How to Harness the Power of Connection.

You walk into a store and the cashier is more robotic than friendly. No eye contact; and repeating the same “Have a nice day” with no expression of sincerity. Your coworker is demanding a document that you are sure they already have and this might be the fourth time you’ve sent it to them. It’s easy to get sucked into a malaise of disconnectedness. You start putting up walls and keep everyone at arm’s length. It’s easy to fall into being out for yourself and out of touch with others. And you begin to shut others out.

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I was fortunate to facilitate a team of 65 in the construction business. The theme was Team Dynamics but what it really was about was connecting. Truly and literally standing in another department’s shoes to understand their perspectives and their challenges is an amazingly transformative act. The outcome was magical. I’d say the group was at least 75% men. Men in the rough and tumble world of construction where swearing is encouraged and feelings need to be checked at the door. I have to say I was nervous. Would these guys really buy in? Would they really be able to open their hearts and minds to their teammates? Well, I’m happy to say they did and the end result was powerful.

Here is how to harness the power of connection:

1. It always starts with the team alliance. This is a tenet of CRR Global. It’s basically an agreement of how we want to “be” with each other. As long as there’s clarity and agreement some remarkable things can happen. I worked with a technology team that wanted to make sure that “swearing” was encouraged. As long as everyone is on board, then swearing can be encouraged. It could just as easily have been respect or openness or confidentiality. You just need to be clear about how you want the team to be together and starting off a meeting or project or team dynamic session should always have an alliance. I have to say that during the facilitation with the construction company, I had to remind them a few times that “respect” was on the alliance. When ground rules are set, people are more likely to participate.

2. First seek to understand. This is habit 5 from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In a nutshell, this is all about active listening. It’s not listening until I can get a word in edgewise. It’s not biting my tongue until I can impress you with my retort. It’s seeking to understand. It’s about being open and non judgmental. In a room full to the brim with 65 people, they all listened attentively to each other. The knowing head nods. The smile of acknowledgment. How often can you say that?

3. Everyone has a voice. What’s powerful about the “lands work” from CRR Global is that each “land” (department) gets to speak up without any interruption. Each person gets to represent what it’s like in their “land” and there can be no disagreement, no denial. If a project coordinator says “I have to juggle the demands of four superintendents.” There is no denying that. It is that project coordinator’s truth. Their unadulterated voice. It’s powerful to here a co-worker state a truth that you didn’t even realize. Connecting involves everyone having a voice.

4. Stepping into someone else’s shoes. This is the magical part of “lands work.” All the superintendents took a seat while everyone else in the company stood in their “land.” They then spoke on behalf of the superintendents. There was one woman from administration who when she stood in each of the other lands said “I don’t like this land.” She acknowledged how difficult the other positions in the company were. The superintendents were constantly on the road, the business development folks were constantly handling rejection, the project coordinators had to deal with uncooperative sub contractors. And on and on and on. I could see the impact of having the other people who didn’t have your job speak on behalf of your job and suddenly connection was created. They get it. They were able to move on with a new understanding of each other that would not have ever existed without this effort.

5. Making sure there is a take away. In the end, there must be an understanding. What will this group take away from this experience? How can we take this forward? In a nutshell someone said “Empathy.” There is a new understanding that for each of them to be clear what the priority is. An understanding of what the effect they have on others. Some folks wanted an email with a clear subject line, some folks want a voicemail and still others wanted to get a text. The point was they had a new understanding of flexing and adapting to each other because now they understood each other’s perspective.

So I challenge you to be more connected at work. When was the last time you asked the Project Manager what their challenges are and what do they need from other departments to be more effective? Give it a try and sit back and listen. Really listen.

Originally published on Change Your Thoughts on January 8, 2016

6 Ways to Build Culture. The Third Entity™.

The Third Entity™ is concept developed by The Center for Right Relationship (CRR Global) to describe the relationship that connects us but essentially has an existence of its own. In an organization it’s called culture. If the founder leaves the organization, the culture (and Third Entity) change. This phenomenon isn’t isolated to corporations.

The same thing happens at home when my husband and I have had an empty nest for 6 months and suddenly have it disrupted by having an 18 year old at home. The Third Entity shifts. The relationship has more of a strain because there are more needs to be met (and more food to be purchased) and boundaries tested (dishes being washed at 3 AM). The Third Entity

I had the privilege to test out the Third Entity of my Rotary club a few weeks ago. I say, test out, because I had never used some of the tools that I learned from CRR Global until I used my Rotary Club as guinea pigs. I have to say it was an eye opening and inspiring experience. I’ve been a Rotary member for over 10 years but to actually work with this group to discuss our culture and aspirations was really gratifying. You just don’t know until you know.

So this is what I learned about the group culture that ties us together:

1. Alliance. It’s really important to clarify the team alliance. When was the last time you verbalized what your marriage or culture or relationship is all about. What is the basis for its existence. I asked the club what sort of culture they wanted to create and the first thing that anyone said was “Fun”. I have to say it’s one of the main reasons I enjoy getting up every Wednesday for a 7 AM (yes…7 AM) meeting; we always have fun. Always. There is always good natured ribbing, crazy birthday hats and a joke that’s just clean enough to tell but raises a few eyebrows. Clarify your team alliance.

2. Flourish. What will it take for your team or relationship to flourish? I was surprised that there were many viewpoints on this question. Some folks said we needed more members, others said more fundraisers, and still others said more participation. These are all very different tangents for a small club of some 30 members. When is the last time you asked your spouse or partner or organization at-large what it will take to flourish? I think you would be surprised at the answer. It might be time to ask.

3. Conflict. Find out how you want to handle conflict. As in Patrick Lencioni‘s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, “All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship, and certainly business.” If you can’t debate and raise some of the “Elephant in the Room” issues, it is impossible to progress. If you are surrounded by a lot of “Yes Men”…you are not likely to be making the best decisions. Create some ground rules on how to handle conflict and to make sure it’s not taboo.

4. Alignment. It’s not critical that we are in lock step as much as that we are headed in the same direction. You and I don’t need to be on the same exact path for us to succeed but we need to be in alignment. Marketing and Operations are going to take very different paths but if they know and are aligned with the overarching goal of “Outstanding Customer Experience” then we can succeed. Marketing might be creating authentic marketing collateral while Operations is making sure the quality and delivery times are superior. Different paths but aligned to the goal. Be aligned.

5. Listen. We need to be able to listen to dissenting voices. Some of the Rotarians wanted more members and others joined because we were a small group. These are dissenting views. But it had to be spoken. It needed to be acknowledged. This shows up all the time in parenting. Dad wants Johnny to go to the concert and Mom doesn’t. Let it be spoken so both sides can be heard. Listen to the dissenting view even if you don’t agree. Acknowledge the differing viewpoint. “So I hear you saying that Johnny shouldn’t go because there are likely to be drugs present”. Listen to dissenting views.

6. Decisive. Someone needs to make a decision; whether it’s the president of the Rotary club, the parent or the department head. Are we after more members or are we going to let it be? Dad acknowledges Mom’s apprehensions but they decide to say “Yes”. Decide and commit to move forward. If you don’t, there are back alley deals that will go on which will undermine the Third Entity. As Patrick Lencioni espouses, “Great teams understand the danger of seeking consensus, and find ways to achieve buy-in even when complete agreement is impossible.” Give up on consensus, make sure everyone has had their say, decide, commit and move on.

I think what surprised me the most about coming up with the team alliance with my Rotary Club is how much we were of the same mind. Here is a diverse group of professionals from varied fields, industries and backgrounds but we all had the same ideals. Service above Self. It’s the team culture that holds us together.