TGIF-rain in paris

TGIF – Us vs. Them

Hello for the weekly rendez-vous on Friday.  TGIF – Trust, Gratitude, Inspiration, and Fun.

Trust

I am trusting in the Power (and sweetness) of Diversity.

Diversity in icecream. Tin Pot Creamery

This past Monday France was on holiday for Pentecost.  It is the Christian “Diversity Day,” and what happened that day holds insights for how we create or break a sense of belonging. Let me explain.

Pentecost is a day when the group became defined by its center, not by its barriers.

Pentecost marks the day when the news about Jesus’ resurrection became international news.  His disciples, mostly uneducated small-town fishermen, spoke Hebrew and were following the Jewish calendar of celebrating Passover in Jerusalem. The city was full of people who traveled from other nations to celebrate the feast.  According to the Bible*, on Pentecost the disciples were given a supernatural ability to speak these foreign languages and told about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

In 2019 terms, this is like being confused while watching a foreign movie without subtitles. Then, amazingly, the actors come to you and play the scene in your own language and you understand.

What does this have to do with diversity?  Many groups are defined by their border.  It’s a barrier which describes who is “in” and who is “OUT.” 

  • We are women, you are men.
  • We are Ivy League School graduates…What’s your background?
  • We are…

and the list goes on.

Pentecost is a day when the group became defined by its center, not by its barriers.  By making the news of Jesus available to people of all languages, the focus became Jesus and not the cultural barriers.

Jesus Mafa African Mary & JesusI am trusting that each of us will choose to focus on common, centering principles such as justice and equal rights.  You and I, as we lead by example and act within our circles of influence, can make a difference in building inclusive cultures within our companies and communities.

And, I love this image of the Madonna and child by Jesus Mafa.  Why should Jesus look like a well-fed, richly clothed Italian infant from the Renaissance period?!   This image made me aware of some of my unconscious biases.

Maybe you too have seen the T-shirts that read, “I met God.  She’s black.” 🙂  When we meet God, I think every one of us will be surprised.

*For the Pentecost story, see Acts chapter 2

Gratitude

Thank you to the people who support the “cause” of others

  • For the men promoting women to leadership
  • For the whites insisting on equal rights for people of other races
  • For the atheists welcoming prayers of the faithful
  • For the healthy investing in equipment for the disabled

I am also grateful to one of my sons, he was about 10 years old at the time, who said, “Mom, you do stuff for Christians.  What do you do for non-Christians?”  That question changed how I invest my time and energy…and eventually to why I am writing you right now.

Thanks, darling.

Inspiration

Following up on these meaning-of-life thoughts, my inspiration this week comes from an Excel file!!!!!!

Isabelle Roux-Buisson is mentoring me on an entrepreneurial project, and she sent me an “Assumptions Dashboard” spreadsheet.  This has been so helpful and grounding.

assumptions entrepreneurs make

Entrepreneurship is like navigating in the fog.  We move forward step by step and try to get as much clarity as possible.  Writing down assumptions gives shape to potential obstacles.  Testing these premises opens the way for opportunities.

Her inspiring impetus boosted me to test market presuppositions and to move from the “I hope” stage to the “that door is closed but this one is open!” phase.

Isabelle is a senior executive in the tech field and a jury for the Harvard Business School New Venture Competition in Europe.  You can learn from her too!  Here is her interview on how she developed Emotional Intelligence throughout various stages of her career.

Fun

Last week, I hinted at our D-Day inspired haircutting ritual.  The Allied forces brought the harbor to Arromanches-les-Bains; we bring our hairdresser to our home.

It’s been going on for over two decades.  That means it’s working…and we make it fun!

Haircut at home for boys
Haricut at home for men

All six of us pass through Adrien Bracon’s expert snips.  When the kids were tykes it was exhausting having them sit still BOTH while in a barber’s chair AND while their brothers’ Chewbacca (massive head of hair) got trimmed.  HELL.

Instead we sip flavored coffee, exchange music, and send emails (!) while getting our hair reshaped.  And since there are six of us, haircutting time always falls around mealtime.  We easily transition to wine and cheese.

These pictures were taken at the same place with the same people, 15 years apart.

I love to take the bore out of a chore.  What small shift in perspective – a reframe – could make your life more pleasant? 

Get in touch.  This is what I talk about with clients: transforming a relationship challenge into an opportunity for growth.

See below the article on fresh perspectives inspired by inclement weather.  The cover image on the TGIF is from Christophe Jacrot, an amazing photographer taking pictures in the snow and rain.  It’s been raining every day in Paris this week.  That was less fun for me, but the plants love it!

Looking forward to being in touch next Friday.

Neat & New Stuff

Interview with Isabelle Roux-Buisson

Isabelle Roux-BuissonIsabelle shares how she leaned on emotional intelligence (EI) skills throughout her career.  Each stage of leadership requires different skills to connect with and motivate team members and other stakeholders. She shares how learned about emotional intelligence and then intentionally integrated these skills into her management style.  Read on…

3 Managerial Insights from Snow in Paris

Paris in the snowIt’s not literally freezing in Paris, but the weather sure is cold for this time of year and intense precipitation falls every day. This post presents fresh perspectives on work that were gained from inclement weather.  It’s a reframing with the intent to make your management as productive and more fun.

Read on…

Looking for Interview Suggestions

Can you recommend a wise leader with a message related to building constructive conversations at work?  Many of you appreciate the interviews I led with tried and tested leaders who overcame challenging conditions.

It would be an honor to know about them and to possibly interview them.  Please send me an email.

Remembering Normandy D-Day

TGIF – Remembering D-Day

Seventy-five years ago, yesterday, the Allied forces landed on the Normandy beaches and defeated the Germans in the Battle of Normandy.  An Allied victory for World War II was in sight.  Nazi exterminations and indoctrinations would be exposed and stopped.

