Identify the Human Factor

In much of my corporate consulting work I am asked to solve problems – my clients want to make more money, become more efficient or have a generally higher quality of life. There is so much written on goal setting, overcoming challenges, improving skills, etc. In fact, many of my larger clients spend thousands of dollars on training each year to help employees continue to learn. All of these methods are important and effective in their own way. However, one thing I often find overlooked by the companies I work with, and even the individuals I work for, is what I call “the human factor.” The human factor is the people component. It has to do with our psychological desires, our emotional reactions, our personal experiences and many other things. We may set a goal over and over again and find ourselves unable to reach it. We get frustrated and discouraged, and we set a new goal. Many times what we really need to do is to consider, “Why am I resisting accomplishing this?” “What is it about my thinking or my background that might be holding me back?” “What role do I play in my inability to get where I want to be?” In organizations, teams will get together to reach a project goal. Or the manager will pull the staff together to talk about how to accomplish whatever has been set in front of them for the quarter, or the year. They’ll discuss how to get it done, but they won’t talk about the interpersonal relationships between the team members. They may overlook the fact that poor communication and a lack of understanding about one another can often prevent the team from moving forward effectively.

When I work with a team, or a group of people together – including my students in my college classes, I ask them to talk first about the people aspect of their team. What are the work styles? What are the communication preferences? What “bugs” one person about people they’ve worked with? It’s as important to understand how the team will work together as it is to figure out what exactly the team needs to do. The human element can get in the way of implementing a new idea. I have learned this with my children, and it happens all of the time in the workplace, too. I may have a “great idea” (to me) that I am excited about doing with my children. But if I don’t take the time to involve them, ask their opinion and find out how they’d like to do it, my “great ideas” are often met with a lot of resistance! It’s the same in an organization – if the stakeholders aren’t identified, and their concerns aren’t considered, too much time is wasted fighting instead of succeeding. If you are trying to reach a goal, get something accomplished or generally change your behavior, consider the human element. As always, be watchful and aware about what’s happening.