| Was Jean-Paul Sartre Right?
...because this French philosopher once said, famously, in his one-act play, 'No Exit', that,
'Hell is other people.'
Admittedly this was in the context of three people actually ending up in Hell and each discovering that the other two had been cast as their executioner. Awkward. Sartre was making the point in his high-brow philosophical way that other people can define who we are, by who they are, and in doing so fix us into particular ways of being. They take away our freedom. If we let them.
Other people can be difficult and we can be difficult to them. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to get along. In fact, numerous studies indicate that, whether we like it or not, collaboration works -
'All of us is smarter that any of us,'
says global leader, Douglas Merrill. I wonder if they ever met. Merrill was 10 when Sartre died.
A Crash Course in People Management
If you lead or manage people, three principles can help get the best out of them - whether you are in charge of a class, a school, or a country or even if you are leading 3 of your friends on an adventure round the playground:
1. People are different: knowledge, skill, attitude, personality.
2. People will fall out, disagree and argue.
3. Diversity and disagreement are strengths.
1. Make sure you know, as far as possible: who knows what; who can do what and what each person is like; how they are likely to behave. Don't try to change any of it. Use it. For example, if someone is outspoken, make them the group spokesperson; if someone ask loads of questions, they get to be the group quality checker.
2. Groups and teams have a natural rhythm. It goes like this (according to Bruce Tuckman, 1963):
Forming - Storming - Norming - Performing - Adjourning.
We form a new team; it's exciting, everyone is motivated and finding out about each other, testing the water. Then reality hits. Other people see this thing differently to me. Are they right? Am I wrong? We fight, we argue, we fall out. We storm. Teams often break up at this point. If only they knew that this was a normal and expected part of maturing collaboration.
If the team holds it together, we get over our differences and we put some routines and standards in place. We are norming.
Things are going well now. What we learned in storming is brought to bear on raising the game. Constructive criticism gets the absolute best out of us all - rather than upset us like it did at storming. We are performing.
And then, when the job's done, team members go their separate ways. They adjourn.
3. Diversity is inevitable. Disagreement is inevitable. Accept them and use them.
And if that doesn't work, try again later. After all, Jean-Paul Sartre, the philosopher we met earlier, also said,
'Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.'