June 6, 1944 remains one of the world-changing days of history.  Our world would be vastly different without that day.  There would be no state of Israel.  Europe would have been “culturally cleansed.” My imagination cannot fathom the consequences.

The above photo is from the movie, The Longest Day which recalls the event.

Trust

Today, I am trusting in Democracy.

It’s a scary thought as I view political unrest among nations.  It is true of countries that boast democratically elected governments and those of other regimes.  So what gives me hope?

Normandy d-day
Town center is named after D-Day, June 6 in 1944

Democracy can and does evolve.  After World War II, when many of the French political leaders were tainted with collaboration with the Nazi’s, the country adopted its 4th constitution.  In order to limit abuse of control, power was concentrated in the legislative branches.  In a divided country, there was insufficient support to implement unpopular reforms.  War, again, led to the establishment of the 5th Republic.  The president, elected by the citizens, runs the country with consultation of the prime minister which he appoints and who is approved by the elected legislative representatives.

With the recent Yellow Jacket unrest there is talk of a 6th republic.  What is the role of the citizen?  What does representation mean in the Age of Information?  Who decides what?

My trust in democracy is like faith as described in the Bible:  confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1)

I see the need for an evolving democracy.  I trust it will come about.

Gratitude

Gravestone from Normandy D-Day
Here rests in honored glory a comrade in arms known but to God.

THANK YOU to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for you and me 75 years ago.

When our sons were young, we visited Omaha Beach, Arromanches-les-Bains, and the American Memorial and Cemetery in Normandy.  As the boys read the gravestones, they calculated the ages of the soldiers.  Many were 19,20, 21 years old.

These young men did not all fight by choice.  They left behind grieving families.  Each one was a person with a unique story…even the unidentified soldiers.

I am grateful for their sacrifice to me, an unknown stranger of a future generation.

Inspiration

During our visit to the Normandy beaches I discovered the artificial harbor at Arromanches-les-Bains.

Frankly, I had not thought much about wars and how they are fought, lost or won. In this quaint seaside town, I learned of the vital importance of logistics

  • Medical supplies for the wounded
  • Food for the soldiers
  • Gas for the tanks
  • Bullets for the guns

Because of these needs, the Germans expected the Allies to land in an established port.  The waters of Gold and Omaha Beaches were too rough to allow for unloading from tankers and transportation on land.

That’s where the Mulberry Harbor played a vital role.  The British devised a transportable harbor.  What inspirational, ingenious out-of-the-box thinking!

On the horizon, you can still see the sunken cement blocks that created the artificial harbor.

D-Day landing in Normandy
Mulberry Harbor on the horizon…and in front!

Fun

I had fun looking through old family photos to find those of our Normandy beach outings.  When I came across these I laughed out loud.  The hair!  The boys’ energy!

Stay tuned for next week.  We use the Allied philosophy on hair-cutting.  Bring the barber chez nous!

Clearly our family is not perfect…nonetheless, we are precious!

LOL

In the Spotlight

When Values Translate into Behavior

Inspiration from the Normandy D-Day that you and I can apply at work and at home.  It’s about choosing where to invest our time, attention, energy, and finances in order to reach our goals for 30 years from now.

Read on…

Precious or Perfect?  Wisdom from Notre Dame

Being good enough.  Is that perfection?  But we’ll never reach it!

Inspiration from the drama at Notre Dame on the dark sides of perfectionism.  All it takes is a spark to burst into destructive flames!

Read on…

Muslims in prayer

Being an Outsider in the Paris “No Go Zone”

Last week I was invited to lunch in the Paris “No Go Zone” and here is what I learned about being an outsider.

My Outsider Experience

There I was waiting in front of a low-income housing complex in the middle of St Denis, the Paris suburb where Jawad Bendaoud housed the terrorist attackers who stormed the Bataclan on November 13, 2015 and killed 130 music fans and wounded another 413 people.

Equiping Juvenile Delinquents to Contribute Positively

I was invited to lunch at the restaurant Taf & Maffé to join the seven youth in juvenile detention that I was training in social skills.  The town justice service hires me to give wayward youth tools to contribute positively to society.  I love these sessions of authentic exchange and where I grow as much or more as they do.  This lunch opened my eyes wide with discovery.

White Anglo-Saxon, Female, Red-Head Outsider

As a tall, white woman with spikey, bright red hair, I often stand out in a crowd.  Here, surrounded by men of African and Middle Eastern origin, some wearing tunics and prayer caps, I definitely looked out of place.

I felt displaced as well.  My bearings were off.  I consider myself open-minded and had thought I had no specific expectations.  Yet, standing alone in unknown territory, I realized I looked for familiar signs.  Specifically, I searched for the welcoming signboard of a restaurant and a clearly displayed menu to lure me in.  There was nothing of the sort.  Just a high rise and men.  (I saw two women in veils, both begging.)

welcoming restaurant from outsider view
My unrealistic expectation

A man in a tunic pointed me towards the inside of the housing complex and I went in.

Outdoor “Mosque”

Beyond the entrance, in the building’s courtyard, lay a patchwork of colorful rugs.  I had not integrated that we were Friday and that, for the Muslims in St Denis, prayer time began at 1:48 pm. There wasn’t enough space at the mosque, so the “inn” made room for the faithful.

The man pointed me further down a corridor and I walked into a large hall with tables and chairs and people serving out of industrial size cooking pots.  Questioning eyes observed me as I scrutinized the room, noticing the buzz of activity and the full chairs.  I was not expected here either, so I waited outside for my crowd.

