One of the toughest things about managing people issues is finding the center. This isn’t because it’s hard to understand what the middle ground looks like in a dispute, but because not all positions are equally valid. Everyone thinks they are right… but of course they’re not. Not even close.
…And so to be a truly great people manager I think you have to be able to empathize (or at least sympathize) with everyone’s point of view whilst still being able to see how everything fits into the big picture. This is of course not easy; we all naturally see the world through biased lenses, and even when we are able to isolate our biases there are many external forces that work against our efforts. Perhaps principle among them, many people that we interact with everyday can’t see past their own experiences. And so the lens through which they see the world impacts other things as a matter of course. This means that even as we try to be even handed in our judgements there are powerful forces working against that goal.
…Maybe this means that to truly understand others we have to understand ourselves. It means understanding the impact we have on others. It means understanding how our surroundings impact the way we perceive things.
But if this is true then seeing the bigger picture requires us to understand that the center – like our perspectives – is always changing. It is governed by the moment. New information changes it. What is right for a person – or group of people – today may not be right for them tomorrow. I think this is okay… but if ‘right’ is often a moving target then finding the center isn’t about pinpointing a target.
It’s about managing where to settle in the grey.