On a sampan in the Mekong river

Express Your Values and Give Them Purpose

There is a difference between saying the right words to talk about organizational values and culture and giving meaning to words through actions.

How can we identify an organization’s values?  Listen for phrases that get repeated in daily life.

What describes your culture?  How are these values translated from words into actions that help the community thrive?

Organizational Values Revealed

– Examples from Traveling Abroad

During a recent trip to Vietnam I learned much about their culture and, through my reactions, I also discovered more about myself.  These insights are revealed through essential words: some that are important to me (expressing my values) and others that specifically apply in Vietnam (a country is an organization too).

(Scroll to the end for photos.)

Thank You

When traveling abroad I make the effort to master the local version of “Thank you.” 

In Vietnamese it is written cảm ơn.”  I’m still uncertain how to pronounce it since, in their tone-based language, there are five different ways to articulate the letters C.A.M.  Each of these pronouciations represents a unique definition ranging from feeling to chin to forbidden.

Instead of sharing appreciation I often mumbled an embarrassed, “cmmmmn”.

My reaction contradicted my values!  My life objective is to learn and I express openness to growth with words of appreciation.   My mumbling focused on me rather than learning from others.  In Vietnam I found my way to express gratitude for growth:  a “thumbs up” or a handshake did the job.

Hello, Young Man

We visited with expat friends who each spontaneously expressed their you-need-to-know-this-word-in-Vietnamese.  These are culture-specific terms which make sense in the culture and which help those on the outside make sense of the culture.

“I hear ‘em oi’ (pronounced ‘aim oy’) 100 times a day to get someone’s attention,” reported a friend working in a male professional environment.

“Em oi” means “May I have your attention, young fellow.”  “Em” refers to the youthfulness which even more mature gentlemen consider a compliment.  “Oi” refers to creating a connection.  I see you and please see me too.

“Em oi” launches an exchange.

Enough!

Another friend, a woman who faced the daily price negotiation for bananas, school supplies, and even medicine expressed her appreciation for ways to stop an exchange, to set limits.

“KHÔNG” (pronounced “hong” with a severe tone of voice) means “ENOUGH!”  No more haggling over prices.  No more following me around.  Let. Me. Be.

 

Isn’t it fascinating how these chosen words speak volumes both about ourself the culture in which they are used?!

Behind each of these selected lies individual and cultural values

  • life-long learning through appreciation
  • the search for attention
  • a desire to stay young
  • keeping boundaries

Organizational Values Revealed

– Words at Work

Let’s explore some common words heard in organizations.  We all agree on their worth, and yet many people experience a gap between the concept and the context (implementation).

What values describe your corporate culture?  How do they impact members’ actions and decision-making?

Teamwork

Everyone believes in teamwork.  And yet some colleagues miss feeling a sense of belonging.  How is commitment to teamwork expressed in your organization?  Test yourself with these questions:

  • How often are team meetings held?
  • How much of the agenda is set by team members…or is it controlled by the manager?
  • What element of compensation relies on individual performance vs. on team results?
  • How do you learn and celebrate together?
  • Do team members eat together?… or do colleagues limit their interactions to work-related issues?

“The team that eats together stays together.”

Innovation

Many corporate mission statements include the word “innovation.”  Let’s unpack that.

Creativity and discovery require experimentation.  Testing the unknown means experiencing failure.  ERROR?!  MISTAKES?!

  • When was the last time an error occurred in your team?
    What happened before, during, and after?
  • How long are you willing to keep trying before reaching desired results?
  • How is learning from errors shared throughout the organization?
  • What is the career path of the top managers? How do the C-Suite leaders model learning from mistakes?
  • What happens to the manager who only shares successes?

“Never get discouraged if you fail. Learn from it. Keep trying. Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”
– Thomas Edison

Open-minded

When a culture favors open minds, there exist safe spaces for people to express different points of view without fear.

  • What is the role of brainstorming and of laying out ideas without judgement in your team?
  • How well do people listen to each other…or are most folk preparing their own response before seeking understanding?!
  • What benchmarks are used to keep you and your team oriented towards growth and improvement?
  • How diverse is your team: in gender, race, nationality, age, and more?
  • Whose ideas get selected?

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road…Unless you fail to make the turn.”
Helen Keller (blind, deaf, & dumb.  Prolific author.  1880 – 1968)

 

Teamwork, innovation, open-mindedness, and every one of our corporate values gains meaning by how it is put into practice.  What a leadership opportunity!

Organizational Values Revealed

– Practices in Personal Life

Just as your team at work thrives on belonging to a group and contributing to a purpose with values, your family and personal entourage do too.

Teamwork & Togetherness

If you seek family togetherness, how often do you enjoy family time?  Is it regularly planned and marked on the family calendar? When do you eat together? How does each person help with chores?

