Thursday, May 10, 2018

Working on Working Together

Guest post by Chad Littlefield and Will Wise:

Vulnerability is natural. It’s human—so much so that the word “human” is often used to point out or help us come to terms with our vulnerabilities.

So when we enter a new situation, we often search for something to protect us. If we’re at a party filled with people we largely don’t know, we’ll seek out the person we do, at least until we’ve adjusted and are comfortable mingling with others. Online, we might edit our tweets and posts before sending them out to the world based on how we think others will react to them.

As a result of our vulnerability, we instinctively build walls to protect us from others we don’t already trust, but those walls also prevent connection and all of the positives that come from it.

Imagine you want to work with a new employee so you give them a project to spearhead with your input—let’s say you’ve want them to work with you on the task of reducing the number of meetings that take place around the office on a weekly basis, either by consolidating smaller meetings into fewer, larger ones or by determining which can be cut altogether.

Likely, your initial interactions with this employee in pursuit of solving this problem will follow these simple steps:

1. You’ll shake hands and introduce yourselves

2. Then you will then take turns brainstorming potential solutions to the problem at hand—mostly small tweaks to current policies and activities in the office.

3. For each suggestion one of you makes, the other explains why it wouldn’t work or what in it is useful. This goes back and forth until a consensus is reached on a middle ground, “safe option,” and you both go on your way.

Seems like a pretty straightforward, common work interaction a new employee and their manager. But you can do better, right off the bat, if you prioritize connection when leading. Before jumping into solutions for the project, establish a relationship of trust that will allow you to be more comfortable with each other—it’s especially important for an employee to feel comfortable and able to express their opinions and ideas with their superiors (creating that kind of environment is just great leadership).

Ask them a question that is outside of the realm of “small talk.” Ask (respectfully) about something their wearing or carrying based on your curiosity, or ask the story behind an interesting tchotchke on their desk you saw when you walked past it in the morning. Have them share a little bit about themselves—not their role at the company or their role before it, but who they are regardless of where they’re sitting—and share some of your own as well. Staring with an ask that began with natural, genuine curiosity, an urge to connect will be fostered in both parties.

By building this rapport, you will be focused on working together, on truly collaborating, instead of simply solving a problem, and ironically that means that any solution you come up with will be far better because it’s one that is fully using the power of two brains collaborating. You can create something entirely new that has never been done before, something you’ll both love and find yourself hoping the other team members will buy into it as well. Rather than one person having passion for their idea and the other going along with it, the solution is something you are both passionate about and will champion. 
You’ll know trust is high between you when you catch yourself or the employee things like “Our idea….” or “We’ve got this idea….” rather than “My idea is…” or “I got this idea…” The “me” moments shift to “we” moments when an idea is born and then built upon in the space between multiple individuals.
 
If we connect before diving into content with our colleagues and those we lead, we will spend less time shooting down ideas and will be comfortable enough to listen and build on the ideas of others. Peter Block once said that “without relatedness, no work can occur.” Creativity and innovation happens best in an environment of psychological safety where we trust that those we are working with have our best interest in mind. When we don’t feel the need to put up walls, true collaboration can happen.

 
WiLL WiSE, M.Ed., is the author of #1 Amazon Bestselling Book, Asking Powerful Questions: Create Conversations that Matter. He has over two decades of experience
custom building leadership programs for corporate and nonprofit groups. Leaders call Will when there is a lack of trust getting in the way of results. Tens of thousands of people have been empowered with positive communication skills after spending some time with WiLL and We!™.

Chad Littlefield, M.Ed. is the co-founder and CEO of We!™, keynote speaker and professional facilitator. Leaders and conference organizers call Chad when they want to make their events more interactive and engaging. He has spoken at TEDx and is the creator of We! Connect Cards™, which are now being used to create conversations that matter on campuses and companies in over 50 countries around the world.

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