Author Archives: Maddie Hunter

Empowered Collaboration – Part 1

When a person says something “changed my life” it gets my attention. I was at a professional meeting and the woman speaking was talking about something called mPWR10

mPWR10  is a 10-minute-per-day tool created by Nancy Donahue and Michelle Chung that teaches six habits distilled from the research on positive and peak performance psychology. After testing the product and finding it very valuable, we were very curious about how they collaborated on its creation. We set up a phone interview to explore what the keys were to their collaboration. Over the next three blog posts, we will report on the 10 practices Nancy and Michelle cited as keys to their collaboration.

  1. Keep track of the passion that brought you together

At the beginning of their collaboration, both women were employees of another firm. When that firm experienced manufacturing difficulties and eventually collapsed, it would have been easy to seek employment elsewhere. Start-up cash-flow challenges could have led them to drop their collaboration, but Nancy and Michelle calmed their uneasiness by hunkering down and focusing on the reason for their collaboration – a passion for supporting people’s success. They launched mPWR10.

  1. Know your value proposition

Michelle and Nancy are both expert synthesizers of information. Their capacity to glean the most important threads from the science of positive and peak performance psychology allowed them to create a simplified, accessible and practical set of habits. From the reactions of others, they learned that this talent was critical to the value they could create.  A client told them that with mPWR10, “I can throw away all the other books I have.”

3.  Seek input freely and widely

“Our goal was to collaborate with everyone since we knew we didn’t have all of the answers”, said Michelle. They drew in other smart people such as Joe Dowling, a peak-performance psychologist, and sought feedback from 500-600 mPWR10 users. The 6 habits evolved because so many people have used it and shared their experience and suggestions.

Read the next post to learn 3 more collaboration practices.

Debbie

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Enhance positivity through meetings

Many of my business clients report that an average day is spent going from meeting to meeting.  Some would say that half of their life is spent attending, conducting,  preparing or following up from meetings.   It would therefore seem sensible to assume that if you want to build more positivity in your  workplace, a good place to focus would be in the way meetings are conducted.

In our last blog post, we reported research that linked positivity in a team with the incidence of positive statements made, the degree that the statements are about others and the amount of questions that are exchanged among group members. Here are some tips that may help you put this into action during the meetings you lead.

Meetings can enhance positivity.

1.  Open each meeting asking for recent accomplishments.  “What has happened that you feel good about and want others on the team to know?” In my experience this type of question elicits the telling of stories that help to build a group’s sense of success.

2.  Have a standing agenda item – “Way to go!”.  Ask for people to share personal compliments for others who have demonstrated collaboration or some other high-priority behavior.  In a local medical-surgical nursing unit, this tip is being used to increase the level of coordinated care provided to patients. Compliments help to remind us of our strengths and create stronger relationships with others.

3.  Periodically, use a portion of a meeting for everyone to have 5-10 minutes to check in with every other member.  These “Check Ins” can be structured to cover a specific set of questions aimed at increasing connectivity and positive regard:  What is going well in our relationship? What strengths have I noticed you exhibiting?  What can we create that will enhance our effectiveness?

In future posts we will be offering tips about how to increase inquiry in your teams.  What can you share to get us started?

Maddie Hunter

Network News misses collaboration opportunity

On Friday evening, September 10, 2010, a rare moment in Network News occurred.  All three news anchors – Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Brian Williams – appeared together at the end of their respective programs  to promote a telethon program called “Stand Up 2 Cancer”.  This fund-raising program was to appear on numerous networks simultaneously after the evening news to mobilize the public’s support of cancer research.

Katie Couric framed the telethon as an evening of collaboration.  When I tuned in later in the evening I saw many celebrities speaking together about the need for more of a focus on cancer research.  The show also highlighted what is already happening with previously raised funds. Footage covered  “Dream teams” of scientists from varied academic and clinical  institutions coming together to share their research data . These teams were depicted as dropping their competitive spirits.  They talked about collaborating with previous competitors in the hopes of accelerating the search for a cure.

