“You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
From the book “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (1926-2016)
This quote is a derivation of an old Cherokee proverb which states:
“Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”
What does this old Native North American proverb mean to managers?
Have you ever worked for a manager that tells you to do something but does not understand the situation because they have “never been or done that” before and this annoys you?
As managers of people we must be careful not to fall into this trap. Our staff will think we lack empathy, are incompetent or a poor manager. Certainly, in recent times many politicians on both sides of the political divide in Australia have entered politics as political advisers, staffers and trade union officials and have never run a business or worked in the private sector. Other examples are consultants advising on a course of action even though they have no practical experience in the area.
This situation was illustrated recently when I took an elderly friend who uses a walking frame to our local multi-level shopping centre. He was unable to use the stairs and required an elevator. We found out that the elevators were at the opposite ends of the shopping centre. This meant walking further than more able- bodied people. I would never have realised this issue existed if I had not experienced it for myself. I now realise why he was reluctant to visit this particular shopping centre.
As this example shows you should try and understand someone before criticising them, or make them do something that is unreasonable or very difficult unless you understand their experiences and challenges.
Can you remember the last time you did this?
As managers we are all guilty of this at times. The challenge is to limit this behavior as much as possible.