The youth finally arrived AND our group kept waiting (!), huddled in the small segment of the sidewalk that basked in the sun.  My confusion grew, yet since the youth were calm-despite-hunger, I remained relaxed-enough too.

Our dining room was being prepared.

Lunch is Served

We were ushered into a 20m² room which served as the office of an association which integrates refugees into France.  They had moved the printers and photocopy machine to the side, stacked papers in piles, and moved the desks to form one large table.  Again, I had not come with set expectations yet discovered that this is not what I had anticipated!  In retrospect I realized I had expected a “Chez Samir,” something like an exotic version of “Chez Sylvie.”

We enjoyed a flavorful, filling, and exotic meal of bissap (hibiscus) juice, chicken maffé (like an African paella), HOT chili sauce, and dégué (millet grain pudding flavored with orange blossom).

Even when everyone had finished eating, we stayed put.  Since I was leading the afternoon training session for the youth, my eye was on the watch.  Yet, as a guest, I let the organizers set the rhythm and opted to let go of control and to enjoy the company and the moment.

Waiting.  Not my Schedule.  Theirs.

By now a group of ten or more of us were huddled in the doorway, with still no indication of movement and easy chit chat around.  Then one of the youths announced, “It’s time.”

While we were eating, the courtyard had filled with men for the mid-day prayer.  Prayer time was now completed; we could open the door.

We joined the crowd of worshipers as they flooded into the street and flowed on their way.

I grew from the experience of being an outsider.

My Take-Aways from being an Outsider

Open-Mindedness

I (re)learned that open-mind is not a state of being that one reaches.  It’s a journey…that goes deeper and deeper.

As a Protestant white American married to an atheist French man from West Indies descent, I think of myself as open-minded.   Our marriage would not have lasted twenty-seven years had we not each made considerable concessions to and for each other.

Yet an open-mind cannot be earned and worn as a Scout badge for public recognition.  As I acknowledged my surprised reactions to these unknown surroundings, I discovered untrod paths of open-mindedness and traveled further along the journey.

Unconscious Bias

A decade ago, few people were aware of unconscious biases.  Now, “unconscious bias” is an often-heard, sometimes-understood term.

Unconscious bias. Lots of outsiders
Growth in awareness of unconscious bias over 15 years

Here is how the University of California, San Francisco defines it.  

“Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.

Unconscious bias is far more prevalent than conscious prejudice and often incompatible with one’s conscious values. Certain scenarios can activate unconscious attitudes and beliefs. For example, biases may be more prevalent when multi-tasking or working under time pressure.”

I confess, I had thought I was addressing and uncovering (a.k.a. eliminating) my unconscious biases fairly well.   Yet during my visit to Saint Denis, a neighborhood physically close to my home and yet culturally far removed from my norm, I kept bumping into my assumptions.

I expected restaurants to have outdoor signs and buildings to welcome residents, not worshipers.

Mostly, I realized that we (you and I included) have an uncanny bias towards thinking that we might be unbiased!  LOL

Empathy

The best way to grow in empathy is to get out of our comfort zone.

Authentic empathy comes from the heart.  It is experienced.  It is not an intellectual thought.

Alone on that sidewalk I felt insecure, with a loss of bearings.  Taking initiatives required effort and felt risky.  Instead of my usual proactive self, I waited for others to make the first move.

I caught a glimpse of what it feels like to be excluded.

In the past, I responded to other people’s slowness, reactivity, and lack of self-confidence with critique.  “C’mon.  Get over it.”  Thanks to my work in constructive collaboration, I have learned to replace judgement with encouragement.

I did not need advice on that street corner.  I needed courage poured into me and the strength that comes from a benevolent presence.

Transformative Trainings

In St Denis, I was hired to open these youths’ eyes, minds, and even hearts.  Through soft skills training and building their self-awareness and other-awareness, we connected constructively.  Here were their parting thoughts:

  • Hope
  • Motivation to look for a job
  • Confidence in myself

These youth also opened my eyes, mind, and heart.  That’s what I love about our workshops on constructive collaboration tools.  Through role plays and team activities we create a safe space for learners to step outside of their comfort zone.  They are free to laugh at themselves, to discover new insights, and to choose how and how much to grow.

For YOUR Team Too

Find out more about these trainings to bring out the best performance and collaboration from your teams.  We define our training program according to your organization’s needs.

Are you seeking to build a more inclusive culture?  We help build self-awareness, empathy, and trust which are pillars to developing a sense of belonging and contribution.

Your success depends upon negotiation skills?  We help you and your team understand other people’s perspectives and balance short- and long-term benefits so that you can negotiate creative outcomes where all parties gain.

You want to give your team a motivational boost?  We help you break down communication barriers and build relationship bridges so that expectations are clear, progress gets recognized, and success is achievable.

Be in touch.  It’s what we do:  transform difficulties into opportunities for growth.

SoSooper = from blooper to sooooo super!

Cover photo from The Great Courses Daily website
Restaurant photo is Chez Sylvain & Sylvie in Bordeaux region

Notre Dame cathedral easter 2019

Precious or Perfect? Wisdom from Notre Dame

Do we have to be perfect to be precious?

On Monday evening, the fire at Notre Dame cathedral decimated the roof and the burning spire (called the “arrow” in French) crashed from the sky to the ground.

Memories disappear in minutes.

The recently cleaned stone, usually brilliant in the sunlight, is now 50 shades darker.

What lies ahead for this most visited site in Europe?  As of Monday evening, donations flowed in to contribute to Notre Dame’s renovations.  She lost her perfection.  She remains precious.

Are you convinced of that in yourself?  Each of us knows that we are not perfect.  Are you and I also convinced that we are precious?

This mindset determines our future.  What we think about ourselves influences how we invest in ourselves to grow.  It also impacts how other people invest in us.