Put into practice.

Are your parents ageing?  Plan a weekly phone call. Every week.

Does your household include teens?  Schedule a smart-phone-free family meal.  Generate interest by inviting them to choose the menu.  Make it a time to coordinate calendars so that you can prevent misunderstandings (“Where is the party and what time will you be back?” rather than correcting them (“Where were you until the wee hours last night?”).

Innovation & Creativity

Transmit creativity and a spirit of experimentation in the kids through your response to their mistakes, whether it’s spilled milk, leaving a mess, and (mis)use of money.

Teach them calmly (!) to clean up.  No lound voices needed.  The kids will learn a valuable skill and, if they don’t like it, they’ll find ways to make cleaning faster or more fun … or how to avoid making a mess in the first place.

As a family, brainstorm ways to keep the living room welcoming…and ways to enjoy it together!  When did you last sit down for a card game or a movie night?

Help kids find ways to earn money: bake cakes to order for the neighbors, take care of younger kids or keep company to elderly folk, tutor younger children in schoolwork.

(FYI, we did not pay children to do regular chores.  Helping with the family is part of togetherness.  We all participate in making home a nice place to be.)

Open Kids’ Minds

Opportunities abound to stretch children’s comfort zones.

  • Invite adults to join in a family meal. The children will learn more about you and the world.
  • Try a discovery menu. Have you tasted Moroccan tagine, Vietnamese spring rolls, Indian curry, or French steak tartare?  They don’t have to like it.  The purpose is to discover something new.
  • Plan a vacation in an exotic country!

Next Step

“We have found that companies need to speak a common language, because some of the suggested ways to harness disruptive innovation are seemingly counter-intuitive. If companies don’t have that common language, it is hard for them to come to consensus on a counter-intuitive course of action.”
– Clayton Christensen, professor Harvard Business School

Identify those most important words for your organization and translate them into every day actions.

This is constructive communication in practice and it is my area of expertise.

Can I help you transmit teamwork, innovation, openness and other values throughout your organization?   Discover the culture-strengthening workshops here or contact me directly to discuss your specific situation.

“Hẹn sớm gặp lại.” (Vietnamese)

“A bientôt.” (French)

Let’s be in touch.

 

Photos from our Trip to Vietnam

Gorgeous and diverse scenery.  “Em oi!  Cảm ơn!”  (Young fellow, Thank you)

  • Thanks FOR the opportunity to discover these treasures, sufficient business success to finance travel and family memory-making, the beauty of the earth and its energizing impact…
  • Thanks TO the generations past that labored to level the rice paddies and discover the caves, the creative force in the universe, the resilient Vietnamese people who warmly welcome visitors from previously warring nations…
Sapa rice terraces in Vietnam
Terraced rice paddies in Sapa.
Phong Nha Paradise Cave in Vietnam
Ginormous Paradise Cave goes on for 30 km underground.
Ha Long Bay in stormy weather
Ha Long Bay in the rain. Monsoon season.

 

Delectable foods and culinary adventures at the market, some of which I could only handle from a distance.

“Không!”  No squiggling squid from a bucket for me today…no matter what the price.

Outdoor food market in Vietnam
No fixed prices. We negotiate with fingers, showing cash, or typing numbers on smart phones.

“Không!” Enough trying new foods.  We ordered boneless chicken and were served chicken feet (albeit deboned)!  “Em oi!  Beef please! Cảm ơn!”

Boneless chicken claw Vietnames delicacy
Trying to be local. We have a looooong way to go before savoring chicken claws!
Kids-give-lessons-to-parents

4 Ways Kids Can Help Parents Resolve Work Challenges

Do you know the story of the three blindfolded men who meet the elephant?

Problem solving with elephants

One person is presented with the tail.  He feels the swoosh and the stringy stands and concludes it is a rope.

Another feels the breath from the trunk and hears the sound and wonders if it is a trumpet or a French horn.

The third touches his ear.  It’s thin, dry, and cracked.

Each of them feels safe … until the blinders are removed.

Elephant charging prey
Photo by James Weiss, Eyes on Africa

As we grow in leadership responsibility and power, we lose the perspective held by team members.  Problem-solving without persepective only aggravates the situation.

If a challenging issue were seen from another angle, even better from multiple perspectives, we might make very different decisions.

Summer vacation is coming up and we often spend this time with children trying to forget about work.  What if the kids could bring you fresh perspective for problem-solving of issues at work? Try these ideas which

  • Build connection between you and your child
  • Boost your children’s self-confidence
  • Give you fresh perspective on a work challenge

 

1. Observe with an Open Mind

When you observe someone, how long do you wait to speak and ty to influence their behavior?  Do these phrases sound familiar?

  • Advice: “Listen…and don’t interrupt.”
  • Coaching: “Try doing it this way instead. It will work better.”
  • Critique: “Don’t just sit there. Do something about it!”

