As a consultant, I am used to supporting and leading teams of people that I do not know. Additionally, my name is not the most conventional American name. As a little kid in private school academic settings, I can remember people discounting or disliking me before they knew me. It happens. Sometimes people have prejudgments about people of a certain gender, race, state of origin, country of origin, with disabilities, with a different expression of sexuality, an unconventional style of dress, an accent, or even hairstyles. You cannot control what biases people bring to the table when they come to work with you.
What I have learned from making it to the second day of most of my chilly receptions is the following cliche’: Just Be Yourself. Show up as you. Show how you work; do what you were hired to do. Typically, by day 2 or day 21, people will have learned that a girl named Yuquan can be just as impactful as a guy named Bradley. For me, just being myself with my typical work ethic and follow-through has been enough, 95% of the time. (Disclaimer: This is my own informal survey.)
What about the 5% of the time when being yourself is not enough? What if, no matter what, they are just not that into you? Of course, I have only mentioned items that are outside of my control or matters of appearance. But, we have to consider other things as well. For example, what about things like how you work. I’m a very focused worker, and I aim to be a woman of my word. However, I crack jokes while I work – while I lead meetings. I value humor, and I think I am funny. I am sure everyone does not. I consciously temper my humor a little until I know my crowd. I am aware that some people find joking unprofessional.
The following are a few other things that might cause your new team to not be that into you:
People will not always appreciate how you get things done. Day 1 or Day 2 of an engagement, I meet with my project sponsor or project leader and ask directly about their work style and share mine. How do you prefer contact? In-person, via text, via email… “I like to have a one on one weekly meeting to share my focus areas for the week, does that work for you?” Do they leverage meetings to build consensus, or do they prefer for everyone to work independently and follow up outside of meeting settings?
Communication is typically the best salve for smoothing out differences in work style. Mostly, people just want to know that you are working on what they consider important and understand what angle you are working from. Having the right conversations can help you know early on what types of adjustments you may need to make for your new environment.
Sometimes there is a gap between the skills that you have and the skills that they need. Optimally, this should have been determined in key discussions before the engagement, but sometimes, needs and skills are misstated. You have to ask yourself, can the gap be closed in a short amount of time? What is the best thing for the mission? Once you recognize that this is a problem, it is time for transparent communication to minimize disappointment on both sides of the relationship.
I strive to keep a sense of order to my day. I like to workout, have time for quiet reflection, cook a healthy meal for my family, and fellowship with my family and friends. It keeps me fresh and innovative. I have had seasons of my work life where my work schedule did not allow for much of that. I have worked for a manager that started very early and ended pretty late and considered those who did not keep his hours not committed. In hindsight, I should have started how I planned to finish. My work style and hours would have been a good conversation earlier in that relationship.
As humans, we typically want the people around us to consider us valuable. We want them to like us. It is great when it happens, but sometimes it won’t. You will be in relationships and learn that someone is just not feeling you. That is OK.
- Show up as your authentic self each day, and do your best.
- Remain professional.
- Communicate and make sure that you are doing your best to serve your customer in the engagement.
It may work out beautifully, and it might not. Regardless, you will learn new things about yourself and get stronger. And when all else fails,
4. Remember that nothing lasts forever.