Perfection Perverts Relationships

It took me decades to come to truly know that I am enough.  Period.  I have value as a human being.  Not because of what I do or who I know.  Because I am.

I don’t need to be perfect to be precious.

When I am convinced of that in me, then I can be convinced of that in other people too.

Beforehand, I fixated on being “good enough” by being “better than.”

Comparison focuses one towards critique and reinforces unconscious biases: to find what is “wrong” with the other person and to highlight what is “right” in me.

We find what we seek.

If you and I are looking for weaknesses in others, we will find them.

At the same time, when we seek qualities, we find them too.

The same behavior could even be viewed as either a liability or as a potential strength! It depends upon our mindset.

  • Is your colleague dissipated or highly curious?
  • Is your boss arrogant or focused?
  • Is your child stubborn or a person with convictions?

Wisdom from Notre Dame

Notre Dame has been with Paris for centuries.  Even without her roof, she remains precious.  Maybe even more so.  She “needs” us now.

Perfection Perverts Perception

We all make judgements about people, and our predisposition is to believe that we are right. 🙂

Psychologists warn us of several ingrained biases.  The correspondence bias is when someone makes conclusions about another person’s character based on a behavior.  Context is insignificant.

  • When Samira leaves a large tip at a restaurant, she is considered generous. We overlook the specifics of the situation.
  • When Sydney arrives late to work, he is unorganized or uncommitted. No excuses.

On top of the correspondence bias we add the actor-observer bias where a person undervalues the situational influence in other people’s behavior and over-values it in his own.

  • When you or I just landed a lucrative contract and leave a large tip at the restaurant, we might feel generous.  It is our mood, not who we are.
  • When you or I arrive late, the traffic was terrible. We are not making excuses; we are relating a fact!

The perfectionist mindset limits someone’s ability to accept these research-proven biases.  Divergent viewpoints would call our analysis into question and destabilize our sense of value and entire being!

For the perfectionist to “be right,” other people are wrong.

Wisdom from Notre Dame

Among the statues of Notre Dame (and they still stand), we find both saints and goblins.  Grotesque gargoils don’t make her beastly.  Gorgeous handiwork does not make her divine.

Reframing Empowers
Reframing Frees from Perfectionism

True or False: “I see it, therefore it is real.”

I have learned we see what others choose to show.

Few of us expose our dark sides.  In fact, we go to great extents to hide them, sometimes even to ourselves.  We readily display confidence and results-orientation at work and keep out of sight the fear of not measuring up or lack of motivation.  These represent the underwater portion of the iceberg,

Fear drives many of us to invest time and energy to hide our imperfections.

Fear of what?  Fear of whom?

Naming our emotions initiates our ability to tame them.  

I have also learned that facing our emotions is an effective way to live life with few regrets.  That is what I wish for you and for me.

Wisdom from Notre Dame

I arrived in Paris after my MBA to work in marketing at l’Oréal.  Our training included six months in the field meeting customers.  My work week began early on Tuesday mornings as I headed by train to a provincial French town to arrive in time for store opening at 10 o’clock.  I returned to Paris well into Saturday evening, where my friends were already galivanting around town.  Not surprisingly, they did not want to go out on Sunday night.

I was lonely.

On top of that, my boss believed in motivation by critique.

I was demoralized.

That’s when I regularly walked the streets of Paris on my own and frequently rested on the Pont de la Tournelle which has a view on the back of Notre Dame.

I marveled at how, from the front, the cathedral’s towers emanated strength and majesty.  The buttressed rear view exposed another angle: architectural ingenuity and graceful stone.  The slim buttresses are essential to hold up the imposing towers and the elegant spire.

There is more than one viewpoint.

The same applies to my life and yours too.

I stand in awe before Notre Dame’s regal facade.  It’s her “imperfect” side that encouraged me.   In those solitary months, she helped me learn to like being with myself.

Perfect to Grow

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” – Aristotle

Wisdom set in stone.

You and I have a task: to embrace our limitations so that we can learn.

Did you know there is a bell named Denis at Notre Dame?!

Bells of Notre Dame
The new bells on display in February 2013. My namesake, the Denis bell.

 

 

 

 

How to move from book-wise to street-smart

I help teams collaborate constructively, to work smart together.  It means training them in positive teamwork theory and creating the environment of trust so that they apply what they learn.

Knowing what to do and doing it are two different stories!

To do this, I lead workshops and create “Aha! Moments” of self-discovery where participants realize how their behavior impacts other people.

  • “You mean when I say, ‘Whatever!’ it gets my manager really frustrated?!”
  • “You mean, the way a person listens determines the kind of information the other person shares?!”

Once they have grown in self-awareness, we move on to learn tools to build both performance and connection.

Knowing what to do and doing it are two different stories! 

Nike says, “Just do it.”

Even the Vice-Dean of Sciences Po business school, Olivier Guillet, calls for action.  In his interview, he recounted the incident when a philosophy professor sought business advice.  The insights he needed to hear (know what you can control, act on those, don’t sweat the rest) were those he taught in his Introduction to Stoics class!  He had not transposed his knowledge into the situation.

This story resonated with me as I notice a similar trend in my trainings.  People love to learn.  Applying the learnings are more of a challenge!

How can we accompany folk in translating a fascinating concept into a helpful new mode of operating?

Some people refer to this as moving concepts from the head to the heart.

Albert Einstein also talks about this phenomenon.  He challenges us to step into a new kind of thinking:  we cannot resolve our challenges by applying the same reasoning that created them.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.”
Albert Einstein

Avoid getting lost in translation

Confusion

Changing our behavior is like learning another language.

Speak a Foreign Language

The first stage is confusion and discomfort.  We are out of our comfort zone!

