Wisdom for Teams #39

Everything about me is a contradiction, and so is everything about everybody else. We are made out of oppositions; we live between two poles. There’s a philistine and an aesthete in all of us, and a murderer and a saint. You don’t reconcile the poles. You just recognize them.

ORSON WELLES (1915 – 1985) director, actor, screenwriter, and producer; remembered for his innovative work in radio, theatre and film, and considered to be among the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time.

3 Ingredients for Impact, Growth and Trust

On Saturday I gave a talk at the Chateuaform La Mola Campus here in Barcelona. Their sales and logistics teams from six countries met for a weekend of fun, reenergizing, and to learn to leverage each others strengths. This latter part is what I was asked to talk about.

We tend to know what kinds of teams we want — safe, winning, fulfilling, etc. — but sometimes we struggle with what needs to go in order to have these outputs. So I decided to focus on what teams want to do in order to have more impact, continue growing, and generate greater trust. It turns out, it’s not rocket science.

1. How to have more impact

If we want our work to have a beautiful impact, we want to begin with having a purpose. Purpose is the intention of our actions. To define our purpose we answer the question: “What for am I doing this?” Teams with poor purpose are teams with no impact. Great purpose means beautiful impact.

2. How to make the team grow

We all know that it is important to grow, both as individuals and as a team. But what do we put in to make growth happen? Answer: Feedback. Feedback is the gift of growth. Without feedback we don’t grow. Positive feedback gives us the energy to keep growing, constructive feedback gives us the direction in which to grow. Teams that grow are teams that rock at feedback.

3. How to generate trust

According to the Trust Equation, a good dose of intimacy and lots of generosity is required for trust. Intimacy does not mean you tell me the things you tell your partner. It means you tell me things the way you would tell your partner, and this builds trust. Generosity is important simply because selfish people are assholes and can’t be trusted.

The key here is vulnerability, exposing ourselves by being transparent and sincere about what is going on and how we feel about it. The secret to being intimate and generous at the same time is to show vulnerability. Teams with high levels of trust are vulnerability junkies.

I had a fantastic time with this Chateauform group. It was inspiring to see a team driven by purpose, open to feedback and courageously vulnerable.

Wisdom for Teams #38

Whether we stay or whether we go – to be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.

DAVID WHYTE (Born 1955), Anglo-Irish poet; His writing explores the timeless relationship of human beings to their world, to creation, to others, and to the end of life itself.

The Ritual Was the Key

He was a farmer, and cows were his thing. He would wake up before the sun, silently. A cup of coffee and a biscuit for breakfast. And he’d set out to the fields. But before he left, he would sit at the doorstep and do the ritual, and the ritual was the key. 

His name was Jose Rodrigues and he was my grandfather on my dad’s side. He was born in 1906 on the Island of Saint Michael in the Azores archipelago, nine Portuguese Islands in the middle of the Atlantic. He was born in tough times and fortune did not always smile upon him. 

On his first day of school, the teacher punished him and whipped him with a ruler. On his second day of school, he made a hole on the wooden floor. The teacher tripped and fell. And there was never a third day of school.   

He never learnt to read or write. At age nine, a load of wood fell off a horse and broke his right leg. He limped the rest of his 80 years. His wife, Evangelina, died of tuberculosis, leaving him with a house stuffed with seven kids. He remarried. Shortly after giving birth, she also passed away. He was accused of homicide and spent a month in jail, then they figured out they had the wrong guy. I could go on. But I think you get it when I say fortune did not always smile upon him. 

But Jose was not a bitter man. He was a fulfilled man who lived an exciting and meaningful life. He fathered fifteen children. When fortune did smile upon him, he created enough wealth to live a comfortable life, and travel the world, which was unprecedented in those days on the Islands, especially for a farmer. 

But mostly, he was a pioneer, a serial pioneer. For instance, he was the first on the Islands to milk cows twice a day. He didn’t get the idea from a TV show. And like this one, he had many revolutionary ideas. His ritual was the key. 

Here goes the ritual. Everyday before he set out to work he would sit at the doorstep of his garage, light a cigarette and ask himself: “How will I achieve more with less effort today?” As he smoked, he thought. Ideas came. Success followed.

Wisdom for Teams #37

Impact Players [i.e. people who are doing work of exceptional value and impact] see uncertainty and ambiguity as an opportunity to add value.

LIZ WISEMAN (1964), Researcher and executive advisor, author of New York Times bestseller Multipliers:  How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.  

Do You Own It? Or Does It Own You?

Photo by Marcus iStrfry on Unsplash

When I look at my life, I see a cliché: a rollercoaster — a few flat moments, and lots of ups and downs. For the most part, it’s been fun. But sometimes it overwhelms me, especially when things don’t roll as expected. Eventually, I realize I better get a grip.

What is the point of riding a rollercoaster, if you’re not going to own the experience?

As a coach, my job is to help people get unstuck, and that starts by them owning the experience they’re going through. As long as the experience owns us, we’re stuck and we can’t move forward.

Owning the experience means recognizing realistically what is happening — no more, no less — and then accepting it just as it is.

Only then can we figure out what to do next. Here is what I do to help myself and others own the experience.

First, frame the experience in a more constructive, less apocalyptic light. What is fact, and what is interpretation? What else could this mean? What is useful here? How could this help us grow?

Second, share the experience transparently with others. When we overcome the vulnerability of openly sharing our struggle, we dispel the power the experience has over us. As Mr. Rogers* would say, if it’s mentionable, it’s manageable.

Worse than the experience of feeling overwhelmed, is the experience of not owning this experience.

——

*Mr. Rogers was a TV host, author, and producer; best known for the preschool TV series “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”.

What if Hate Was Not an Option?

Have you ever found yourself at work or in your personal life stuck with someone you just can’t come around to liking, and whose behavior you find impossible to approve? In these situations, it is not hard to feel some sort of hatred. But what would happen if hate were not an option?

Please set aside your spiritual beliefs for a moment. I’m going to draw an analogy from Christian tradition that might help us deal with these situations. Bear with me. According to tradition, god can only love. Hate is not an option. Now, given all the evil humans are capable of, it must be hard to always love and never hate.

So how does god manage it? Well, the tradition makes a few distinctions. It says that you can disapprove of a situation without hating the person. It says you can be hard on the behavior and soft with the person. It says we can dislike someone and still wish the best for them.

The tradition states that we have a choice. That we can choose to accept that even when we dislike someone, other people do like them. That we can choose to condemn the behavior but not the person. That we can love even when we don’t like.

This may seem a too big of an ask, one that only the gods are capable of. But it is not so. As a priest and throughout the years I’ve seen it happen, even in very extreme situations, situations of betrayal, of sexual abuse, and even of homicide. Perhaps we are not too far from the heavens when we recognize that hate is really not an option.