In my workshops, we ask participants to observe a colleague or family member for five to fifteen minutes.  No a priori.  Just watch to learn.  Try it this summer.

What interests them and what makes them tune out?  What are the cues?

What resources are they tapping into: persistence, patience, ingenuity…?

How would you describe their demeanor: comfortable, tense, enthused….?

Here is what one manager shared:

“I noticed how this young employee struggled with his Power Point presentation.  She typed – erased – typed – erased…  I wanted to tell her to STOP and think it through first.  Instead I kept my distance and observed.  She was tenacious.  I realized she sought excellence…. I wanted to give her feedback and decided that instead of my usual advice I would ask her to self-evaluate:  what went well, what she learned from it, and how she might do things differently next time.  We would end up with the same conclusion as when I tell her what to do, only this time the insights would come from her.  She would own her performance.”

Here is what a parent shared:

“My teen was doing his laundry.  He had a wrinkled button-down shirt. He tried to smooth out the front to no avail.  He went to get my curling iron and used it to smooth out the front of his shirt!  Quite ingenious!   Before intentionally observing him, I thought my son was so impractical and a dreamer.  I learned that he manages…very differently from me AND quite well anyhow.”

2. Play the Multiple Perspectives Game

Is there a challenge with you and a child?  How about viewing it from multiple angles together.

Maybe you want your daughter to help clear the table after meals.  You could each try to understand this request from everyone involved (and more):

  • Daughter: “Why me? Why not my brothers?  Boys can help in the kitchen.”
  • Big Brother: “I get to play while my sister works. My parents love me more because I can do what I want.”
  • Little Brother: “My parents ask Sister to help and not me. She is big and can do many things.  I am small and need help.”
  • A Martian: “Why do they have plates? Can’t they eat with their hands?”
  • A parent: “I want vacation too. If we all help a bit, then it’s less work for each one.”
  • In 20 years: … Your daughter interrupts the game to ask, “Does what I do today make a difference for 20 years from now?!” and you have the invitation to embark on a meaningful discussion…

Who knows, your daughter might come up with a chore chart that includes clearing the table AND vacuuming AND picking up toys!  And EVERYONE pitches in!

Similarly, at work this could entail trying to understand the perspective of the client, the finance team, the engineers, the supplier, the newlywed colleague’s spouse….

3. Explain the Challenge Simply

Relationship challenges are unique AND similar. 

  • Someone seeks attention and affirmation.
  • Another wants power or control.
  • A person has been hurt and attempts to retaliate.
  • Others fear rejection and not being worthy…

Parents have questions about the challenges their children face.  And kids are interested in the lives of their parents.

Try a mutual coaching between you and your child.  Your kid shares a challenge with you and you do the same with her.  This is not a teaching time; it’s a mutual discovery moment.

You might be surprised by their insight:
“You mean you are not friends with everyone at work?!”

They might be surprised by yours:
“So, the fight started when he hit you back.”

Learning opportunities abound!

4. Ask What They Would Like in that Situation

Many of us try to solve other people’s problems.

One child was slooooooooow to get up in the morning even though her Dad has tried everything.  Mornings grew to become the worst time of the day for all.  Finally, in despair the father asks, “What would make it easier for you to get up in the morning?”  The child admits sheepishly, “I want a hug to help me get out of bed.”  Their morning routing is now pleasant for everyone.

Is there a routine at the office that does not function smoothly?

Instead of being the one to find all the answers, try asking.  The answers from your children could provide helpful insights for work.

About Bossiness

Child’s answer:
“What do I want when you boss me around?  It’s OK for you to tell me what to do.  I just want us to play first.”

Application at Work:
Does your team have moments to connect as people:  a weekly lunch together, a morning coffee ritual, or a WhatsApp group to share news and photos of successes.

About Emotions

Child’s answer:
“When I feel sad, I like to snuggle with my Froggy.”

Application at Work:
We each perform better when we feel better.  How do you calm down and recharge?

One teacher reported used a toy palm-tree as a sign to students that she needed calm.  When the trinket was on her desk, it meant to this-is-not-the-right-time.

What is your calming routine, and could you encourage team members to think of theirs:  could it help you to walk down several flights of stairs?  To do breathing exercises in the bathroom?  To get a glass of water?

 

Enjoy your vacation and the inspiration you can glean from your kids.

Diversity at work

How Diversity-Friendly are You?

Even though diversity is a much talked about subject, many of us wonder how it impacts our work.  Does it really matter?

This is the third article in a three-part series on diversity inspired by Steven Sels, the CEO of Primagaz.  His first message addresses the bottom-line benefits of integrating 19 different nationalities in his Parisian offices.

