I saw the new Mission: Impossible movie yesterday and was struck by how often Ethan Hunt, the hero played by Tom Cruise, stopped to see, empathize, and protect his team mates and the innocent bystanders of his action shenanigans. Seeing them as people, not as obstacles on his parkour course chasing bad guys.
It was a good reinforcement of some ideas from a book (recommended to me by Jennifer Daniels) called The Anatomy of Peace by the Arbinger Institute. In it, they provocatively call the objectifying of people as an act of violence itself, as thoughts precede behavior.
What does this have to do with sales and marketing alignment? Well, everything.
I have been writing for Forbes on the topic of alignment and customer-centricity, showcasing insights from different marketing, sales, and business leaders across the country, from brands big and small. I still have a lot to share (stay tuned for some great upcoming pieces), but even in these early weeks of my research I am struck with how often the problem that manifests as misalignment is one of perspective.
Harkening back to high school geometry, here is the step-by-step proof:
We can only solve problems we can see.
In frustration or impatience, we see each other as the problem.
When we see each other as the problem, we stop seeing the real problem.
As we don't see the problem as it truly is, we can never really solve it.
In a lesson today, Dr. Mark Brewer, reminded us that in relationships you can’t think “you are the problem” or “I am the problem,” you have to think “it’s you and me against the problem.”
When we see each other through the lens (or should I say the monocle) of the problem, we no longer see the person. They are the problem. They are objectified. They are a caricature without the complexities inherent in humanity. We see them and the issue in 2D. Over-simplified. And as a result, our minds are tuned to seek and find hardship. We are often chasing evidence of how we’ve been wronged. None of which is useful to problem solving.
In contrast, when we see the problem through the lenses of more than one expert (as you can when you are on the same side of the table, instead of opposite sides), the problem can be fully explored in 3D. The people remain people (not obstacles to overcome) and our minds are tuned to solutions and finding common ground.
We see what we seek.
This does not mean that sometimes our colleagues are not very good at their jobs or that some people are difficult to work alongside. There are times when people do have ill intensions or have broken our trust. Sometimes role changes or people moves are required to get to solution and this can be achieved with sensitivity and respect. But in any case, confronting reality, both the good and the bad, together leads to better outcomes in my experience.
I heard of an example recently where a high-performing executive at a prominent company decided to take a side step into a supporting role in recognition that the business needed something beyond what he could give. This highly admirable act demonstrates not only self-awareness and servant leadership, but also the commitment to face the truth and follow that truth to whatever conclusions are best for the business.
This kind of openness and frank communication can re-center the organization on the “why” of your business or project, what success looks like, and what is required to move forward.
Ray Padron recently shared a quote from Gail Hyatt which posed that “people lose their way, when they lose their why.” So true.
And ironically, the best way to find your “why” is to start with your “who.” After all, you can’t be obsessed about your customers, if you don’t know who they are. You can’t set priorities or align your time and resources to high-impact projects, if you don’t know who you are serving. You can't own your business, if you are seeking others to blame. And we can’t determine or achieve the “why” of our business without the people “who” are our colleagues, team mates, stakeholders, and co-collaborators.
Our mission, should we accept it, is to see people as people and to find a way together.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.