Key Point: I can tell you that most times, when I have been in relationship difficulty, my immature ego has been a big part of the “drama.” Ego has an important role to play but it’s best when we are in control of it and not vice versa. The ego acts as a filter that provides us an interpretation of events and situations that we are involved in. Cindy Wigglesworth, author of SQ 21: The Twenty-One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence (I’ve blogged about her before) makes the following point about our ego and its role in interpretation:
“The ego over-simplifies, over-dramatizes, and interprets things in order to keep us “safe” (i.e., without blame). The problem is that when we assign blame, not only are we potentially inaccurate, but we are also giving away our power. If it is “his fault” that the kids are sad, then the implied solution is for him to “come home, change who he is, be the kind of person I want him to be and the kind of dad I want him to be, and then the kids will be happy.
These are the kinds of interpretations I am making, you are making, we all are making. Why does that matter? Because once we OWN that we are making the interpretations, we can choose a new interpretation: We can reframe the situation through new eyes. And in that CHOICE lays tremendous power.”
When assessing a situation, behavior or event, give yourself the time to explore the possibilities and facts before allowing a knee jerk interpretation. If you assign blame to others you are likely going down a path where you are not in control of the interpretation. You will be looking for someone else to do all the changing in order to improve the situation.
Determine your role in contributing to or participating in the problem or situation. Avoid making it all about other people and the “unfair” world. Put yourself in the position of being the key interpreter of the outcome and how the story or drama unfolds.
Be aware of confirmation bias. When you interpret things to suit your assumptions or seek facts to prove only what you believe. Challenge your assumptions. Be open to all possibilities. Understand the balance of applying both wisdom AND compassion in interpretation.
Learn how to reframe. This skill of opening or widening the “picture” frame through which you view events or situations allows us to see things through the eyes of others, create alternative interpretations and find gratitude in the most difficult circumstances. More importantly it gives us the power of choice and control of the drama being played out.
Key Point: If you are on a team, you need to get out of your comfort zone to really learn about each other. This accelerates team building. I went to Korea on a visit where we were putting a consortium together to try and win a lucrative multimedia project with a very large telecommunications company. The day we arrived, our Korean hosts took us to a Korean bathhouse. Nothing like getting naked in from of each other to build a consortium. We ended the day consuming copious amounts of bulgogi, joy inducing beverages, and of course karaoke, where our Korean hosts sang Sinatra perfectly. The North American’s rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody became the reference for belly laughs the entire trip.
When I was with a large telecommunications company in the early 90’s, we went to Japan for three weeks. Wow. Many in the group had never been out of the U.S., let alone to Asia. If you want to find out how people manage change and what their Emotional Quotient is, try sitting in small chairs for eight hours, day after day, eating daily lunch out of Bento Boxes, navigating another language, currency and more. Some people flourish… Others struggle. But the real person becomes evident when far away from comfortable corporate props.
Recently, I had the experience of going river rafting and zip lining with a combination of board members and executives. We didn’t anticipate changing into wetsuits in front of each other and the underwear jokes and good-natured ribbing was hilarious. The CEO had to be rescued after he fell out of our raft and we encouraged each other to take the plunge off the zip platform. These experiences gave us a unique reference for our role in collective governance of a public company. This last week I had the pleasure of being on a bus for a week with my executive colleagues. The fun we had teasing each other about our choice of music, eating trashy snacks, driving through a vicious thunder storm, nick-naming the bus driver, etc… Well, the experience and connection is priceless. We will be a stronger team because of the bus trip.
Remember that becoming a team doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it. And while some of it happens naturally in the office, a way to reinforce or accelerate team work is to participate in something that takes all members out of their comfort zone… Where we all have to really BE together.
Team building is an investment. You have to want to care and learn about each other or it doesn’t get you much. The mindset and intent of the participants to better understand and learn is much more important than the “team event” itself. If the mindset is right, picking up litter together in a local park can be as good or better than climbing an exotic mountain in a foreign country.
Self-awareness is very important in team building. The best way to contribute to your teammates is to be aware of how and where you add value to the group. Learn about your colleagues in the same regard.
Be prepared to be vulnerable and let the authentic you emerge. That takes courage, but that is how deeply connected teams emerge.
Team building (in your underwear) in the Triangle,
Key Point: Do not expect people are going to just discover you. You have to let people know how you can add value and declare what you want to achieve career-wise. I remember when I was a young director at a Fortune 50 company. We had 60,000 associates and probably 1,500 directors, company wide. I worked for a small but growing division that had its head office in Seattle. The BIG corporate office was in Denver. One day when I was in Denver for a meeting, I decided just to stop in and introduce myself to the CEO/Chairman. I knew the likelihood of him having a moment to say hello based on the hectic schedule he had, was unlikely. Sure enough he wasn’t in his office but I ended up having a great visit with his executive assistant, and she made a point of letting the CEO know I came by. Three years later I was working for this CEO/Chairman. I’m not suggesting that going to visit him had any direct bearing on me eventually working for him. But you have to “assume the position” you want. Have the courage, confidence, and conviction to put yourself out there!
The other day, a young woman who works in another department, wrote me a note expressing an interest in further developing her career, ideally in my group. I had a vague idea who she was but knew little of her passion or interest. I politely responded knowing any opening was unlikely. As a coincidence I bumped into her in the lobby of our corporate offices a few days later, recognized her name and struck up a conversation. I was impressed with her commitment and passion. I’m going to kick ideas around she might find interesting. If she hadn’t put herself “out there,” I would never have considered her.