To translate this into business terms, we might wonder why bother even learn about emotional intelligence or constructive collaboration skills.  It is unfamiliar vocabulary…and you have lived without it until now.

Most of us lived without romance…and then it swept us off our feet.

Translate from Theory-Wise to Street-Smart

Let’s consider the foreign language of listening.  Listening to our colleagues, our bosses, and our clients.

Most of us think we do it well…until we have a mirror-like experience.  That is when we discover that instead of asking open-ended questions, we make inquiries that can be answered with “Yes’ or “No.”  Or we think a colleague is rude and interrupts and we realize that in our moments of enthusiasm we cut her off in mid-thought.

Until we open ourselves up to feedback, there is no realization that there might be a better option.

One Phrase

Next, we can manage using one new relationship tool in a specific situation.  It’s like knowing one sentence in a foreign tongue.

Speak a Foreign Language

I recall being in a French boulangerie (bakery) and an American tourist walked in and very carefully pronounced the sentence he had practiced, “Je veux une tarte tatin.” (“I would like a‘tarte tatin.’”)

The baker responded, “Hein?” (“What?”) before she understood the words spoken with the unfamiliar accent.  Then she rattled on in French about how he had chosen the right bakery for this French delicacy because theirs was definitely the best.  And so one and so forth.

The tourist gave her a blank stare, took a deep breath, gathered his strength, and responded, “Je veux une tarte tatin.”

Translate from Theory-Wise to Street-Smart

In a training context, this likens to situational activities or role plays where we simulate a typical professional interaction.  Participants are engaged and learn.  Yet they refer to a skit; this is not about them.

One exercise consists of five types of listening:  distracted,  critical, and eventually to active listening.  Learners can name the listening styles, yet they do not realize how they listen under varying circumstances.

First Exchange

At the close of my trainings, I ask learners to share what they will put into practice.  Many pause, almost with surprise.  It is a moment when they realize they attended the workshops looking for tips to change other people (!).  They are invited to alter their own behaviors.  Yikes!

Be prepared to not get “it” right the first time.  As one start-upper called it, “Test and try.”  He did not say, “Practice in front of the mirror, record yourself ten times, then test it.”  Get into the discomfort zone and learn so that next time it will be easier and smoother.

The biggest change is more about deciding to change yourself than in applying any one specific tool.

Speak a Foreign Language

It is like going to the bakery and using sign language to point to various desserts and asking, ”Café?  Caramel?  Chocolate?!” and with your fingers indicating that you’ll take two, please (smile and make a happy face).  The purpose is to communicate and move forward.  Forget the perfect phraseology.

Translate from Theory-Wise to Work-Smart

In my trainings, learning is enjoyable and engaging.  It is also for a purpose.  Which relationship do you want to take to the next level of trust and cooperation?  What will you test and try?

Conversation

After practice and repeated efforts, we learn fluency.  This applies as much with new modes of behavior as it does with a foreign language.  When we learn to drive a car, it is hard to light the turn signal and focus on the road.  Soon it becomes automatic.

Speak a Foreign Language

I have been living in Paris more than half my life.  People no longer ask me, “Do you think in French or do you think in English and translate your thoughts?” It’s now a non-issue.

Translate from Theory-Wise to Work-Smart

At the start, it will feel awkward to listen differently.  In fact, when we first try to change the way we listen…we usually don’t change!

And yet, we become aware after the fact that there might have been an opportunity for a different outcome to a conversation had we managed our side in another way.

We might then ask trusted team members to provide a feedback loop.  “If I talk before I listen, let me know.”

With practice, we recognize the cues on our own and learn to adapt even while during a conversation.  We learn to put aside that super-interesting thought we wanted to share soooo badly and concentrate on what other folks have to say.  We even notice that team members may be more intelligent that we had previously thought!

Practice might not make collaboration perfect.  It sure makes teamwork more productive and enjoyable. 

And the person who looks back at us in the mirror SMILES. 

Business man with gas mask. Toxic behavior.

What is a “Toxic Employee”?

Last week we began a series on managing “toxic employees.”

One reader inquired, “What, exactly, is a toxic employee?”

It is such a great (and obvious) question, that we’re addressing it now before going on to additional constructive communication tools to develop collaboration with these colleagues.

What is a “Toxic Employee”?

“Toxic employee” is one of those phrases that gets thrown around without clarification.

People are not toxic.  Behaviors are.

People get labeled according to their behaviors.

“She’s a high potential.”

“He’s totally toxic.”

Read about labels that create a disconnect with listeners.

worldview-beliefs-values-behaviors icebergOur actions stem from our beliefs and attitudes.  You and I operate according to our conscious and unconscious convictions.

Just because a person bravely stands up to a bully does not make her a brave person in all circumstances.  She sure acted with courage in this instance. This strengthens her and others’ confidence that she could do so under even more challenging conditions too.

Similarly, someone who trips over his feet is not a klutz.  He acts clumsy.

Who we are is more than how we act.

Mindset Matters

The purpose of this series on toxic behavior at work is to present solutions which foster lasting, constructive behavior.

We do so by addressing the beliefs behind the behaviors.

Fixed and Growth Mindsets

Dr. Carol Dweck, professor at Columbia University, identified two underlying attitudes towards growth.  These attitudes either extend or constrain our view of ourselves and of others.

People with the Fixed Mindset believe that people have qualities and they reach a maximum capability level and cannot go further.  Like our height.  My brother, a longstanding adult, is 6’2”.  He won’t grow taller.

Folk with a Growth Mindset consider that we can change throughout life.  Like muscle.  My brother joined a gym. His biceps are more pronounced than a few months ago!

Moving Between Mindsets

Through our interactions with people we can encourage either of these mindsets.

