Monthly Archives: March 2010

The trick is finding the time!

The setting:  A NJ small business conference room

The participants:  12 from NJ; 10 from Beijing, China

The plot:  Emerging leaders in a growing life sciences business join together to build their effectiveness as a team.

The challenge:  How to find a time to meet where everyone is normally awake and available.  Beijing is 12 hours ahead of NJ-time.

The collaborative solution – All participants share in a bit of discomfort with the Beijing folks starting their day a bit early and the NJ folks ending their work days a bit later —Consecutive Tuesday evenings, 6 – 9 PM EST or 6 – 9 AM Beijing time.

Many businesses are dealing with this sort of time zone challenge when doing business today.  “Sharing the pain” seems to be a common solution to this challenge where leadership groups trade-off being inconvenienced in order to have time together.  Technology helps gives global enterprises tools to assist this sort of collaboration, but how groups decide to operate across time zones speaks to the ability to create and tolerate a new “normal.”  In collaborations, there are many trade-offs needed in order for each member to feel accepted and valued.

What has your team done to create an accepting atmosphere for difference?

Maddie

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The power of “falling in love”

This morning in my coaching session with a client, the image of an actress on stage filled the conversation.  As a child, my client had acted in dramatic and musical school productions, always being cast in the lead female roles.  She recounted the thrill of learning to embody old  or crazy women.  Elements of these roles were quite foreign to her natural shyness but taking them on enabled her to stretch her reserve into an unexpected, powerful presence.

Fast forward to the present where my client is an executive woman surrounded by disapproving, judgmental colleagues.  She is spearheading a new project where her expertise is vital for the project to succeed.  Each time she presents her vision or the project, criticism abounds.  The criticisms have grown to the point where my client’s capacity to speak out is failing under the weight of the disapproval.

Fall in love with your cast

After hearing the latest story of the project’s challenges, I intuited that my next step as her coach was to support my client reconnecting with some of her strength.  I asked her to tell me what enabled her to be so successful as an actress earlier in life.  After responding with the process she used to learn her lines, map out her placement on the stage and connect with the other actors, she paused and then added with a sound of surprise in her voice, “I just fell in love with something in each of the characters I portrayed. I looked for the part that I could care for and everything else happened naturally.”

I didn’t say anything immediately, letting my client’s pause to generate more insight.  Her voice broke the silence by asking, “I wonder if I need to fall in love with something in each of my colleagues now. Maybe that is what is missing.  I think maybe I’ve been so wrapped up on being their audience… and giving them poor reviews at that!”

It’s gratifying to me to experience someone figuring out that her own judgment of others can keep her disconnected.  It’s easy to find fault with those around us, but often it is our attitude that helps to feed the attitudes in others.

Where is an opportunity in your life to shift judgment into falling in love?  What can you uncover in your difficult colleague that may decrease your negative reaction to their behavior? And like my client, what is something in yourself that you can fall in love with all over again?

Maddie

The Rule of Six

A 500-pound man was admitted to the cardiac floor of a local regional hospital last week. In one of my training programs at this hospital, some of the nurses on the obese man’s unit described how difficult it was to care for him.  They told their fellow classmates that the patient continually pressed the call bell. He would ask for water and as soon as that need was filled he would ask for ice or a pillow.

Demanding patients challenge nurses

These nurses ran back and forth into his room all day and into his first night at the hospital.  When comparing notes at the end of the shift, they determined that the man had not been alone all day due to the quick responses of the staff to his every need.

One nurse’s comments stood out to me as I asked the class to share what enabled them to stay responsive and positive with this assertive  patient.  She described the collaboration she builds with a patient when she is assigned his/her care. To start, she tells each patient  that her goal is to collaborate with them to help them heal. In the case of the obese man, she introduced herself and asked him if she could count on him to partner with her.  When he began to ring for her repeatedly, interrupting the care that she was giving to other patients, she began asking herself what could be the reason that the man was so demanding.  She told us that she considered the following ideas:

  • He was scared to be alone
  • He had lost his sense of control over his life so he needed to try to control things on his unit
  • He might have had inattentive service during another hospital visit
  • He was lonely
  • He didn’t know any better about the ways to be your own advocate while in the hospital
  • He had inadequate insurance coverage and knew he would owe a lot of money for his stay.  He was going to insure he got his money’s worth during the visit.

Not knowing if any of these ideas were true didn’t matter to this one nurse.  By considering what might be motivating the patient to behave as he did, she discovered empathy for him as well as more curiosity about his circumstances.  By not jumping to the conclusion that the patient was acting out inappropriately,  she stayed away from judging him and then getting impatient with the way he was trying to partner with her.

The Oneida Indian tradition has a name for the process the nurse used with this large cardiac patient.  It is called The Rule of Six.  This long-standing part of the Oneida world view represents the idea that for any phenomenon, behavior or event, there are at least six possible  explanations for it.

By CarbonNYC at Flickr Creative Commons

The Oneida believe that if you look for six explanations,  you will not lock into the first interpretation you land on.  When applied to our experiences with people, an automatic interpretation of someone’s behavior  is  often not accurate so the discipline of looking for other reasons for some behavior can widen our options for how to respond.

This nurse’s story highlights how the Rule of Six helped her to be quite agile with a demanding patient.  She was able to avoid frustration and to respond to him with continual compassion and interest.   I’m thinking that the Oneida tradition can help all of us to be more emotionally intelligent when dealing with the varied personalities on our teams and in our organizations.  Let us know what your experience has been using this technique.

