Make a friend. Almost kill him. Start a business together.

I made a new friend. One day, we almost killed each other. Then, we spent that afternoon together in misery. Next, we formed a company to teach others to do what we had done — at work. You can do it too at your work.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Meeting:

Adam and I worked together once, years ago, on a project for two months. It was great. Won some critical acclaim. Was beloved by a small number of fans. And ultimately, it failed commercially. Some time later, we entered a competition together (along with some others) with a weekends’ project, had some fun, and won an award. I liked working with Adam. I thought there was potential for a friendship there, so I asked him on an adventure.

“Let’s go on a half-day canoe trip together, Adam. Something local. I’ll meet you at the river.”

On the trip, we almost killed each other. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“The mindset that improv training breeds is kind, empathetic, resourceful, observant, responsive, innovative, and resilient. Imagine for a moment that every boss you’ve ever had, every coworker, everyone who has ever reported to you was kind, empathetic, resourceful, observant, responsive, innovative, and resilient. Imagine what you could have accomplished together.”

Adventure:

We met relatively early in the morning at a gas station. He followed me in his car to the downriver site where we’d end our morning’s paddle. And then, we drove my car to the upriver site where we put the canoe in the water. After a couple of hours of pleasant, enjoyable calm flat water, punctuated by the occasional mild, short, fun rapids, we came to a bigger rapid, and pulled the boat to the bank to reconnoiter.

I hopped out, scrambled a ways down the bank, climbed up on some rocks and debris, and scoped out the rapid. It was fast, turbulent water, but the chute through the rapid was uncomplicated and clear of any major obstacles. I nodded, returned to Adam, and said, “Let’s do this.”

He replied, “I don’t know.”

“I think we can do it,” I said. “Bigger, but not harder, than what we’ve already done.”

Then I reminded him of a few key techniques for navigating the rapid successfully and what to do if we capsized (I was the experienced paddler in the boat), and we pushed off the bank.

The first half of the rapid was a thrilling, easy, straight shot. We came to the first of two slight adjustments we’d have to make before reaching calm water again, and Adam leaned right when he should have leaned left. We took on water. The boat rode lower, and within one second we were capsized. For a few seconds, I shouted instructions to Adam. “Hang onto your paddle! Feet downstream! See you at the bottom! Left bank!” Neither one of us knows if he heard any of that.

Disaster:

The next thing I knew, my ankle got caught between two boulders. I swung around head downstream, foot pinned, face up in the heavy water. And the torrent played me like a ragdoll. I could not free my ankle. I struggled to keep my face above the water. By trying to sit up, I could just manage to bring my face to the surface long enough to gasp a breath. I did this a few times. I hadn’t been pinned more than a few seconds, I think, but I was already becoming exhausted.

If I couldn’t free my foot, I would drown very soon. But struggling as I was to earn just three breaths, I was losing strength, and hadn’t made any progress toward freedom. I thought, “I’m going to die.” I thought of my unborn daughter growing up without a dad. So I took a breath, and gave in to the torrent. I went limp. My body did a horizontal impression of a car-dealership tube-man in the current.

I was resting.

After only a couple of seconds of that, I summoned my strength and did the hardest situp of my life. I managed the biggest breath so far, and — finally — to wrench my ankle from between the boulders that held it.

Seconds later, the rapids spit me out into the calm but swift water below. I thought, for the first time since being pinned, of Adam. I hoped he’d fared better than I had. I hoped too that he’d heard me say left bank. I swam for that bank myself, exhausted.

By coincidence or by design, Adam had also found the left bank. We found each other, and took stock.

Our paddles were gone. Our boat was gone. Adam had seen it destroy itself against a rock, turning inside out and wrapping around the boulder under the immense pressure of the water. Our food was gone. Hats gone. Almost everything was gone. Drinking water, gone. Adam’s shoes, gone.

I still had my wallet. Still had my keys. Both of us, somehow, had managed to keep our smartphones, and to keep them dry.

The phones turned on, but there was no reception. So we climbed a small but steep hill beside the river.We were somewhere inside Fort Lewis Army Base, and there were no buildings, or paths or other man-made anythings to be seen, even from the hill. The bank was impassable. The river too swift and cold to float the afternoon in. And we could not place a call. Google maps did, however, give us some slight indication of our location and of directions. We identified a possible road on the map and planned to walk there. It was not very near.

Adam’s shoes were gone, and his bare feet already hurt after the small amount of walking we’d done. I gave him my sandals and went barefoot.

Ordeal:

We tried to walk in the direction of the road or path that the map had indicated. It wasn’t easy to do. The forest around us was all but impenetrable. Every foot of progress was hard won through undergrowth and brambles. We zigzagged our way in the general direction we wanted to go by walking along fallen logs whenever we could. They provided paths through the bramble.

The afternoon became hot, and we wished we had water. We became quite fatigued. The landscape of small hills and valleys was difficult. The bramble nearly impossible.

Eventually, we reached my wife by phone and tried to describe the spot we were trying to reach — and told her it was within Fort Lewis. Could she call someone to meet us there — or try to meet us there herself?

We lost reception.

When we regained reception, we learned she’d gotten permission to drive into this remote section of the base to try to find us.

We pushed on. I lost my wallet, and spent some time and energy looking for it, retracing my steps a small distance. I could not tell where I had been, could not see my own path, so I gave up on my wallet, and we pressed on again.

