Have you got your party shoes on? This month marks 20 years of me being self-employed. I’ve got so many reasons to celebrate, not the least of which is being able to connect with you.
The same year I started my business mobile phones looked like a brick with buttons & Titanic won 11 Oscars at the 70th Academy Awards.
Let’s look back on 20 years & continue the party.
Last week I wrote about 20 years of Learning & Development; Rachel’s haircut, Google & me. Today’s post is 20 Working Better Together lessons from 20 years of teaching.
In twenty years I’ve covered the globe designing & delivering workshops from CSuites to slums to more than 20,000 participants. Many of those workshops have been about helping people work better together. Here are 20 lessons I’ve learned from those 20,000 folks.
See how many resonate with you & let me know if there’s any you’d add.
- Beware the muck & mire: Communication is great …. when it’s going swimmingly. When it’s not going smoothly assumptions are made, feelings are hurt, information is miscommunicated & we get tangled up in a messy mountain of muck & mire.
2. Don’t underestimate the value of communication: Great communication = what the sender meant to say + received in a way that resonates with the person on the other end + mindful of context (e.g. culture).
3. Use this little known communication skill called para-verbal: Para what? Para verbal communication is all about how we say what we say -e.g. our tone, pacing, inflection, speed etc. Next time you’re sinking in the quagmire try changing up your para verbal communication. A super easy way to do that is to speak slower. This has a 2 for 1 bonus: you’ll automatically appear more confident & you’ll help relax the person you’re talking to (& a relaxed brain is a way more easy to communicate with brain).
4. Conflict: Love it, hate it. Rabble rouser or pick up & run at the mere mention of the word, you gotta deal with it.
5. Know your relationship to conflict: Honed by your upbringing, your culture, your personality & your DNA, you have a specific relationship with conflict that affects how you approach it & deal (or don’t deal) with it.
- Pay attention to your body’s reaction to conflict: Like a spider web, where a featherweight touch at one end affects the entire web, conflict affects our bodies. That feeling like a golf ball is wedged high in the back of your mouth? That tightness in your jaw that runs up to your ears? That heaviness & impenetrable weight on your shoulders? Those dense walls around your heart? Those hairs on the back of your neck that are standing wildly at attention & flailing away? Those are all examples of your body’s relationship to conflict.
7. Culture: Culture influences everything we do, everything we think & everything we feel yet & it often goes unnoticed. Annnnd it’s often the least recognized key to success.
8. The various forms of culture: Culture comes in many forms – your ethnic culture, your family culture, your organizational culture etc. Sometimes we fit our cultures (I love me some Canadian maple syrup) & sometimes we don’t (I’m not a fan of hockey, which is sacrilegious for a Canadian).
9. Culture is shorthand: Cultural shorthand is only understandable to those who share the same culture. For example I have OCD. Know what I mean? Gotcha. You likely thought I meant obsessive-compulsive disorder. But that’s not the case. I have osteochondritis dessican, a weird thing where the blood doesn’t flow properly to the end of my bones. See? Culture is shorthand… if you share the same culture. Otherwise it can be exclusionary.
10. Creativity comes in many guises & disguises: I heard a rumour that you think you’re not creative. Is it true? If you said yes & you think you’re not creative, then whatsamatter you! You, as a human being who’s made it this far, with the unique gifts & talents only you possess, are most definitely creative. (And if you said you do believe you’re creative, then high 5’s to you!)
- That time you pulled that idea out of thin air at your last staff meeting that got people excited & onboard? That’s creativity.
- That time you coaxed your recalcitrant kiddo (be they 2, 12 or 20) with a unique parenting technique? That’s creativity.
- That quilt you made, the one with fantastic colours that catches the sun on your living room couch & makes the room warm & cosy? That’s creativity.
- Those ruminations in your journal, your scribbling, doodles & prose? That’s creativity.
- That unique, out of the blue, bolt of inspiration you had? The one that made people look at the same ol’ same ol’ in a whole new way? That’s creativity.
11. Creativity has a much-maligned reputation. We tend to think of creativity as this elusive, magical beast that only comes out to play with very specific people (tortured painters, mysterious musicians & poets with whiskey soaked breath) at very specific times that are known only to the muse itself. Hogwash. Phooey. What a load. No way, no how. Uh uh. Nope. Nada.