Maddie

How to Write Your Book (or Next Book) Before You Retire

If you are here in Phoenix, I hope you’ll consider attending the National Speaker’s Association meeting on Saturday. Gwyn Nichols and I will be presenting on the success of me winning her services at a silent auction (see past posts Collaborating with an Expert and Life Transformations through Silent Auctions for details of how Maddie and I have worked with Gwyn)

Here’s the information about our part of the meeting:

At an NSA-Arizona Silent Auction, Debra bid on Gwyn’s donation of manuscript editing — about a week after she and her co-presenter Maddie Hunter first considered writing a book. That bold commitment and Gwyn’s consultant support moved them from thinking about a book to thoroughly researching and beginning it.

Learn how the three of them worked together to get this book moving fast. See how you can apply these perspectives and strategies to advance your own project.

Gwyn Nichols, a book editor and ghostwriter, recently founded Blue Monarch Press. Gwyn trained at an academic journal where she was known for translating articles written by PhDs into readable English. At the time, she suffered from such an incapacitating writing block of her own, she considered changing her major from English to chemistry. Eventually, Gwyn learned to write fluently any time, anywhere, and she went on to complete a master’s degree in English. She now writes poetry and fiction, and edits nonfiction, combining language expertise with healing encouragement as she works with authors or leads writing retreats.

Debra Exner helps her clients connect, communicate, and collaborate. She and her co-author, Maddie Hunter of New Jersey, first led a cancer support organization together, and then went on to research and teach effective collaboration. They lead workshops for corporations and associations, and are being invited to speak at international conferences.

In addition to speaking and training, Debra is a Professional Certified Coach and president of the Phoenix chapter of the International Coach Federation.

Come hear this outstanding program!
To register online visit http://nsa-arizona.org/meetings/mar-13/
or by email, send name, company and number of attendees to Gwen@nsa-arizona.org or call (480) 968-7443.


Register

NSA-Arizona Program March 13, 2010
Time: 9:00 a.m.; networking 8:00 a.m.
Business Building Session: 12:15 p.m.-1:30 p.m.
Location: NSA Conference Center, 1500 S. Priest Dr., Tempe, AZ
Early Registration (by 5 p.m. Wed. Mar. 10): $30/members, $45/guests
Late Registration: $40/members, $55/guests
No refunds after 5 p.m. Mar. 10, 2010.
For directions, visit Mapquest.com
Please notify us if you have any special needs for the meeting.

Debbie

Making changes….a way to agility

Years ago I attended a workshop on change. The facilitator asked each participant to introduce themselves with some tidbit about their morning start-up routine.  Some reported they began with making a pot of coffee, others talked about showering. I recall saying that I reach for my glasses.

Through a day of exercises, we were challenged to think about the impact of  varying our routines.   What differences would show up in how we felt or what we observed if we changed the ways we moved through our day?

Taking a new direction hones agility

I was amused with some of the impact I experienced in the days following the workshop.  One day I took a new way to work and parked in a new section of the parking lot.  I found myself paying close attention to the road signs rather than my  typical automatic-pilot driving. I recall noticing some wooded park land for the first time and making a mental note to come back there for a picnic. When I arrived at my office, I felt more alert than usual. After all I had needed to keep on my toes to avoid getting lost! I felt accomplished and surprised at the same time.  I noticed how big a deal it was for me to change such a simple thing.  I wondered what else was I missing by approaching things in a routine way?

Tachi Yamada, president of the Global Health Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, believes that people who have lived in many different places are more agile than those who have stayed in one town their whole lives.  Having the experience of  adjusting to something new convinces Yamada that a person will be able to thrive in the changing environment of global health.

So, what  is your relationship to change?  Are you agile when confronted with new challenges or new points of view?  What changes can you make in your life to increase your experience with needing to adapt?  Try the experiment of altering one simple practice you have in your life.  See what it opens up for you and then please tell us all about it.

Maddie

Pet Agility Sport

While exploring the attribute of agility, I discovered a another doggie sport! For fun, here are a few pet-inspired videos demonstrating successful (and not so successful) collaborations. Notice that each collaborator has a different motivation.

First the fabulous performance so that you understand the goal

But, as with collaborations,  it doesn’t always go that smoothly!

Dogs are initially trained with doggie treats but cats have a different motivation:

A fun toy and a willing owner! I have to go and try that on my kitties!

What motivates you?

If you’re hooked and want more of an explanation of the sport follow these links:

http://www.vidilife.com/video_play_13549_Dog_Agility.htm

Why We Love Cats and Dogs – Video: Cat Agility Show | Nature.

Debbie

Motivations in Collaboration

We’re often asked if collaborative partners have to be motivated by the same things — or at least have the same end goal in mind for the collaboration. We think that the answer to that is No, not necessarily.

by melilab at Flickr Creative Commons

We have interviewed many people about their collaboration experiences. One question we asked is “What criteria do you use to choose a collaborator?” One person, whose job is facilitating community collaborations,  said she looks at her organization’s “ethical manner of doing business and the directives that are given to us. I usually look for alignments in collaborators mission, values and purpose. So I probably won’t collaborate with a gun association. However, I might if it were to prevent gun injuries. You have to do a balancing act. What is it that we can both wrap our arms around? Look for the points that you can all agree on.”

So even though it can be nice to share similar motivations and goals, the overall goals of each party don’t have to match. It is important that the end goals are not at cross-purposes.

Another example is when my husband brought disparate political parties together to identify and collaborate on the initiatives where they agreed.

Have you been agile enough to collaborate with people who have different motivations and end points?

Watch for our next blog post to see a fun exploration of collaborators who have different motivations.

Debbie