Read: 12 Riches of Diversity – Insights from Steven Sels, CEO of Primagaz France

In the second post, Sels broaches the prerequisites to a successful diversity strategy and describes his company’s collegiate decision-making which enables Primagaz to innovate and to act quickly.

Read:  Embracing Differences Without Conflict

As we concluded our interview, Steven Sels thanked me for the opportunity to step back, put a framework around his thoughts on diversity, and challenge himself to explore new ideas.

It’s a gift to step back, put a framework around our thoughts on diversity, and explore ideas further.

How Diversity-Friendly Are YOU?

When did you last step back and clarify your thoughts on diversity? 

Take this SHORT quiz.  I just timed myself; it took 2 minutes and 8 seconds.  Consider it a gift to help you step back and structure your thoughts.

The link to the answers is at the end of the quiz.

Diversity at work

Diversity-Friendly Quiz – Answers

The Diversity-Friendly Quiz is the last section of a three-part series on diversity in the workplace.

Join us from the start.

Read: 12 Riches of Diversity – Insights from Steven Sels, CEO Primagaz France

Read: Embracing Differences Without Conflict – Interview with Steven Sels, CEO Primagaz France

Before reading further, did you take the quiz?  It is a super QUICK multiple choice questionnaire.  (I completed it in 2 minutes and 8 seconds)

Take the quiz:  How Open to Diversity are You?

How Diversity-Friendly are you?

Diversity in icecream. Tin Pot Creamery

Team Diversity – Questions 1 to 5

A revealing method of uncovering people’s true values is to look at how they spend their time and money.

The first five questions of the quiz reveal companies’ values as expressed by the people in which they invest time and money.  Today, diversity often focuses on

  • Age
  • Culture/Nationality
  • Gender
  • Race

Do you know that merely a decade ago, leaders spoke of functional diversity and collaboration:  how to get Operations to cooperate with Marketing?  We have come a long way.  In today’s knowledge economy teams readily coordinate across functional areas.  Clients even join in with marketing and engineers on innovation.  Engineers and factory workers team up for manufacturing process improvements.

These first steps in diversity have proven their effectiveness.  There is hunger for more.

Team Relations in the Day-to-Day

Team Habits

The next series of questions explore habits with your team and manager.  As a leader, one seeks habits that feed engagement, creativity, and innovation.  Are your team habits helping you reach those goals…or might they lean towards dis-engagement, closed-minded, and repeat performance?!

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”
– Samuel Smiles

Assumptions – Questions 6 & 7

Every human being relies on pre-suppositions.  They free our brain up to focus on more complex problem-solving.

Diverse populations have different assumptions.  In working with Asians, I learned that “yes” means, “Yes, I heard you” rather than, “Yes, I agree with you.” Each interpretation leads to a very different outcome!

In corporate cultures that welcome diversity managers clearly express expectations and check that they are understood. 

A young American client working with a consulting firm in Paris is navigating cultural, functional, and age diversity.  Even though he benefits from a one-on-one performance review after every project, he admits, “It is work to interpret my manager’s expectations.  Feedback is so nuanced and much remains unsaid.”

He devised a plan to clarify expectations:

“Every week, I e-mail my manager a list of my priorities.  He sends it back with his adjustments.  Invariably they differ.  This way I get his clear expectations in writing.”

Additionally, at the beginning of every new project, he meets with his manager to present his learning goals.

Clarifying expectations goes both ways:  managers too benefit from knowing their team member’s seek.

Team Meetings – Question 8

Practice makes prepared.

The more we work with someone, the better prepared we are to build on their uniqueness.  Frequency of meeting keeps momentum flowing.  Getting together with a learning mindset favors diversity even more.

You and I and every human make decisions based on stereotypes. Both consciously and without realizing it. These unconscious biases limit our openness to diversity and our performance at work.  Starbucks recently closed 8,000 of its US stores to train employees on Inclusive Communication and on building strategies to uncover and counter these latent prejudices.

We can also stereotype our colleagues and open or close our ears accordingly.  He’s the one who always talks about money.  She brings up the people-issues.

Casual exchanges, such as lunch or team sports, in addition to formal team meetings further facilitate  embracing differences.

Agenda & Project Initiatives – Questions 9 & 10

Effective meetings have a learning objective.

  • To discover the advancement of a project
  • To learn who will do what and when
  • To understand budget implications

People learn differently, and folk of diverse ages, cultures, genders, and heritages receive and digest insights in their own manner.

When building the agenda and initiating projects is shared among colleagues, the entire team focuses on learning.  Diversity thrives in a growth setting.

Team Attitudes

What Teams Fear – Question 11

“The existence of a leader’s power is made visible only through its use.  The more frequently it is used the stronger will be the group members’ fear of their leader.” – Dr. Thomas Gordon, psychologist

Fear reduces both the flow and quality of the information that reaches the manager.  Fear and trust lie on opposite ends of the spectrum, and diversity functions in a culture of trust.

