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Appreciate the flipside

Appreciate the flipside

Most businesspeople are familiar with the Pareto principle, which states that 80 percent of the outputs come from 20 percent of the inputs. In organizational life this means that 80 percent of your sales are generated by 20 percent of your customers, and 80 percent of your problems are created by 20 percent of the staff.

However, I’d like to reflect on this principle from a more personal point of view. What if 80 percent of what you love about a person is driven by the 20 percent you hate?

It sounds unsettling, I know. But consider the character and personality qualities of a good friend, a favorite boss or your most productive employee. Don’t you find you love everything about them except this one point of irritation? If they could just lose “that one thing,” then everything else would be great.

Yet, take a moment to think about that thing. What makes it irritating? What would happen if you could change it?

When you hire a new employee, from the start you’ve found value in his or her unique skillsets: his or her innate relational insight, high ethical standards or superior communication skills. But everything we love about a person has a flipside. Amidst the accolades over relational insight, we begin to discover a preoccupation with how people “feel” about things. While appreciating the high ethics we begin to see a stickler for policies and procedures. In the valuing of communication capacity we find a person who “never shuts up.” Over time, that flipside becomes the thing we hate.

To illustrate that point, a couple of friends have graciously given me permission to be vulnerable with their lives.

I have the good fortune of working on the board for the Heart of Missouri United Way. Tim Rich was formerly the executive director. He is a visionary leader, one who isn’t afraid to try new things. He likes thinking outside the box, and we all love this about him.

When the new “Community Impact Initiative” was launched several years ago, we knew Rich was exactly the guy for the job. But in its implementation, what were the criticisms?

  • We’re moving too fast!
  • There’s not enough credence given to previous ways of doing things!
  • There’s not enough attention to the details!

The very skills and sensitivities that made Rich good for launching the new initiative also had a flipside that left him open to criticism in the implementation. The 80 percent we love has a flipside (and we invariably don’t like that other 20 percent).

But here’s the thing: If we could change the 20 percent we hate, wouldn’t that put the 80 percent we love at risk, too?

I have another good friend who’s a noted attorney in town. He’s helped us on numerous projects around Woodcrest, some of which required his capacities as a great legal mind. Dan Simon is smart, experienced, thorough and well-versed in many facets of property and zoning law. When I have a question or concern, he answers it (addressing every conceivable angle of the concern).

Have you ever received an email from Simon? I think the official term is being “Simonized.”

I could ask him to cut to the bottom line. I could ask him to keep his analysis to less than three pages. And I’m sure if I pestered him often enough, he would be gracious and accommodate my request. But what would I lose? The reason I keep coming back to him is because he knows his stuff. If I want to benefit from the 80 percent I love, I probably need to be ready to put up with something I don’t particularly like.

And that is the real key.

Great workplace relationships require grace and disciplined focus. If you want to enjoy the benefits of what you love, then keep the 80 percent the primary point of focus, and grow in your grace capacity for the 20 percent that’s not so fun.

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