I’m sure you’ve heard the saying many times. But what does it actually mean? How does it really help? Does it help at all?
According to the Wiktionary, to put oneself in someone’s shoes means ‘to try to look at a situation from a different point of view, as if one were the other person. To empathise’.


Understanding why

How many conflicts have you had at work that are made worse by, or indeed stem from, an inability to see the issue from another’s perspective?

I can still remember from many years working in the trade services industry the constant battle between office and field staff. The never-ending “us” and “them” attitude.

But how does that kind of attitude affect the team and its productivity? How can a business succeed with such demoralising behaviour?

Before you say, “Yes, but… they never give us the paperwork back on time,” or, “Yes, but… they sent me to a PO Box instead of a proper address,” (and yes, it has happened), stop and think why you are in your respective roles. Think about why each of your responsibilities necessitates a collaborative effort: you are essentially working towards a common goal. When you adopt a positive and collaborative attitude, you will experience an increased cohesiveness of your team – with less misunderstanding and conflict – and will see the business thrive as a result.

I have personally digged for paperwork in technicians’ vans. Yes, it’s hard to understand why, in this instance, the paperwork wasn’t handed in. Sometimes it is truly hard to understand the why of a situation. However, when you try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and look at the situation from a different point of view, you may very well just find the reason why.

Changing your perspective

Why not take the concept of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes further: near literally, in fact. Why not try their job for an hour? Visit a site and experience firsthand the circumstances that field staff work in and the challenges they face. If this is not possible, at least ensure you communicate with each other. Stay positive and proactive through collaboration.

Come up with ideas to improve situations. For example, make the paperwork easy for the technician, and they will do it: give them enough information, and make sure the site and contact details are correct. Perhaps replace paper-based job cards with Connect and eForms to allow quick job updates and reduce the admin work in the office.

If you are a technician, remember the job is not done until the “paperwork” is done, whether it is manual or electronic.

When we all work efficiently, the business is able to invoice faster, improving cashflow, and everyone is happier in their own shoes.

If you want to change how you view situations, you could try:

  • Rotating some responsibilities within your area of work so you can understand each other’s roles and what it takes to get everything done.
  • Allowing others to help you with new ideas and improved processes. Being open to suggestions.
  • Asking how you can help, and asking for other people’s perspectives.
  • Showing that you care.
  • Remembering your feelings and being aware of your responses. Don’t judge – replace anger with empathy.
  • Choosing your attitude!

So, whose shoes will you be wearing today?