How Teams Rejoice – Question 12

“Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” – Victor Borge,  musician

Diversity-friendliness is about reducing the distance between people.  Those who laugh WITH (not at) others grow closer.

My mantra: To laugh at myself.  In the Grand Scheme of Life, many of my frustration (and attempts to inspire fear in others!) will look quite ridiculous tomorrow.

Take-Away

In conclusion, we create diversity-friendly habits:

  • Employment habits: to hire or work with people different from themselves
  • Work habits: to meet regularly, connect personally, and delegate initiatives
  • Emotional habits: to build leadership without powerplay and to spread good humor

Which of these habits do you want to develop in your organization?  Tell us in the comments.  And discover the workshops that help you do so.

Serenity of lighthouse

Serenity to Accept Things I Cannot Change

Google announces 6,2 Million results to my search for “Serenity Prayer.”

Many team-help groups gain inspiration from this prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

These lines hold “serenity” as the namesake, and yet who focuses on accepting the things they cannot change?!

Courage to Change Things

How exciting and ego-boosting to be a valiant savior!

To show courage and, with chivalry, to forge ahead into the unknow with sword drawn.  We can almost hear the cheerleaders encouraging us on: “A.C.T…I.O.N….Action, Action, We want Action!”  

Wisdom to Choose

The wizened elder expounding sound advice conjures up a positive image too.

The sage gathers a following of disciples.

The wise person holds authority.

The counselor is sought out.

A mentor’s insights lead to action.

Decision-making is prized by people from all walks of life

  • CEO’s organize “strategy sessions” around critical company decisions
  • Poets pen about our choice of life path…which makes all the difference
  • Child educators and neuroscientists refer to developing social and emotional skills by triggering areas of the brain related to decision-making

Making choices also brings a semblance of control, a feeling especially prized when we feel out of control!

Serenity to Do Nothing!!!

Isn’t doing nothing…bad?!

Non-action runs against our sense of control.  When we make a move, we feel power.  When we wait, we depend upon others.

Inaction is vulnerability.  Big time.

Serenity: When “Doing Nothing” is Good

To Accept Matters Beyond our Control

Some battles we cannot win; matters are beyond our control.

As I write, the French railroad employees are striking.  No personal effort on my part will get my scheduled train on the tracks.  Serenity helps me stop waste time moaning and groaning.   Then wisdom and courage get me on my smart phone to reserve a spot on a car-pool app.

Challenges happen.  We don’t choose war, persecution, cancer, corporate takeovers, our noisy next-door neighbors or ageing.

We do choose how we encounter hurdles:  either as victims or as survivors.  Serenity helps transform anger, hurt, and frustration into resilience, creativity, and hope.

Serenity helps us step back to identify whether we have a chance to win the challenge-of-the-moment.

To Take a Step Back

Sometimes our trouble results from a choice we took; our chosen path did not lead to the desired destination.

If we climb the winding trail at the base of Machu Pichu, we will not find a Yurt.  In the same way, no matter how far we travel the plains of Mongolia, we won’t find Inca treasures.

It sounds obvious…and yet how many of us slurp ice cream or sip wine and simultaneously lament being out of shape?

Or let steam out on a colleague and expect them to be motivated at work.

Or nag at our children and anticipate they will turn to us as trustworthy, secure, and patient counselors.

Sometimes the best action is to STOP. That’s what serenity helps us do…and to look around and find an alternative route to reach our goal.

How to Build Serenity

Serenity in the Brain

Our ability to observe a situation with calm and clarity relies on brain chemistry.

Have you noticed how your thoughts get fuzzy under emotional excitation, whether anger or extreme frustration or deep grief?

Our human brains physically disconnect.  The prefrontal cortex (which enables you and I to make logical connections, develop plans, understand emotional cues….) lifts and exposes the mid-brain which is responsible for our gut reactions of fight, flight, or freeze.  Dr. Daniel Siegel, neuroscientist at Stanford, explains it in this two-minute video.

Serenity in the Mind

Sometimes it just takes seconds (literally) to help calm the brain and to reason clearly again.

1. My favorite way is through laughter

… and sometimes I fake it until I make it. Other times, I imagine the S.H.I.T. hitting the fan…literally.  Stench.  Aggggh, the clean up!

The dread of this outcome makes me laugh.  AND STOP.

2. Gratitude also invites serenity.

Early in my career I interned with a clothing manufacturer to do market research and help the company owner prepare a five-year growth plan. The team consisted of seasoned men who had worked their way up in the garment district.  They considered me book smart and street stupid and wanted to prove me wrong.  I presented what I thought was the final report…and then discovered mistakes in the Excel calculations!  No opportunity to reverse time or to delete the shared files from these colleagues’ computers.