Labels move people towards the fixed mindset. This is true whether it’s a positive or negative label.  Once identified as toxic, always problematic.  Once considered high-potential, always more is expected of them.

I seek to orient people towards the growth mindset and do so through constructive communication tools that provide choices within clear limits. This approach to communication renders people responsible for their actions and invites collaboration and mutual respect.

These tools are founded on the psychological principles of Dr. Alfred Adler and have been confirmed by neuroscience.  For example, Dweck describes that people with a fixed mindset focus on declarative statements.  “This is the way it is.  Period.”  Growth mindset folk entertain questions.  “What will it take to move from here to there?”

Dweck asserts that people can change mindsets.  The realization that these two worldviews exist has helped many recognize their fixed mindset tendencies and to intentionally focus on developing more of a growth perspective.

Toxic behavior is often a symptom of a fixed mindset.  The person believes his label is superior to another’s.  They therefore deserve special treatment.  (They can be a bigger victim too.)

The purpose of this series on toxic behavior at work is to present growth mindset solutions to

  • Avoid falling into a fixed mindset trap
  • Invite challenging employees to grow
    … thanks to relationship tools that are simultaneously firm and kind
  • Be in expectation that the colleague can and will progress

Toxic Behaviors at Work

When a person spreads rumors, it’s poisoning the atmosphere.

When a boss misuses power, he is killing trust.

I have noticed two categories of particularly venomous behaviors:  undermining colleagues and expecting favored treatment.  These share a worldview of needing to be “superior to others.”

Here is how they might be expressed at work:

Undermining colleagues

  • Stealing ideas and taking the credit for oneself
  • Spreading rumors
    “Too bad Stacey lacks confidence.”
  • Focusing on faults and publicizing them
    “Here comes Joe who makes spills coffee on his pants.”
  • Initiating power struggles, as in passive-aggression
    “Too bad you did not take into account this information before making the decision.” They then present data that would have been helpful earlier.

Expecting favored treatment

  • Abusing power, no matter the level of responsibility
  • Judging others for behaviors they consider acceptable for themselves
    “Sam is so irresponsible for being late. I, however, have a legitimate excuse.”
  • Requesting special favors
    “I should get two presents at the holiday party because …” (it happened)
  • Complaining

These behaviors leave a sour taste in the mouth.  The value of people has been sullied.

Creating an Environment where People Grow

People can change.  Colleagues with toxic behavior can become collaborative team members (and visa versa).  I have personally seen it happen on numerous occasions.  The name SoSooper stands for becoming super through bloopers.  By learning from our professional and personal mistakes, we prosper in making a living and in life.

Change first

THE EFFECTIVE WAY OF CHANGING OTHER PEOPLE IS TO FIRST CHANGE YOURSELF.

Imagine a tennis ball bouncing against a wall.  When you throw it repeatedly the same way, the ball will bounce back in a predictable fashion.  How to get the ball to bounce differently?

  • Change the ball
  • Change the way you throw
  • Change the wall

Changing other people is like trying to alter the shape of the ball.  It means constraining it into another shape, like force-wrapping it in tape.  It works AS LONG AS THE PRESSURE LASTS.  It’s uncomfortable for the person being compacted (and they resist), and it’s a pain to continuously apply pressure.

Create growth opportunities

The relationship tools in this series (and throughout my blog and in my trainings) present ways to change the way we toss a ball.  We act differently SO THAT the person with unacceptable behavior faces the responsibility and results of his acts.  These tools create learning situations which invite a constructive response from the offending party.

In the previous post, we looked at addressing toxic behavior by acknowledging a rift in the relationship, admitting we could have a role in it, and having them recognize that they share a responsibility in it too.  Those tools were not about telling them about their faults.  “Something is wrong with our interactions (not with you).  Tell me how you understand the situation.”

This approach demands, in a firm and kind manner, that the other person account for his behavior.

Read: Alternatives to Firing Toxic Employees – Acknowledge the challenge…and your role in it

When we change our behavior, it impacts multiple relationships. When we stop complaining to other colleagues about someone else’s toxic behavior, we open up to creativity and become more productive with all our team members.  The environment flourishes.

Toxic Example

Consider this actual situation.  One boss, in the guise of being helpful, would touch women inappropriately.  When they were in private, he would say with concern, “You have a thingee on your sweater,” and reach over and pluck a crumb (real or imagined?) from her chest.

He’s the boss.  It’s her bosom. That’s an abuse of power.  It’s also difficult to react to.

How to respond to unacceptable behavior in a way that respects yourself (setting clear limits) and respects the other person (not stooping to shame and blame behavior)?

Fixed Mindset Responses

She wanted to exclaim, “You jerk!”

That labels him and more firmly instills him in a fixed mindset.

She could respond with a clear command, “Please keep your hands off my chest.”

He is surely prepared for such a reaction and, with assumed hurt, would assure that he only wanted to help.  HE is the victim for having been misunderstood.

Toxin diffusers worm their way out of responsibility.

Take Responsibility & Render Responsible

Consider this way of addressing the delicate dilemma with an “I” Message, one of the constructive communication tools that effectively establishes limits and invites the offender to a more respectful behavior.  (“I” Messages are the topic of the next post.)  Here is how it could play out:

A few days later, when the woman has had time to gather her thoughts, she is ready to set limits and point to positive collaboration. “When you plucked that crumb off my sweater, I felt uncomfortable and perplexed because I consider my chest to be a private space and yet our relationship is professional.”

Pause.

“I feel more comfortable when there is a clear distinction between the two.”

The disruptive behavior has been contained without judging the person as toxic.

 

She cannot control his response, and we will address this further next week.  In the meantime, please leave questions or comments below.