Despite all this evidence of teamwork, I was disappointed in one facet of the evening that may have gone unnoticed by the average TV viewer, but spoke volumes about the distance we need to go as a culture to really achieve the benefits of collaboration.  It was during the closing moments of Brian Williams news program.  While his colleagues allowed the last moments of their broadcasts to be the view of the 3 network anchors standing together on the telethon stage, Brian chose to appear alone.  He came back on the air alone to close his program.  What a missed opportunity! The tone of Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer’s closing moments was one of commitment to partnership.  As the credits scrolled across the screen they appeared side-by-side with Brian Williams.

In the end, Brian opted to identify with his own network turf. This was the message left with the viewers of the NBC news program.  I applaud ABC and CBS for choosing the high road of collaboration.  I wonder what it would take for  news anchors, scientists and all of us average citizens to understand that it is in these small decisions that we really demonstrate what we  stand for.

Collaborating with a muse

For the last 10 days I have become friends with a new muse.  In her Muse-Swap blog, Quinn McDonald offered me the opportunity to trade my regular muse in for a new one.  I actually didn’t even know that I had a muse but after thinking about how intensely I have been working,  I decided I in fact have been selectively listening to one of my muses, the slave-driver.  My slave-driver voice has made me too serious and obsessed with work.  Once I really thought about it I decided I needed a break from my own intensity.  Quinn offered me the perfect swap – a muse who giggles!

Laughing Goat from ingridtaylar at Flickr Creative Commons

Giggles and I have had a ball together.  She encouraged me to impulsively plan a 6-day get-away, driving up the coast of Maine with my sweetheart. We’re heading out next week.  When my teen aged son and I were handed a worksheet in a personal development workshop we were attending ( I know…sounds like a relapse into seriousness, but oh well…can’t be perfect over night!), I uncharacteristically howled out loud when seeing one of the listed tips for good communication as “Have a goat in mind!”.  The typo was inadvertent I’m sure, but my son and I are determined to think about goats now as our code for lightening up when we are struggling to connect!

Don't be low on coolant! Photo by tsja!

I could further tell you how Giggles turned my car leaking coolant on the Saw Mill River Parkway into a funny reminder that I have to drink more water.  She also encouraged me to take my shoes off in a furniture showroom and stretch out with my sweetheart to see how comfortable a couch was we were considering as a purchase.  Giggles certainly made me daring as well as light-hearted!

Although today marks the end of the Muse Swap, I am not turning my new friend back.  I think our collaboration is long overdue and I intend to keep listening to her encouragement to stretch beyond my overly attentive work ethic to have some fun.  As is true for many good collaborators, Giggles reminds me that sometimes we have to partner with others who are really different than our natural selves in order to find the answers we seek.   I may not be done being serious-minded, but I sure am going to listen for Giggles more often.  Thanks to Quinn and my muse-swap buddy for this fun time!

4 tips for becoming happier

peyri from Flickr's Creative Commons

I’ve been noticing how happy many of the members of my cancer support group seem.  Yes, we have fears about our diagnosis, strange side-effects from the treatments we elect and frustrations at our experiences with the many medical professionals we lean on for our care.  However, when we get together smiles abound and laughs flow freely. How does this happen?

1.  Reach out to others. We share our cancer experience. There are positive sensations  that come from social interactions.  When I step into our support group meeting room, I feel an instant lift of my spirits.  Many of us believe that these positive connections help to extend our lives.  Even outside of my cancer experience, I find  spending time with a friend or colleague to often turn a frustrated mood into a more relaxed one.   Connecting with others definitely raises my happiness quotient.

2.  Chose to act happy – Acting happy is likely to make you feel happy according to an article in   Psychology Today. I know this from coaching clients who are working on trying a new behavior.  Acting confident before you completely believe it can often result in your not only appearing confident but experiencing yourself in a new way too.  The more one acts in the new way, the more the behavior becomes the new normal. Many of my fellow cancer survivors have just decided to live their days being happy.

3.  Share what you  know. Offering what you have learned really make a difference to others.  As we share the ins and outs of our medical journeys,  we feel great to be in a group that cares and will listen to anything we offer.  The magic happens when the thing one person shares about their experience becomes the missing link of information or inspiration for someone else.