Gratitude helped me find serenity which then allowed me to act with intelligence.

  • Thankful to have found the mistake as soon as I did and that it did not change the recommendations
  • Thankful I learned to review. Review. REVIEW work early on in my career
  • Thankful to realize that we become super through our bloopers…the inspiration behind SoSooper!

 

Serenity is simple.  Not easy.  The opposite of serenity is worry and brooding.  Now THAT is complicated!!!

In what situations do you need serenity?

What do you do to take a step back and regain perspective?

 

Cover photo by Joshua Hibbert from Unsplash.
Paris marathon 2018 by Eiffel Tower

Encouragement Tips from the Paris Marathon

Runners streamed through the streets of the City of Lights during the Paris Marathon.  I was out there encouraging them to the full as marathon runners demonstrate character qualities I admire:

  • They have a goal
  • They train with discipline…even waking at 5:00 am to run before a full day at work
  • They persevere…for 42 kilometers straight

Friends shared about their marathon experiences in various cities.  They especially rave about NY where the encouragers never sleep.  Fans line the streets in all neighborhoods and boost the athletes on.

Our local encouragement remained discreet.  Here is what I learned by cheering on the Parisian athletes.

Encouragement is Rare,
even Attention-Worthy

I walked along the Marathon route between kilometers 27 and 30, between the Eiffel Tower and Alma Marceau.  Runners have just come through the tunnel where Princess Diana died in a car accident.  It is dark and dreary; getting out is an uphill hike.  The route continues to slope up slightly to the food and water stations by the Eiffel Tower.

It’s a tough leg of the race.

Active encouragers were so few and far between, that we became entertainment, even distracting attention away from the runners.

Admirers lined the road to watch quietly.  From time to time a fan caught a glimpse of the runners they had come to support and burst into praise as they sped by.  Then, back to silent admiration.

I, on the other hand, clapped avidly and repeatedly shouted out, “Hurray!  Keep it up!  What athletes!” to all of the runners.  They are achieving an amazing feat.  Some passersby rolled their eyes at me and snickered.

During my 90 minutes of cheering, I noticed one other person applauding as loudly as me; she wore an official Marathon Volunteer vest.

A band played marching music to boost the runners’ energy.  A crowd gathered around them, turning their backs to the racers.

Check out the video where we hear the band and barely a sound from the crowd.

Paris marathon supporters playing music

It’s like the onlookers delegated the role of encouragement to the few official volunteers and sporadic musicians.

Cheering on in a marathon differs from a soccer game or a tennis match.

  • We don’t know these athletes
  • Runners keep coming for hours which translates into cheering for the long-haul

Spurring on marathoners in Paris demonstrates that encouragement is a purposeful decision.  It’s not something we do to follow the crowd.

Pouring courage into others will feel unusual and odd.  The question for you and I becomes, “Is the value of helping another person be the best they can be worth our momentary discomfort?”

I believe it is…and I also believe the investment in the other person helps me grow wiser and happier too.

For you too. That’s why my paradigm-shifting workshops include activities on how to effectively encourage team members.

Encouragement is a Mindset

We find what we seek.  Look for problems and challenges.  They are there and easy to identify.

Positive qualities can be harder to identify.  It takes a shift in perspective.

Think of hiking up a mountain. As you look forward, the peaks loom large and daunting.  Yet, pause, and turn around and admire the view.  How far you have already come!

Encouragement begins with looking for value in someone or their actions.  Many of these attributes could be taken for granted or are visible through empathy and shared experiences

  • Effort
  • Persistence
  • Sacrifice
  • Intermediate successes

The marathoners could be viewed as sweaty-huffing-and-puffing-(sometimes-struggling)-runners.  They can also be perceived as toned athletes, champions in discipline, and goal achievers.

Encouragement is Substantive

Critics deride praise as vacuous and without substance.  Avoid that trap.

Real and useful encouragement is grounded in truth and reality so that it effectively pours courage into another person.

Admittedly some words get overused and misused.

“You’re awesome,” said to everyone and anyone and no matter what the context sounds insincere.

“Awesome effort,” shouted out to a runner who has progressed 30 kilometers recognizes an accomplishment.

Encouragement in Practice

Here is how I tried to make my Paris marathon encouragement purposeful, empathetic, and substantive

  1. Acknowledge an effort or a behavior
    Think of children who call out, “Look at me.” They are hoping to hear, “I see you.”
    “What an athlete!”
    “Look how far you have come!”
    “You made it through the tunnel!”
    “Still smiling!!!!”
  2. Orient to the next step (not the next twenty steps ????)
    “There is water and food at the Eiffel Tower.”
    “Keep it up.”
  3. Link Past Achievements to Confidence in Future Performance
    Sometimes that’s simply combining the first two practices together
    “You have come so far! You can keep going.”
    “You survived the tunnel.  Keep it up with the sunshine and the great view.”

