”.