Alieness GiselaGiardino

4.  Be grateful.  Many who have been given a serious health diagnosis report that the experience gives almost instant clarity about what is truly important in life. The little things of life take on big meaning.  Gratefulness for each breath, each day and each moment of enjoyment is more easily expressed.  We say, “Life is precious” and really mean it.  Many of  us become savorers of life.  Life becomes juicy in new ways.  I am filled with a sense of contentment when I focus on the people, places and things for which I am thankful.  Being grateful makes me so happy.

What enables you to be happy?

Do you resist collaborating? Why?

That “I can do it myself” voice seems to show up now and again,  and when it does,  I sometimes feel like the shoemaker who neglects the holes in her children’s sneakers! That kitchen caper I wrote about last time sure is a good example of this for me, the blogger about collaboration! So what can we do when we feel resistant to collaboration?

Lone Ranger - from a4gpa on Flickr's Creative Commons

I think the first step is to wonder  about why the do-it-yourself voice  shows up at all.

Do-it-yourself reason #1 – It takes too much time to ask someone else for ideas or input. This could be true sometimes but thinking it is always true keeps us from discovering the gems in someone else’s ideas. When  a hospital PR client of mine was called by a member of the press to make a statement on behalf of her organization she had to respond immediately.  However, when she was preparing a summary for her Board of all the items happening within the hospital that might get attention by the press she canvassed all of her direct reports for what they knew.  It’s about making the best choice for the task at hand.

Do-it-yourself reason #2 – I already know how to accomplish the task.  We can sure be know-it-alls!  Remember me with the sureness of where those kitchen items best belong when moving into my new kitchen?  The truth is my partner has discovered a much better placement of the pots and pans after preparing a few meals there.  Showed me, didn’t he!

Do-it-yourself reason #3 – It’s too taxing to resolve the inevitable differences of opinions that result from involving others. Who wants conflict anyway, right?  Wrong.  Sometimes these differences of opinion mix together and transform into a brand new possibility.  Check out the blog of Frans Johansson, the author of The Medici Effect where he relates “intersectional stories”; examples of where innovation comes about from the synergy of differing views.

Maddie Hunter is a business coach who is passionate about exploring the power of collaboration with  her clients.

Shoemaker’s Syndrome in Collaboration

By 7-how-7 at Flickr's Creative Commons

You know the adage that the shoemaker’s kids are the ones with holes in their soles?  It also applies to the electrician who jury rigs extension cords rather than re-wiring a room or to the doctor who never gets a physical examination.  I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that the shoemaker’s syndrome also applies to me when it comes to collaboration.

Just the other day, my sweetheart Ames and I were unpacking more boxes from our move into our new townhouse.  This is a big deal to us as this will be the first home we share together.  We were focusing on organizing the kitchen.  This new kitchen has a wealth of cabinets so we had many choices to make about the best place to store glasses, dishes and the like.

For 40 years, I have always been the one in the family who cooks.  Truth be told, I have had a number of families, but what has remained constant is that I have been the cook.  Now things are different.  Ames is a competent cook.  He has been cooking for himself for years.  He has had his own home with his own ideas about the best placement for the coffee mugs, the wine glasses or the tall bottles of olive oil.

As we began placing items on the new shiny shelving, I found myself wanting to direct the show.  In my mind, I “knew” the best place to put the coffee mugs – – right above the coffee maker, right?  As more and more decisions were being made, growing in me was a sense of being unseated in my role as “the cook”.  I couldn’t believe that I was arguing with Ames about the need to raise a shelf so we could put the tall cereal boxes right by the shelf with the bowls.  I’m sure Ames was thinking but not saying,  “…and she’s writing a book about collaboration?”.  All that I know about the Rule of Six and diverse ideas being the source for great problem solving seemed to be lost in my brain as I became emotional about being right and in charge.

One of my mentors has always said that “we teach what we need to learn.”  I think this is a part of why I am so drawn to thinking about collaboration.  My will is strong to be independent and determined. I am a trusted teacher of collaboration and yet I know I am challenged by my own drive to do things myself.

I wonder if you find yourself believing so strongly in something yet not following the belief consistently in your actions?  Tell us about how the shoemaker’s syndrome is active in your life.

Maddie