Be an Encourager

Who needs encouragement around you?  A demoralized colleague, a worried (and possibly nagging)  spouse, a misbehaving child, or an ageing parent?  Try noticing one thing they do well.  Want help to know how?  Click to send me a note.

Maybe YOU are the one in need of encouragement.  Notice and share one thing that you have done well too.  If you stick to the facts, it’s not boasting.

Yesterday was sunny and warm and our house was filled with friends.  Today the skies are grey and work progresses with two steps forward and one step back.  I’ll focus on the two steps forward…that helps me keep going.

Martin Luther King Jr "I Have a Dream"

6 Insights from MLK to Dream Big

Today we commenmorate 50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Many remember this inspiring leader in the human rights movement and his speech “I Have A Dream.”

What is your cause? What is your dream? 

Martin Luther King Jr did more than dream.  He transmitted it too…so that others could share it and spread it too.  He began with the folks close to him, and his circle of influence grew and grew…to include me and you!

Let’s start turning our dreams for those closest to us into reality.

1. Dream for the Next Generation & Empower Youth to Dream Too

Learn from this great man to dream big and empower others to have a vision.

It’s OK to dream big even when the situation looks dire

“I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulation. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail … I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream…” MLK Jr

nine dots

You and I can limit ourselves.

We can allow ourselves to hope what is feasible – the Basic-Fix-Dream rather than THE GRAND-VISION.

We do this every day at work and in family.

We hope employees get the job done.  They do…and 70% of them lack engagement in their work.  Could we dare for a passion for contributing to their team and for excitement to grow?

When siblings fight, we hope for “no blood.”  Can we envision them as co-builders of an amazing venture?

You may be familiar with these nine dots.

The exercise consists of passing through each of these dots once with four straight lines.  No more, no less, no curves.

Try it.

The clue?  Get out of the square.  In fact, there is no delimited zone.  The nine dots are in the shape of a square and folks like you and I turn that into boundaries.

Dreaming means setting sights high…

…then following through with an action plan.get out of nine dots

2. Powerful dreams tap into a common heritage, a larger-than-me mission

“It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the hue meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

According to psychologist Dr. Alfred Adler, grandfather of Positive Psychology, a communal vision which benefits your community, be it family, neighborhood, friends, or more taps into our basic human needs of belonging and contribution which he describes as “Gemeinschaftsgefuehl .”

A community goal brings along with it a network of supporters.

It takes a team to reach the stars.  Set a dream that motivates and engages all.

Co-dream. And co-labor (collaborate).

When you converse with your team members or even with your children, how often do you refer to the common goal?  Find ways to include it in every day conversation.

At work:  “Today was a good day!  I helped solve a customer problem and it felt like ’empowering our customers through our technological and service excellence.'”

In family:  “How will we talk so that we show we are a family and that we love each other?”

3. Live the vision

Walk the talk.

Be a dreamer whose actions speak louder than words.

The US constitution declared all men of equal value.  And yet they were not treated as such.

Are you ambitious for your team or your child?  What qualities do you dream for them?

  • Respect of self and of others
  • Love of excellence and effort
  • Wise decision-making
  • Curiosity and tolerance

Let the next generation witness it through your actions.

  • Speak to the young interns and children with respect…even when they act without thinking
  • Stick to your commitments, like when you say, ‘I’ll be there in 5 minutes.”
  • Allow them to live the uncomfortable consequences of their own unwise decisions when the stakes are low. Misplacing a 10 cent coin is less painful than losing €1000.
  • Listen actively to understand their perspective before jumping to conclusions

THAT is dreaming with credibility and conviction.  Our example convinces our youth of the value of our hopes.

4. Dream with valor

Martin Luther King Jr ignites our fire when speaking of brotherhood, transformational peace-making, and character.

A dream worth living for is one worth dying for too. 

Who do you want with you as you end your days here?  What do you want said of you and for them to share with each other?  NOW is the time to plant those seeds.

For me, I want the “F.U.N.” back in funeral.  It’s because I celebrate life today that I hope folk will remember me with a smile GRIN in later years.

5. Clearly define success

“…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

A clear goal vitalizes both you and your co-dreamers.

Visualizing is a technique many leaders adapt to help them define their objectives.

A friend shared her experience at a career change workshop she attended.  The facilitator invited participants to close their eyes and to think of their ideal (dream) job.

“Now visualize the office in which you are working.”

And they proceeded with another dream session.

“Describe your colleagues.  Their age, what they are wearing, their facial expressions…”

Specifics make the dream more real…and realizable.

6. Seek strength for the LONG (loooooong) haul

“This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with… With this faith we will he able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will he free one day.”

