“Coach, facilitator, policeman, organizer, fixer, sergeant”, which would best describe your role in Quality”?
My immediate thought was, “this is a trick question”. So I responded by saying that to be successful in Quality you have to be a little of all of those characteristics and much more. I also said that you could add con- artist, juggler, martyr and comedian to that list as well. I’m not sure that was the answer the interviewer expected, but I did get offered the job.
As I look back on my career, I have to chuckle at all of the challenging work cultures I’ve been faced with. I’ve really had to be all of those descriptors above, and I’m thankful for those experiences because they’ve helped me to mature and allowed me to grow some pretty thick skin.
Going forward now, no matter what the situation is, there are two (2) characteristics that are constant in my approach to challenging cultures: Consistency and Respect.
First: Consistency. Your message has to be consistent otherwise, you won’t get the buy-in or respect from the organization. With that said, the level of effort needs to be consistent as well. You must maintain unwavering commitment no matter how challenging or recalcitrant the culture is.
Second: Respect. To me, this is the most important. You have to approach and treat people with respect. In one of my past jobs, I used to joke that when I first started, people saw me on a continuum with “Annoyance” on one side and “Threat” on the other. Not a very good place to be. At best, I was an annoyance. So I had to change that mentality; and I did it by building a rapport with people at all levels. Instead of trying to make large sweeping changes, I learned the current systems, built a solid relationship with those involved and then worked with (and not against) those involved to make the necessary changes. When you don’t treat people with respect, if you don’t listen to why they do what they do and use a “know-it-all” approach, they immediately feel somewhat insulted (and rightfully so). Once you lose their trust, it’s hard to get it back.
To conclude, working in Quality can be a challenging career path. Like the question at the top, it does require much versatility and you must wear many different emotional hats. I know at times the work can be contentious and difficult, but in my experience if you maintain consistency and treat people with respect, the tide will change. It may not happen overnight, but it will change in your favor.