Read: Alternatives to Firing Toxic Employees – Acknowledge the challenge…and your role in it

Man reflecting in park

When It’s Urgent to Reflect

For many of us reflection seems like a luxury in our over-packed schedules and high-efficiency mindset.

We feel a need to respond immediately.

To respond!

In our world of disruptive innovation and fast change, don’t we really need to initiate?

Proactivity requires reflection.  Overcoming recurring stumbling blocks demands new solutions.  In the words of Albert Einstein, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

Reflection gets us thinking at another level.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
– Albert Einstein

Here are five situations when deeper level thinking is vital.

1. When Faced with Failure

  • The deal you were about to close fell through at the last minute.
  • You expected a positive response from a colleague and met a very different reaction.
  • An employee left the company or is in burnout.

Step back

We could be too close to the problem.

Try stepping back using space.   Using Post-It notes, write one element of your challenge on each note and place them in order on a wall.  Step back and discover the pattern.  Where is the breaking point?

Try stepping back or forward with time.  Two weeks ago, what was the situation like?  Two weeks from now, what would you like to happen?

2. When Your Body “Complains”

  • You cannot sleep at night.
  • You have gained or lost weight.
  • You get sick.
  • Your digestion has gone havoc; gurgling sounds interrupt your meetings (!)

“If I knew I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself.”
– 90 year-old Al McDonald, previous Managing Director (CEO) of McKinsey & Company

Your and my energy is finite.  With exercise, nutrition, self-care, and planning we can increase our productivity … to a limit.

Re-Prioritize

Physical signs point to a need for change.  It’s time to re-evaluate the distribution of work.  Are you accepting too many projects?  Is it difficult to say, “No”?

Seeking recognition is a common goal.  All humans experience the fundamental need to belong and to contribute to a meaningful community.  Colleagues and neighbors may admire superhumans from afar.  It’s people we come alongside.  It’s relationships with fellow humans that bring meaning to work and life.

Review your investments in time and energy to identify tasks to delegate… and offer others a chance to grow and contribute too.

3. When Bored or Feeling Blasé

When all you see is 10 000 shades of grey, mental fatigue may be blinding you to life in full color spectrum.

Re-Connect

Consider these color images.  The first lacks greens.  The second is without red.  Without these hues, one can miss out on the obvious.

Numbers for Color Blind. No green
No green => confusing!
Numbers for Color Blind. No red
No red => confusing too.
Color blind numbers vector
Even with all the color, reading the numbers takes effort. Similarly, additional perspectives makes reflection easier.

When life appears color blind, it’s an invitation to reflect.  Easier said than done when we are in the blues.  Connecting with another person can add the clarity of perception we may have temporarily lost.  (That’s what coaches like me do.)

We have been given life in technicolor.  It’s urgent to re-assess when life appears monochromatic.

4. When Your Calendar is Always Full

I read of a foreigner learning English who integrated phrases she heard spoken around herShe learned to respond to, “How are you?” with, “I’m so busy.”

Many of us live with little margin.  We plan flexibility out of our lives.

Think of Yourself

Have you travelled on an airplane recently?  The flight attendants remind us to put on our oxygen mask BEFORE we help others.

Many people postpone self-care, prioritize working for others over taking time for oneself.   If you don’t invest in yourself, why should anyone else?

Self-care is a way to express your worth to your entourage.  Again, if you don’t believe in yourself, why should your boss, colleague, spouse, or child?

5. When You are Bitter or Jealous

We all look at the world through a filter.  The lens of envy focuses on faults … and since we are all humans, imperfections in each of us will be found.

Bitterness jettisons us into a vicious cycle of hurt and retaliation. It’s a lose-lose situation, and the one who harbors bitterness suffers most of all.

Lack of forgiveness is like drinking the poison you wish for someone else, reminds us Nelson Mandela.  Riddled with venom we perish; our joy dies, our ability to contribute constructively dwindles, and our sense of belonging withers.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
– Nelson Mandela

Focus on Long Term Benefits

Numerous studies report how the elderly look back on their life.  Men and women lament the energy they wasted on insisting that they were right, even at the cost of a relationship.  The wise in years wish for strong rapport with folk who know their imperfections AND respect them still.

You may not desire nor need to reconnect in a hurtful relationship.  Do reconnect with yourself and your values.  (Often this does imply some kind of gesture in relationship recovery.)

It takes some stepping back to recognize our own responsibility in a relationship rift.

  • The 10 additional critical words to make SURE the reprimand got across
  • The 10 additional decibels in our tone of voice so that the entire floor could hear the negative feedback

As we realize and express our responsibility in the conflict, we free ourselves from a victim mentality and from reactivity.

Do you use a mirror to pluck out an ingrown hair?  Consider getting a coach or a sparring partner to bring to focus behaviors which could be aggravating an already delicate situation.

 

Reflection Becomes a Habit of the Mind

Reflection becomes a habit.

Try this activity from Positive Discipline that we do in my workshops:

  • Put your hands together and interlace your fingers
  • Straighten your fingers and move them down one notch. If your right index was on top before, the left one will be on top now.
  • How does it feel? What do you want to do?
    One participant shared, “The new hand position felt weird.  I wanted to go back to the previous way, and without thinking did so.  Then I tried the new hand position again.  It still felt unfamiliar, but less uncomfortable.  I realized that with practice, I could do this.”

Neuroscience corroborates this phenomenon.  When we activate our brain (as in through reflection) neurons create a pathway of connections from one part of the brain to another.  As we rethink similar thoughts, those same pathways get utilized, like a path a well-worn path that becomes easier and easier to follow.

Phew!

Action Step

Schedule a free trial coaching call.  Get in touch.

 

 

 

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.

French soccer team winning FIFA World Cup 2018

Winning. Insights from Rosabeth Moss Kanter of Harvard Business School

France just won the soccer World Cup.  It happened last 20 years ago.

