Google+

The Success Triangle

 

Dimensions of Success

 

 

Recently, at a high tech manufacturing company, I asked the engineer predominant attendees in the room, where they spent most of the time in a triangle I had drawn on the board.  They laughed when I asked about the area labeled “Relationship”.  For them, getting the task done was most important.  And working on processes was a close second.

This triangular model is called Dimensions of Success.  I was first introduced to it while employed with Outward Bound Professional a few years ago.  I refer to it when explaining a number of things such as the skills associated with my work (relationship building), the framework for a workshop (processes to help your relationships), and simply as a question for perspective clients – where do you focus most of your time?  Achieving tasks, fixing processes, or building relationships?

This simple model helps people understand that all three areas are important.  Most companies only focus on Task and Process.  When organizations do not include relationship building as an equal priority, employees do not feel valued or appreciated.  Fear in the workplace is almost palpable as employees won’t share best practices with other employees, never mind suggest a change to management.

Other downsides include reduced employee morale, negative overall opinion of the entire company, increased stress levels, and even physical health complications.

As I continue my work, I strive to give the Relationship point of the triangle the credit it deserves.   It really is  a crucial piece to a successful workplace.

Why Are Apples in this Tree?

Milo apple tree in snow

On a recent snowy walk, Milo and I came upon an unusual sight. A tree had apples hanging from its limbs, attached by string.  How wonderfully unexpected and out of context!  Who would take the time to trek out here, in the woods, and adorn this ordinary tree with fruit?

Milo was momentarily interested but wandered off while I took some pictures and tried to come to a rational conclusion.  But I really couldn’t.  It made me think about times that unusual or odd things happen in the workplace and how employees respond. Are they curious?  Are they suspicious?  Are they doubting? Do they even notice?!

It would be too rash to place judgment on others based on their reaction to something like this.  But I think it’s an indicator of how people generally respond to change.  I have seen a spectrum from fear to acceptance, but the most common denominator is wanting to know why.  As a decision maker or leader, it’s imperative to recognize the importance of keeping people in the loop.  And while it may not consist of every detail, providing some information is usually met with appreciation.

So I never did discover the reason why the apples were suspended in that tree.  But I’m ok with that.

Sledding With Style

boysSledding“Bend your legs and put your feet on top of mine,” I order my partner. “Hold on to the handles or me.” I readjust our position and shimmy over a few feet to the left.  “Are you ready?” I ask.  A tentative “I think so” comes out.  I look ahead to make sure our path is clear. “OK, hold on!” and I push us over the edge.

Our screams fill the chilly night air as we gain speed down the hill.  Faster and bumpier the ride becomes.  Snow is flying all around us.  Our sled spins around and we finally come to rest at the bottom of the hill, facing the path of our descent. “That was amazing!” I hear through laughing breaths.  “Let’s do it again!!”

How do we communicate when sledding?  For me, it’s a combination of two distinct styles.  One is structured while the other is unstructured.  The first is being clear about being ready and therefore prepared.  Are we situated properly?  Are we ready to launch?  Is there anyone in the way?

The second consists of screaming, laughing, and cheering.  This free form communication is spontaneous and is a reaction to the environment.

I see the value in both of these styles and they compliment each other well.  Imagine if your workplace lacked structured communication.  How would anything get done? Or what if your workplace did not encourage spur-of-the-moment interactions?  So much creative thinking and quick problem solving could be lost.

So during these chilly winter days, perhaps sledding can remind you to use a balanced approach of styles when communicating.  Are you ready to go?  Now, let’s scream!

Thanking the Competition

tealightsA silver tray of unlit tea lights makes its way around the table.  Each family member answers the question, “What are you grateful for?” as they light a candle.  This is a tradition that my family does during holidays such as Thanksgiving.  And it got me thinking.  How often do we really express our gratitude?  And what does it matter?

 

Research shows that those whom practice gratitude have:

  • Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
  • Higher levels of positive emotions;
  • More joy, optimism, and happiness;
  • Acting with more generosity and compassion;
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated.

Here’s a great article explaining more: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/expandinggratitude

I clearly see these benefits for myself when I do the following 2 things, one privately and one publicly.  The first is keeping a gratitude journal.  At the end of the day, just before bed, I write down 3 things I’m grateful that occurred during the day.

