Last week I was working with a corporate client on transition issues within their firm. The company president, “Ted,” was lamenting to me that his staff was far too lax on quality control. They had prepared material both for internal review and for external distribution that was not correct and had errors. Ted was expressing his concern that each individual in his firm didn’t have a sense of pride for what they do, but rather seemed to do the minimum to get by. He felt their behavior reflected badly on his firm. “How do we instill a culture of accountability,” he asked, “where people care about the quality of what they do?”
His question was a good one, and I felt I should extend it to people in general. How do we ensure higher quality standards in our approach with others so that we give them the best of ourselves – instead of the minimum we can offer? Working to understand other people – and to communicate with others in an effective manner – means taking the time to consider how effective we are, and where we can make changes to be more effective.
What if, in our interactions with others, we listened with the highest quality standard we could apply? Could we apply our highest quality standard to the way we communicate with others? What would it mean? It would take effort – focus and concentration. It would mean we don’t give others short shrift in our conversation. We don’t look at our BlackBerry or iPhone while we are talking to them. We don’t multi-task by reading emails when we are having a phone conversation. We would give another person our undivided attention. We would give them our emotional energy while we were engaging with them.
And if we wanted to apply high quality across the board, it would mean taking the time to be courteous and kind to those we don’t know very well. We might say “hello” to someone on the street when we pass by. We would say “thank you” to the clerk who cashes us out at the supermarket. We would convey our thoughts and ideas to someone with whom we disagree in a respectful manner, understanding that they are also entitled to their own opinion.
If we started to apply these standards, we might find ourselves being more understanding about another’s situation. We would not only feel empathetic, but we would show empathy to others in many different ways. The other people in our universe would know we weren’t skimping but rather were directing our energy their way. It wouldn’t just be a situation where they thought of us as “nice” but rather that we were “in it” with them – caring, learning and listening for understanding.
Our busy lives often don’t allow for the kind of high quality standards that our relationships – and the other people around us – really deserve. We feel we simply can’t take the time to put the energy on a standard of relationship that we could label “high quality.” But this week, think about whether you could put a “High Quality” stamp in your dealings with others. If you can’t, think about how you can make a shift to get to a higher quality standard in your approach!