The World Cup was launched in 1930 and every four years (except during WWII) national soccer teams throughout the world compete for the champion’s prize.  Of the 23 FIFA World Cups held over the years, nine countries experienced the glory of winning.  Only two times did the same country win twice in a row.

Confidence How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin & End

What makes a winning team?

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor at Harvard Business School, researched the question and wrote about it in her book, Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin & End.

Moss Kanter’s determines that winning stems from confidence and leaders deliver confidence.  Learn how and apply her insights to your company or organization.

Success is a process.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter (RMK): “Failure and success are not episodes, they are trajectories.”

“Success is neither magic nor dumb luck; it stems from a great deal of hard work to perfect each detail.  It is even a little mundane.  Win, go back to work, win again.”

Moss Kanter also describes losing as a process and mindset:  blaming and making excuses.

Food for thought:

What processes do you have in place to learn from winning?

How do you share this knowledge?

Confidence-building is the leader’s job.

RMK: “Confidence underlies the performance of individuals, teams, businesses, schools, economies, and nations.  The fundamental task of leaders is to develop confidence in advance of victory, in order to attract the investments that make victory possible—money, talent, support, loyalty, attention, effort, or people’s best thinking.”

Food for thought:

What three resources does your team need most now?

  • Freedom to take risks and learn from mistakes
  • Consistency in management objectives
  • Trust to manage their own time and priorities
  • Appreciation of a job well done
  • Training to work more effectively as team

Confidence builds on past experiences and reactions to those experiences.

RMK: “But confidence is not an artificial mental construct, solely dependent on what people decide to believe; it reflects reasonable reactions to circumstances.   People are caught in cycles, and they interpret events based on what they see happening, on how they are treated by others around them.”

Moss-Kanter refers to events occurring during the performance AND backstage.  On the field AND in the locker room.  In front of the client AND in the conference room.

Food for thought:

How do your actions “during practice times” contribute to your team’s confidence “in the limelight”?

For example, what are the impact of gossip, ridicule, selective information, and pleasing in your organization?

When and how does your team practice before “big performances”?  Which of these apply to your team

  • Present challenges to the team for co-development
  • Identify worst-case scenarios and brainstorm potential solutions in anticipation
  • Role play critical meetings beforehand

Emotions are contagious.

RMK: “Good moods are both causes and effects.  Winning puts people in a good mood and being in a good mood makes it easier to win.  Positive emotions draw people together and negative emotions tend to push them apart.”

Food for thought:

What emotions do you express or allow at work?  When did you last hear someone (including you) say

  • How proud they are of themselves
  • They are excited to come to work
  • It’s satisfying to learn
  • They enjoy the teamwork
  • They are bored and would like new challenges
  • They feel let down and seek ways to build mutual support

What impact does expressing or suppressing emotions have on your team?

Winners face facts and address problems.

RMK: “It builds confidence in leaders when they name problems that everyone knows are there and put facts on the table for everyone to see.  It also helps other people get over their fear of exposure and humiliation to see leaders providing examples of accepting responsibility.”

“Accountability is the first cornerstone of confidence….Everyone said they knew what the problems were, but those problems were always some else’s fault.”

Food for thought:

Surprisingly, obvious challenges can be hard to pinpoint.  Like the fish who asks, “What is water?”
How can you step back and gain a fresh perspective?

  • Request feedback from a junior member of your team
  • Meet with an independent sparring partner
  • Accept a speaking engagement or an invitation for an interview which challenges you to synthesize strategies and actions

Winners really do work harder.  They track the specifics of their progress.

RMK: “(The CEO) was not looking for drama, he was looking for delivery.  Delivery required attention to details.”

Moss-Kanter spoke of the boring part of winning:  tracking the numbers and being disciplined.  It also helps everyone be on the same page and data reveals what needs to improve right now.

RMK: “Data, details, metrics, measurement, analyses, charts, tests, assessments, performance, evaluations, report cards, grades—these are the tools of accountability, but they are neutral tools.  The do not restore confidence by themselves.  What matters is the culture that surrounds them.  For losers, they are another sign that they are watched too closely, not trusted, about to be punished.  For winners, they are useful, even vital, tools for understanding and improving performance.”

Food for thought:

On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high), how relevant are your metrics?  How much do you rely on your KPI’s for decision-making?

What do metrics conjure up in your culture: blame or learning?  What will you do about that?

 

Can there be Winners without Losers?

In the World Cup only one team receives the championship cup.

And yet, no one can categorize Croatia as “Losers” in the 2018.  Their president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic set the example in recognizing great sportsmanship in the competition and in her own team.  She embraced the championship cup holders as warmly as she embraced her own team.  Following suit, the French president Emmanuel Macron also embraced each of the Croatian athletes.

Emmanuel Macron and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
The final whistle blows. Photo from Purepeople
Emmanuel Macron and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic
Victory to all champions. Photo from La Parisienne
Emmanuel Macron and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic hugging Mbappe
Such a HUG. Even Mbappe is surprised at her warm congratulations. Photo from La Parisienne.
Emmanuel Macron and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in rain
Celebration rain or shine. Photo from La Parisienne.

The world witnessed a moment of connection as rain-soaked heads of states hugged sweat-soaked athletes, regardless of whether they held the prized cup or not.

Grabar-Kitarovic’s honorable stance at the award ceremony changed the way the French public views the Croatian team.

There is one world cup winner.  AND, there are no loser.  Everyone stands tall after the match.

 

What power-struggle in your life can we transform into a no-lose situation?  Contact me  to implement such a transition.

 

Quotes from Rosabeth Moss Kater are excerpts from her book
Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin & End

Cover photo from Gala