Put yourself in the other guy’s shoes

Dec 17, 2023

Being able to see things through the eyes of the people you work with and who work for you is one of the most critical leadership skills you can develop.

If you want to have a more successful AEC business – you want happier people working for you, better relationships with everyone else, and less daily stress – you had best learn how to put yourself in the “other guy’s" shoes.

Being able to see things through the eyes of the people you work with and who work for you is one of the most critical leadership skills you can develop. And yes, it is a skill you can develop.

Some people are naturally more empathetic than others. But even if that isn’t your tendency, there are tactics you can employ to improve your clarity on what other people are thinking, and that is going to help you meet their needs and expectations and deal with them better.

Let’s look at some of those:

  1. Learn to ask questions and listen to what the other guy is saying without being immediately defensive. Ask follow-up questions. Pay attention to all of the body language signals. Be attentive and take notes. Parrot back what you are hearing them say. It shows you are actually listening. I know this is hard (to not be defensive when people have what you consider to be faulty thinking), but it’s absolutely necessary. Stop. Listen. And learn.
  2. Get to really know your people. That means you have to spend time with them. Stop by their work spaces to check in on them. Take them with you to meet clients. Take them on trips to clients or job sites. Go out to lunch with them. Talk to them outside of work. Text them. Get to know what they are going through and what their thought processes are.
  3. Be a worker yourself. Don’t be one of those people who locks yourself away in your office and won’t get your hands dirty doing the actual work of the business. When you work alongside your people on revenue-generating work, you build trust and credibility with them. That’s going to lead them to be more open with you and create less of an “us vs. them” culture.
  4. Do anonymous surveys of your people. Constant polling on everything from where they want to work to how much they want to work to how they feel about the organization’s mission and vision are critical to improving your ability to see the world through their eyes. If you do this kind of regular polling and always ask some of the same questions, you can measure their responses over time and spot trends in their thinking.
  5. Don’t be one of those managers who only associates with other people at your level or higher. And keep your office door open and be tolerant of interruptions. Sure, you are busy and you need time to focus. But you also have to realize you are a manager and leader, and other people need you. Make THAT and those people’s needs the priority for the day. You are only going to be as successful as your team is. Clearing roadblocks for them and helping them solve any problem they want your help with is your job. Don’t make it an afterthought.

By the way, many of these tactics also work with clients and potential clients, as well as service providers to your firm. You can’t just be transactional and talk with them/see them when there is immediate business to attend to. You have to spend time on the relationship. That means checking in with them when there is absolutely no actual reason or need to do so. Ask questions not just about work topics but also personal ones. Call them or text them in off hours. Show you care and invest your time in other people and the multiplier effect of what you can accomplish will be phenomenal! 

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at mzweig@zweiggroup.com.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.