Originally Published June 10, 2014
If we are honest with ourselves, we all have buttons . . . those things that might not seem like a big deal to other people, but which drive us crazy. Maybe someone interrupting others in a conversation pushes your buttons, or people who focus on the negative even in the best of situations. For me, it’s people who are chronically late. I’m not talking about a one-time unique circumstance (after all, life happens), I’m talking about those people who consistently think a deadline is a guideline, or that the start time of a meeting is a general target. In my book, persistent tardiness is rude and, especially in a work setting, missed deadlines are unprofessional. Now I realize our culture has gotten much more lax about such things . . . so call me a rebel, I believe punctuality is important.
The funny thing is, we have a tendency to try to hide our buttons, rather that letting those who work with us know what they are in advance. I don’t know, maybe people have this illusion that by the time you get to position of leadership you should be “button free.” Reality check — if there is someone out there who is immune to having buttons, I have yet to meet them. But buttons don’t need to be seen as a major character flaw to be hidden (provided you don’t have 47 of them, or they cause you to treat others badly), but rather as a part of your unique make-up just like your gifts and graces. In fact, trying to hide your buttons can have a negative impact for everyone involved. Think about it . . . you will likely get aggravated with those who have, perhaps unwittingly, repeatedly pushed your buttons, and they may be totally unaware they were doing something that bothered you.
How much better is it for those who work with me to know in advance that I’m a stickler for deadlines than to strain our relationship just because they don’t place the same value on timeliness that I do? Likewise, I will do things out of respect for my colleagues “quirks” not necessarily because those things are important to me, but because it makes working with them go much more smoothly.
Have you taken the time to learn the buttons of those you work with most closely? If not, you may be doing something that is silently driving them crazy. And while any single “button push” may not seem like a big deal, the cumulative affect can have a significant impact on your working relationship, and ultimately your organization’s success.
Being sensitive to people’s buttons may seem like a little thing that you don’t have time for, but the most effective leaders realize that it’s the little things that can have the greatest impact on undermining or energizing your efforts — buttons and all!