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.
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.
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.