In our quick win world, how can we prepare for valiant dreams that require sacrifice and persistence?

Performance experts assert that it’s not talent that keeps people from reaching their goals; it is lack of consistency which engenders lackadaisical results then discouragement and finally giving up.

In what will you place your faith?  Where will you find your source of strength?

The question is not “if” you will require boosting and encouragement.

The issue is WHEN.

Martin Luther King Jr found his from the God of the Bible.  It did not make him into a perfect person.  It made him united with others AND able to take a stand alone, peaceful AND powerful, patient AND courageous.

WOW.

 

Gold Medalist Virtue and Moir

Win-Win Relationships – When 1 + 1 = MUCH MORE

If you and I would be in a room together, three of us would be present.  You.  Me.  And our relationship.

It’s been Olympic season, which made me wonder, “What does a gold medal relationship look like?”

Gold Medal Relationships On Ice

Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dancing) swept me off my feet.  Figuratively, that is (although I am writing with a sore knee and bruised thigh having fallen on ice!)

In the rink, we find Tessa and Scott AND their “je ne sais quoi”, that is, their win-win relationship.

Here are comments from and about them:

 “Better together.”

“Trust empowers them to dare.”

 “What a privilege to work with an exceptional athlete and person like you!”

Gold Medal Relationships On Water

It’s more than a male-female thing.

The team of nine Americans who won the 1936 U.S. men’s Olympic eight-oar rowing competition experienced this too.  In the book Boys in the Boat, one of the team members, Joe Rantz, describes the feeling of flow when the eight men rowed in power to the rhythm set by their savvy and demanding coxswain (navigator).

It’s like they were flying across the surface of the water, in total unison, all as one.

On Olympic racing day, one of their rowers ran a high temperature, and the coach recommended they replace him with their backup man.  The other eight men in the boat insisted on competing as the original team.  They performed better together.

Winning Relationships In Outer Space

Such an intense win-win relationship goes beyond sports and youth too.

Space Cowboys

In the movie, Space Cowboys, a retired NASA engineer, Frank Corvin (played by Clint Eastwood), agrees to rescue a threatening Russian satellite only if accompanied by the team he trusts: his fellow retired cohorts, especially William “Hawk” Hawkins (Tommy Lee Jones) who passes flight-worthiness despite being diagnosed with late stage cancer.

Together, they’re better.

How would you describe your personal and professional relationships?

Relationship Test

One of my workshop activities reveals how we view “winning” in relationships.

Participants are paired and placed across from each other with a string of yarn between them.  The instructions are

  • No talking
  • No touching
  • Winning is when the other person crosses the line between the two of you.
  • Go!

This activity comes from Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott.

AHA !

I first tried this activity with groups of parents.  The room overflowed with creativity.  Some folk got on their knees, others pretended to have found something so hilarious the other person should come and check it out, even others pulled out money from their pockets to bribe.  The room buzzed with good humor.

In the debrief, I ask which pairs had a winner (a few), which had no winner (most), and which had two winners.

The “Aha! Moment” came when the two winners demonstrated their double success:  they each cross to the other side at the same time. 

Participants realize how ingrained they are in the win-lose paradigm.

OOPS !

On another occasion I attempted this activity with a group of professional women, all from different organizations.  Upon hearing the instructions and the “Go” a few of them made minor attempts to connect with their partner. Within seconds the room was silent, and no one budged. The cost of losing outweighed the benefit of winning.

Win-Lose Relationships at Work

Too many of us come to work expecting win-lose relationships.

You might recognize these behaviors, either in yourself (!) or in colleagues.

The Attention Seeker

  • Sentences begins with “I”
  • They attend and speak in meetings that do not involve their work

The Controller

  • “When I want your Opinion, I’ll Give it to You”
  • “Do it My Way”

The Power Monger

  • For them to look good, others have to look bad
  • It’s vital to be first, no matter how

The Poisoner

  • “Why are you trying so hard? Management does not care”
  • They spread gossip

The Incapacitator

  • They don’t give you a chance to grow.  It can even sound nice, “Don’t worry.  I’ll just do it.”  The hidden message remains, “You’re not good enough.”
  • They don’t delegate

Breaking Free from the Win-Lose Paradigm

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Imposing change on others is like pressing down on a ball.  As soon as the pressure is removed, it bounces back to its previous state.

We can, however, change ourselves.  It’s POWERFUL.  It’s like changing the surface against which a ball bounces.  If we acted like a spongy texture (absorbing stress) and replace it with a sturdy, bouncing-off surface, the conversation will fall differently.

Check out the workshop “Communicate Positively Even Under Stress” which brings insights and skills to change your own response in ways to build win-win relationships.

What About You?

What are some win-lose relationships you face at work or in life?  How would you describe them?

Let’s hear the same about the win-win relationships too!

Please share in the comments below.