Friday, April 3, 2015

Reading The Back Story

Quite often, though we may work with people directly or indirectly for many hours over many days, we don't really know much about them outside of the narrow world of that work. Today, I had the occasion to talk to a co-worker and find out a little about where she came from, what she wants, and why she does what she does. In just fifteen minutes, I suddenly had a different picture than a year of daily co-working had given me, and because of that picture, a new perspective on her work, and on my own.

While it is always nice to get to know someone better, what struck me as interesting here was the amount of (I can't resist this soap word) back story we bring to whatever job we do. Why did we come to where we are now, and how did we get in? What past experiences influence how we react to things now? What do we really want, and what are we willing to do to get it?

As on a well-written soap opera, in life, there is usually a back story that drives the action that we see each day. We can certainly react to and work with just what we see--lots of work can get done that way. But when we take a moment to factor in back stories--our own, and those of our co-workers--we are likely to work better, and to be better as a team. We may all be motivated by doing a good job in the moment, but our individual back stories tend to determine what really motivates us, so it matters that people know them, so that we can motivate our teams accordingly.

Today, I got a little reminder that back story is much more than a soap opera term. It matters at least as much in life as it does on the screen. So, while we're facing things head on, we shouldn't forget to read the back story. It may turn out to be exactly what we need to know.

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