Responding to job advertisements by simply sending in a resume, including digital opportunities on sites like LinkedIn, are also unlikely to be sufficient for finding the next step. You need to rise above the noise and make yourself visible. This includes having influential contacts to sponsor you and/or other ways to become attractive on the radar screen. It is only then that you have a chance to match your skills/attributes to the opportunity. Get visible!
Be intentional. Declare what you want and set a path to make yourself visible to others that can help you in a positive way.
Recognize that YOU have to be the best salesperson for YOU. If you don’t believe in yourself, why would anyone else? Be a platinum sales person matching your attributes to what is needed.
Know the difference between sponsors and mentors. Sponsors actively work to promote you. Mentors give you insight and advice. You need both, but a sponsor is often the key to moving ahead career-wise. (One company I worked for knew the executive VP of marketing was a career maker. Everyone wanted to have his sponsorship).
Do not be discouraged if you don’t get an immediate hit from doing the above. Get yourself out there. Keep improving, and positively self-promote your interest in helping others. One day your value and passion will exactly intersect with the needs of someone else looking just for YOU.
Key Point: I read an article recently that said daily inspirational quotes sent to students showed no empirical evidence of academic improvement. The quotes may be interesting, but do little to cause people to achieve better results. Real inspiration causes a burst of positive action. One definition is: “The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something.” There is much written about inspirational leadership – individuals having vision, integrity, clearly stated values, etc. However, in this blog I want to focus on the mysterious but wonderful connection that happens between the inspired and inspirer.
Last Friday evening at a brilliant gala celebration of award winners at the company I’m privileged to work for, I watched one of Canada’s heroes, Rick Hansen, roll on stage as key note speaker and magically connect with several hundred people.
Many throughout the world know Rick for his Man in Motion Tour. 25 plus years ago, with a hope, dream and few resources, he propelled his wheel chair 40,000 kilometers through 34 counties raising $26 million for spinal research. By the time the tour was over, 60,000 people filled BC Place in Vancouver to joyfully welcome him home. Rick is of course wheel chair bound, but I believe his inspirational genius has little if anything to do with his disability. Millions of people are unfortunately in wheel chairs. Rick has something else. And it is more than vision, values, integrity, and other desirable characteristics. Most people, thank goodness, think and behave with a solid combination of these traits. I believe true inspiration happens at the connection point between the inspired and inspiree. There is transfer of energy that takes place that seems to cause someone to do something based on what is seen and heard. Rick has this energy wand at his fingertips. He is catalytic.
I watched Rick during the evening. He challenged all of us to be “difference makers.” And he absolutely makes it clear that difference making is accessible to all. On the stage he never stops moving his wheel chair. He is a metaphor. He is a man in motion. And somewhere in the relationship, it seems to happen. In that rolling back and forth, in that challenging stare from those lake blue eyes… It happens… You can’t help but think, “I can do it too,” “I can be a difference maker,” “I need to be in motion.” As I’ve noted many times before I believe WE are “verbs” more than “nouns.” It is a human need to move… To roll… Towards others… Which ultimately and deliciously rolls back right towards us, filling us up to continue our journey.
Search out those who inspire you. What about their motion makes you want to move? Recognize that all of these people are flawed just like you and I, but are in motion for a higher purpose. They are in service.
Know that you will be an inspiration when you move and contribute to others. Not many of us will be Rick Hansen’s and inspire millions, but we can inspire those around us… Not simply by our intent, but by where and how we put ourselves in motion. We will be surprised who we touch, and how that handshake translates.
Recognize that our forward purpose driven motion is culiminative. Over time we travel many miles and in serving others, this becomes a tour… Our tour.
Key Point: Would your day be different if you treated each conversation with total care? When you really think about it, most relationships are built on a series of conversations. Life itself is a continuous series of discussions. So many things happen because of each verbal (and non-verbal) interaction. How we feel and act towards the other person or people involved in an exchange is dependent on how carefully we construct our language and the intent behind the listening and content delivery. It is primarily a matter of treating others and ourselves with respect.
Think about great conversations you’ve had. My belief is that a common element of the most gratifying exchanges is the feeling of being listened to. When your partners in conversation really cared about what you thought or said, and when you sincerely appreciated their thoughts and views too. I bet that all the people involved asked lots of questions with genuine consideration to the responses. Now think about the conversations that haven’t gone well. What characterized those?
I recently was introduced to someone over a business lunch. The entire exchange was about him. I asked him questions and off he’d go. He paused to gulp down his sandwich or wait to talk about himself some more. Frankly, I figured he had little interest in me and subsequently was not very invested in where our relationship went. Think about all those dinners you’ve been at where the person sits next to you, says almost nothing, and puts little if anything into learning about you. It is challenging not to conclude that this person is either socially inept and/or doesn’t really care about the relationship. It is a little like the person often sitting next to us on planes. Many of us don’t invest in conversations during flights, not because we are unfriendly but because we are likely not going to see them again.
Although most conversations happen naturally as part of daily living, think about each one as a relationship builder to be cared for… Not just a “talk.” Ask yourself quietly how much the relationship moved forward based on the exchange you completed.
Ask lots of questions to make sure you really understand the other person’s intent. When you are sincerely interested in their views, ask them for advice or insight.
Be vulnerable and authentic. It is ok to be open about things you feel hesitant about, to be genuinely humble, and to have a self-deprecating sense of humor. We know people aren’t perfect. When you open up, often others do too. You make it safe for them to do so.
Use language that is more open to outcomes than sounding totally definitive. Words like “might,” and “could be,” when explaining or taking a position, give room for more views and possibilities to be explored. Remember your view is only one perspective.
Stop, breathe, listen, and speak when you have something to move the conversation and relationship forward. If you don’t have anything of value to add, it is ok to actively listen.