I don’t like that guy and I’m not going to work with him

Let me tell you a story.

I came up through the Navy (and made seven deployments during the Cold War).

Then, I led businesses for 25 years.

Here’s a big lesson I figured out about leadership from my years in the Navy:

Think about a submarine. When you go out to sea, you’re gone for months at a time and you’re stuck with the crew that goes out to sea with you. You have to learn to get along with people because you’re not going to get any new people.

There’s no firing somebody to get someone else.

So, you find ways to work with people you don’t like, don’t trust, or don’t particularly care to be around. Because that’s what it takes to get the job done. In corporate America, it’s easy to say, “Oh, I don’t like that guy. I’m not going to work with him.” Well, in the Navy, you didn’t have that choice!

It gives you a unique perspective.

You learn skills you wouldn’t otherwise.

Besides that, in the Navy, if we don’t all do our job, people die. If the boat goes down, we all go down with it. So there was a real focus on competence in everything you did.

Do you see that in the civilian world?

Rarely.

Yet they’re not that different in some ways. In business, we’re all “in the same boat”. Pun intended. That’s because the success of the business is driven by its people. How much benefit, profit, mutual appreciation, and self-satisfaction for a job well done there is to go around depends precisely on everyone doing their jobs when they’re supposed to!

That doesn’t mean you forfeit your right to fire people if it isn’t working out.

Just don’t be so quick to dismiss them.

People you “don’t like” often have the most to offer.

I know it sounds strange, but it’s true.

A leader’s job is to pull the best out of the jumbled mix of personality types and get them working in harmony toward a goal. And recalling my submarine example can help. Although yours may not seem like it’s a “life or death” situation – metaphorically, it is. You’re just not used to thinking of it that way.

It’s literally THE difference between success and failure sometimes.

And MOST of your success in any venture or job will come from your ability to deal with the people involved.

Never forget it.

Bottom line:

We’re all busy. But you’re never too busy to lead. Take the time to get to know your people, find out what makes them “tick”. Having the pulse on your players and knowing how to engage them is the secret to accomplishing more with less…and the key to survival in today’s competitive business world.

If you liked this, you’ll love my book, I have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following.