The second is that I thank my competition after playing a good game of soccer.  Without them, there would be no game!  When we shake hands after the game, I don’t say the typical “good game.” I say, “Thank you for playing.”  Win, lose, or tie.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to play.

How and where can you express your gratitude?

 

Personal Taglines

 

i_love_taglines_mugRecently, someone told me that they had a personal tagline. He shared it with me: “unlimited patience yields immediate results.”  Wow.

It made me stop and think, not only about what my tagline would be right now, but the significance of having one and letting other people know it.  What’s the importance of communicating your tagline?  After all, it’s only about you.  But research shows that people are more likely to achieve a goal or live by a tagline if they share it with others.  http://sidsavara.com/personal-productivity/fact-or-fiction-the-truth-about-the-harvard-written-goal-study

Businesses are constantly searching for the best tagline to capture the attention of customers with something they will remember.  And while a personal tagline is similar in regards of being clever and succinct, it’s really about capturing and retaining your own attention.

Personal taglines are like mottos for life.  They provide us with clarity in who we are and a baseline to return to when in doubt of our direction.  And these are not just to advertise to others but to maintain our individual motivational compass.

For example, when I was in my mid-twenties, I participated in a youth leadership training as a facilitator.  Our multi-day experience concluded with every youth and adult declaring their personal tagline.  They were typed onto a certificate and read aloud to the entire group, graduation style.  Mine was: “I am a woman of substance, full of life, offering my support to others.” 

Fifteen years later, I can see the impact that experience had and how it has affected my decision making and goal setting.  I’m grateful for such clarity and the chance to share it whenever I can.  It’s powerful.

Holiday Baggage

 

baggage-claim-1

Imagine the scene: a holiday family reunion for mother, father, son, and daughter at the baggage claim at the airport.  Trying to make small talk, the daughter asks the father about his luggage, did he like it, did it get too heavy because there were no wheels, etc…

“It’s only as heavy as I make it,” he replies in a that’s-a-stupid-question tone.  Then he picks on his wife for not being able to correctly pull the handle up on her roll on.

The son, feeling triggered, confronts the father. “Dad, what is wrong with you?  Why are you talking like such a jerk?!”  At that very moment, a porter approaches and asks, “Does anyone here need a cart?”  “No!” the daughter quickly responds. “What we need is family therapy!”

Why do our best communication skills evaporate when we are with family?  As the holidays approach and more family time might be in your future, please remember that you’re not alone.  When completing assessments, participants in my courses frequently ask me if they should be thinking about how they communicate at work or at home.  For many, there is a large gap between the two.

But back to family/holiday communication stress.  I recommend having realistic expectations for yourself and your ability to communicate effectively when with family.  These are people that may have been formative in how you think about conflict, how you cope with difficult conversations, how you handle stress.  And if they weren’t the best role models, just remember that.

I also wouldn’t assume that because you may have changed, that they have.  But if you feel confident in new ways of communicating, by all means, give your new skills a whirl and see what happens.  Enlist help from others who may also want to improve their family communication or at the least, support you.

And what of that family at the airport?  They all laughed (even the porter!) at the therapy comment and that helped break the ice.  It was a good reminder of the power of humor and how helpful it can be.  Their “baggage” at the baggage claim seemed less heavy after all.

The STRETCH Zone

woman high element“What do you mean by harness?”I could see the apprehension in her face.  She was nervous.  But she pressed on.

“Do we have to climb the high elements?”  Her questions hung in the air for a few seconds as I thought about how to answer.  No, it wasn’t required for anyone to climb any of the high elements.  But, if they chose to, they would have to wear a harness.

I was working with a group of 4th/5th grade teachers from the Boston area at Project Adventure. I was facilitating a day of team building that included climbing high elements, between 25 – 45 feet in the air.

“But why would we want to do a high element?”  Because it’s fun?   Because it’s thrilling? These are answers that easily appeal to me.  But the universal truth is because it allows you to stretch yourself more than you think is possible.

“Because, if you want, you can. This is a unique opportunity for you and your group. Do you want to try?”  She looked doubtful but the other group members assured her that they were nervous as well. This was a challenge for them to experience together. They would act as her witnesses and later remind her of how she stretched herself.

