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?
Posted in business, collaboration, tolerant
Tagged acceptance, Beijing, business challenges, collaboration. Maddie Hunter, Debbie Exner, diversity, doing business in China, global business, leadership development, time zones, tolerance
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?
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.
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:
Why We Love Cats and Dogs – Video: Cat Agility Show | Nature.
Posted in agile, collaboration, just for fun
Tagged agile videos, agility, cats, collaborative techniques, Debbie Exner, Debra Exner, dog, fun, goals, Maddie Hunter, motivations, sport
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.
Posted in agile, business, collaboration
Tagged agility, choose collaborators, collaboration, community collaborations, criteria, Debbie Exner, Debra Exner, goals, Maddie Hunter, mission, motivation, political parties, purpose, values
“I think they will hear the message differently if it comes from you,” said my client.
The message she hired me to bring to the leaders in her dispersed healthcare organization — “Effective teamwork can create better results.”
My client is known for living this message herself but at this annual leader retreat she wanted to bring more emphasis to the critical need for her staff to think beyond their location or function to effect the care for patients.
Taking advantage of the premise that the outsider can get away with ideas that insiders can’t, I suggested that we create an interactive format to the retreat where people were working in teams and reflecting on their experience. This was a significant change over the business-like retreats held in the past and my client wondered aloud whether her organization would resonate with it or judge the activities to be too game-like. After all, they all had been quite serious students earning advanced degrees in their specialty.
I could feel my client’s dilemma. She wanted to spearhead a successful event AND she wanted to ignite some new energy around teamwork. To her credit, my client decided to jump into the new interactive approach. The risk she took was a testament to the degree of agility she has as a leader. She changed an approach for a desired result. This agility has been labeled, “Situational Leadership” by Ken Blanchard and can be further studied in his newest book, Leading At A Higher Level.
Last Wednesday was retreat day. The assembled group took part in a round robin ice-breaker, “Knot the rope” team exercise and simulations devoted to teaming. The energy in the room was high throughout. Some of those who my client least expected to be energized by the team-building activities rated the day with high marks. People typically known to be hesitant in large groups were seen as leading. Some who usually are out-spoken took leadership from others. Agility abounded.
When have you purposely placed yourself in a new situation and adapted to it? When have you delegated a task in order to help someone’s flexibility develop?
Posted in agile, business, Case Studies, collaboration, non-profit, team
Tagged agile, agility, Debbie Exner, healthcare, ice breakers, leaders, Maddie Hunter, retreat, simulations, situational leadership, strategic ability, teaming, teamwork