12. Creativity is honouring the muse at your shoulder, the wise whisper in your ear, the elegant idea you pull out of thin air, the art you create with your hands & your heart. Creativity is bound up in us, whether we recognize it or not. Creativity will get us out of messes, will strike with inspiration when the chips are down, will bring a smile to our lips & will continue as long as we breathe, to bring beauty & innovation.
Creativity is simply the ability to create. So I ask you again, are you creative? Feel free to insert a hell yeah, Hail Mary, of course, high five, dance a little jig here. ‘Cause the world needs more of you & your creativity – in whatever beautiful form it takes in you.
13. Sweet sauce: Collaboration is key to your success. Nobody can do it all on their own, not even you superwoman (or superman) – even though we like to kid ourselves we can. Finding your sweet spot strengths & sharing them is magic. Finding what makes you inwardly groan & outwardly shudder & asking for help with those things is just plain smart. Put those two things together & you’ve got the secret sauce for collaboration.
14. Start with this simple collaboration test. Open your hand as far as you can. Wider. Wider. Even wider. Now try to imagine holding onto a project, a commitment, or a colleague or friend. Things would slide off which, in the world of collaboration, means you wouldn’t have enough ownership or passion.
Some of the signs your hand may be too wide open (& a hindrance to collaboration) are if you hear yourself saying things like: ‘Nah, you do it, I don’t care. Do whatever you want, it doesn’t matter to me.’
Now close your fist as tight as you can. Tighter. Tighter. Even tighter. This is what happens if you hold onto things too hard – you hurt yourself (can you see those nail marks?!). It also makes collaboration impossible.
Some of the signs your hand may be too closed (& closed to collaboration) are if you hear yourself saying things like (you may say theses things to yourself only but you’re saying them nonetheless): ‘If I give this to you to do you’re going to screw it up, But ____ (insert name of pet project, idea etc.) is my baby. No one can do it like I can.’
15. So what’s a good collaborator to do? The key is to open your hand enough to invite collaboration in but not so open as to have no ownership or passion. Voila.
16. Change management – Fight: Figure out what you’re willing to fight. Now before your defenses go up & you holler ‘wah, you’re encouraging me to have a fist fight?!’ it’s not that kind of fight. Rather figure out what you’re willing to change, what’s worth effecting change to you.
17. Change management – Flee: Figure out what you’re willing to flee. In other words what you need to leave behind. It could be leaving a harmful relationship, it could be leaving a conversation until you cool down, or some other way of moving on or over.
18. Change management – Flow: What’s leftover from #15 & #16 is your flow pile – the things that aren’t burning enough that you need to change them & the things that you don’t need to flee from. (Note; things can & do move from one pile to another as your energy & priorities change.)
19. Press pause & celebrate. Quick. What was your last accomplishment? The last time you achieved a goal? Ticked something off your to-do list? I’m guessing you had no difficulty with answering those questions. So here’s another. When’s the last time you celebrated those accomplishments? Harder to answer right?
We’re so busy getting-stuff-done that we barely take a breath before we’re scaling the next mountain.
20. Celebration will fill you up, sustain you, give you that special kind of glow & help you acknowledge your success. ‘Cause you know you’re successful right?! I consider myself successful when I help people laugh (relax, sink into learning), learn & lead (apply their learning to their work &/or personal life). What about you?
Untangling twenty years to tease out twenty lessons. Be sure & stay tuned all month for extra goodies, gifts & great resources.
If you’d like to dive into more of my lessons learned & play a fortune teller game while you’re at it, you can do so here. Have at ‘er. Have fun. And work better together while you’re at it.
Pssst. Are you starting to think about planning for 2019?
Thinking about all the great things you could make happen with a brand new year in front of you? Or absolutely panicked at the idea of having to come up with goals for yet another year?
Whether you’re excited about goal planning for the next year or dreading it, I’ve got the course for you. It’s called Life Lenses, and it’s my secret method for seeing round your blind spots so you can set big goals and develop the processes to make them actually happen. Check it out & join me online Dec 6th.