The stretch zone, as I like to refer to it, is when we feel uncomfortable, challenged, nervous.  It’s the zone between comfort and panic.  And the more time we spend in it, the larger our comfort zone becomes.

Later that day…“I can’t believe I did it!  Thank you!!”  The teacher was glowing with pride and accomplishment. To knowingly place ourselves into our stretch zones takes courage and encouragement.  And it is indeed a gift to support people as they explore their own stretch zone.

YAGO

comfort zone and growthWhat’s a YAGO?  It’s Yet Another Growth Opportunity. I think I like helping others have YAGOs  as much as I like experiencing them.  Or just hearing about someone else’s YAGO makes me happy.

Here’s a few:

An accomplished hairdresser once shared with me how much courage it took the first time she cut hair.  “I grabbed a mannequin and a martini. I took a deep breath, a deep drink, and I went for it.”

A workout partner described how horrified she was at an indoor water park, being hurled through a narrow water slide shoot.  “I did it but never again.” “But at the end, didn’t you want to do it more?”  “Nope. I just wanted to know that I had done it.”

YAGOs frequently develop from the courage it takes to do something out of our comfort zone.   When we find ourselves in situations that are challenging, for whatever reason, (fear of being judged, fear of physical harm), we are at a crossroads.  Can I learn from this or not?  Will I be better because of this or not?

A final example:

A woman aggressively yelled at me for not having my dog on leash at a local park.   Normally, I would have said nothing (fear of conflict) or yelled back at her (fear of being disrespected).  But instead, even though it was uncomfortable, I remained calm and repeatedly asked why she was so upset.  She quickly quieted down and explained she had been bitten by an off leash dog.  This was a YAGO moment that reminded me that not everyone likes dogs and for good reason.

Bringing awareness to these YAGO moments is like when you decide to buy a car.  Suddenly you see that car everywhere!  Similarly, you will notice more YAGO moments for yourself and others.  It’s your choice as to what to do with it.  Good luck!

A New Running Perspective

runninghalfmarathon

 

 

 

 

 

I recently asked a running partner if she wanted to join me in a 5K race.  I look forward to races, the excitement, the camaraderie, the accomplished feeling upon completion.  It feels like a fun party with a purpose.  So I was surprised when she said, with certainty, no.  I explained that it was a chance to enjoy running with others.

The answer was still a definite no.

She later emailed me, explaining her resoluteness:

“I was always the weak, small kid in gym class.  It was torture.  Now I found running as a sport that I can do and no one judges me. I don’t want to do that with a group of people and risk feeling crappy again.”

I was so grateful for her explanation.  It reminded me of a few important things in life as well as communication:

  • Not everyone runs for the same reasons.  Not everyone communicates like us.
  • If we still want to run with them, we can adjust our expectations of people that don’t run for the same reasons.  If we still want to communicate with them, we can try to understand their perspective.

Thanks to the coolest running partner ever, E.A.P.!

 

Lava Lamp Cool

Lavalamp_red

Did you know Lava Lamps turned 50 years old last month? My first purchase with my own money was a lava lamp.  I was a teenager and thought it was THE coolest thing.  The evolving flow of red wax in yellow water fascinated me.  How could two seemingly contrasting qualities that don’t mix coexist so gracefully?

Their 50th birthday got me thinking.  Where else in life can differing qualities coexist? And I realized I ask my clients this question all the time!  I encourage them to accept different points of view, like wax and water, so they can coexist in their professional worlds.

I witness many interpersonal problems occurring because people are unwilling to acknowledge another point of view.  This is usually triggered when we get defensive because we feel threatened by someone’s words or actions.  Then, we also make assumptions about them without finding out the real facts of the situation.  When I hear people say, “We’re like oil and water.  We just don’t mix,” I ask them to think about how much they actually know of the situation and know about the other person.

With the right encouragement (heat from the bulb), multiple viewpoints can exist.  I support my clients to take the time to fully understand a situation.  Equally important is to not demonize the other person!  Take the time to get to know them as well.

By the way, I still own my wonderful mixture of light and chaos.  And it is still THE coolest lamp ever.