In the play, No Exit, by the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, three people find themselves in the afterlife. They are trapped in a small room with no doors and no mirrors, and the windows are covered in brick. Little by little, it dawns on them that hell isn’t fire and brimstone or the torture chamber they imagined it to be. Instead, hell is other people.
How often do you work with people who bug the you know what out of you? Maybe it’s your annoying coworker who complains about everything. Or it’s your customer who insists on unrealistic demands. Perhaps it’s an employee who continually drops the ball or your controlling, micromanaging boss.
When confronted with people like this, if you’re anything like me, your first reaction is to blame and insist that someone (other than you) needs to change. “Can’t you just get over it?” “When will you stop talking and start listening?” “Why can’t you be more responsible?” “Things would be so much easier if you weren’t so controlling, or demanding, or temperamental, or arrogant, or impatient, or disorganized, or __________ .“ (Fill-in the blank with the personality trait that irritates you the most.)
I’ve heard similar sentiments over the past 21 years as Chief People Officer for FranklinCovey, a company focused on improving human performance in the workplace. Think of all the time and effort you’ve spent trying to fix other people. Has it worked? While we’d like to believe we’re successful at changing others, we’re usually not. An “outside-in” approach to changing others is a futile investment that yields little to no return.
So, what do we do when our attempts fail? We move to the next “room” where we find another group of people that frustrate the you-know-what out of us all over again! Interestingly, the room in Sartre’s hell has no mirrors. Even if people wanted to look at themselves, they couldn’t. So, the opportunity for self-reflection is lost, and the relationships continue to disintegrate.
In my role as CPO, I’m viewed as the facilitator for our company’s culture. It’s one of the greatest privileges I’ve ever had. In that role, I’ve been able to draw from the hundreds of principles and tools found in our world-class solutions. Recently, I was asked to write a book about the best practices I use when coaching others to build trust, accelerate relationships, advance their careers, solve problems, innovate, and deal effectively with change to create strong work cultures. At the core of every best practice I chose was a principle found in my favorite quote by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, one of our company’s founders, and author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “All meaningful change comes from the inside out.” In order to change the world (and others), we must first change ourselves.
It’s with this fundamental truth that I wrote Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work. These 15 practices make all the difference in creating successful relationships—thus, transforming our rooms of “hell” into the paradise they can and are meant to be.
Join Todd Davis for a Get Better webcast where he describes individual practices in detail, the downside of not living them, and offer a few ideas on how you can apply them immediately to the relationships that matter most to you.
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