Walk a Mile in my Shoes

ugly shoes

Walk a Mile in my Shoes
By Joe South 

If I could be you, if you could be me for just one hour
If we could find a way to get inside each other’s mind
If you could see you through my eyes instead of your ego
I believe you’d be surprised to see that you’ve been blind

Walk a mile in my shoes
Walk a mile in my shoes
Hey, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes

Chapter 2 – Polite Politics

I first met Michael Gladstone (IIBA CIO) in 2006 when we agreed to participate in a Business Analyst(BA) / Project Manager(PM) debate at the local Project Management Institute (PMI) chapter. Michael and I would form the business analyst team against an opposition of project managers. The topic was, “What is more important, a BA or a PM to the success of project outcomes”.

While the facilitator hoped for some humourous exchanges between the teams, the debate itself would be run professionally with opening remarks from each team followed by rebuttals. The audience would vote on the most compelling arguments at the end of the presentations. To make the debate more entertaining – and to stretch the abilities of the debate teams – the project managers would argue for the business analysts and Michael and I would make the case for project managers.

What a challenge! Not only would I have to develop a convincing case for project managers, Michael and I might win? I don’t like to lose but did I really want to win this argument? What did that say about the importance of business analysts? How could I possibly find reasons to have a project manager over a business analyst?

That’s when I realized that I had to turn the problem around – I had to “become” a project manager. Instead of looking at it from my viewpoint, I needed to see the situation from their perspective. After that, my points came together easily. I was ready to make my case for the project manager.

At the event, Michael Gladstone presented our opening remarks, followed by the opposing team. Taking their points into consideration, I presented our rebuttal, and they did the same. Both sides made excellent arguments. There was no clear winner. The choice of which role – BA or PM – was not obvious.

The debate provided me with a powerful lesson in politics. While I think I am right, other people may have very strong and valid reasons why they disagree. It is only when I walk in their “shoes” that I can appreciate and understand their reasoning and identify a middle ground that might support both sides.

How do you practice walking in someone else’s shoes? Learn to argue the other side. If you need an opponent, use a peer to help. People do have reasons. They may not seem rationale from your perspective but that doesn’t mean they are not legitimate.

Remember, there are always at least two sides to an issue or position. By understanding other viewpoints, you can help control the disagreement and possibly facilitate a positive outcome.

Epilogue:
Who won the debate? I am sad/happy to say that Michael and I lost. The project managers convinced the audience of project managers that the BA role was more critical!

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