Finally, we came in to a valley we believed our road ran along. But there was no road. So we pressed on, until…

Salvation:

I don’t know whether I saw or heard her first. Bless her, my wife had found our road, driven along it as far as she could, and then, when the road became impassible to the car, she’d left the car to find us on foot. She’d brought water.

Rejuvenated, somewhat, by the arrival of our rescuer, and by the rehydration, we quickened our pace and reached the car.

With the worst of the ordeal behind me, I decided and told Adam, “Now that we’re safe, and only in retrospect, that was kind of fun.”

“Not my idea of fun,” said Adam (a guy who’s run the Tough Mudder because that is his idea of fun).

Retrospect:

That’s when something began to dawn on me. “Not my idea of fun,” was the most negative thing Adam had said all day.

We’d stood on the bank of that river, nearly drowned, already exhausted by the ordeal in the rapids, with no way back to civilization, without water, and facing hours of greater ordeal in the heat of the afternoon. Adam had leaned left when he should have leaned right. I’d taken us into a rapid that I should not have attempted with Adam’s level of experience and confidence. We stood there on the bank facing trouble, but not emergency.

There were lots of conversations we could have had on that bank. Either of us could have blamed the other, shouted, pointed, and cursed. Either of us could have sat on the bank to cry. Either of us could have begun to marshal resources to support his own comfort and ease — to hell with the other guy.

Instead, we took quick stock of the situation, and began to think of the two person unit. Adam was fitter physically. I was more experienced outdoors. I had sandals. Adam’s bare feet were already hurt.

We strategized briefly. And we took immediate action to get the pair of us out of the predicament.

And the day went that way, each of us caring for the other, filling in when we could for the other’s weaknesses.

There was not a moment’s time given to sniping or to blame. We spoke occasionally of the fatigue and the dehydration, but neither of us complained. Instead, we kept the team apprised unemotionally of our slowly deteriorating state of strength and endurance. We took a moment to admire the beauty of a striking caterpillar posing on a tree trunk.

We disagreed about strategy often. At those times, we debated briefly, and one of us would defer to the other, and get completely behind the plan from that point on. We made errors that set us back. We adjusted, and still never pointed fingers.

Revelation:

We had each other’s backs, and we were united behind a single purpose.

I’d been considering a company dedicated to making work good for people. I’d seen how much ineffectiveness there is in many people’s work habits, and how many people feel beat down by work instead of fulfilled. Most people in our society don’t like work. I wanted to make a difference in that because I wanted my daughter to grow up in a culture where work is viewed as a grace and a privilege. I knew that tools and techniques from theater improv could serve to help people focus on what matters, to respond to others with empathy and purpose, and to take inspiration from the most seemingly trivial things — and therefore to like work.

Because Adam is the best improviser I know, I’d thought about asking him to join me in founding this company.

But it was because of who we were together in adversity, because of our focus on purpose, our willingness to keep going when it seemed we could not, because of the resourcefulness and commitment to purpose and team above all else… Because of those extraordinary qualities proven in a true trial of our temperaments, I knew two things.

Company Born:

First, I knew Adam was someone I could work with in the trenches. Come hell or high water, we’d be able to weather the rough seas of a startup.

Second, I knew that it was the improviser’s mentality that allowed us to maintain such equanimity, kindness, and resolve during and after such a trial. I knew we had something we could offer to the workplaces and to working-teams all over our country. And I knew we were already both experienced at teaching it.

Pair that with a life-long passion for developing leadership in myself and others… We were poised to change lives. We asked Rachel (who shares our mindset and devotion to developing it still further) to join us. She rounded out our team, and we started changing the world of work one team at a time.

Our Impact:

The mindset that improv training breeds is kind, empathetic, resourceful, observant, responsive, innovative, and resilient. Imagine for a moment that every boss you’ve ever had, every coworker, everyone who has ever reported to you was kind, empathetic, resourceful, observant, responsive, innovative, and resilient. Imagine what you could have accomplished together. Imagine the joy that would have filled your days. Imagine how you would feel on Monday morning, knowing you were heading to work to be surrounded by minds like that.

That’s why I have found my life’s work in changing lives, by changing work, by changing habits, by teaching improv dynamically correlated to the work you do.

 


Your Happiness, Your Job with Dana Manciagli - MGW #4

GUEST: Dana Manciagli — Global Career Expert: Speaker and Private Coach

www.DanaManciagli.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/danamanciagli

 

Over decades, Dana Manciagli amassed skills and insights into good work and career wisdom while working at such companies as Avery, SeaLand, Kodak and Microsoft. Now, she gives others the benefit of that wisdom as  an author, blogger, keynote speaker, career coach, and global career expert.

Earlier episodes of this podcast have focused on leadership’s role in great work in our companies. Dana Manciagli is here to talk with your host Aaron Schmookler about what each of us can do to insure that we’ve got Mighty Good Work.Reboot yourself by changing jobs, by jumping division to division, location to location, or company to company.

 

Here are a few highlights from our conversation with Dana:

 

Make choices! Don’t let your work happen to you. Be deliberate.

 

Figure out what you like, and pursue only what you like.


You can’t be all things to all people. Make choices. Sometimes they’re tough. You don’t have to get it absolutely right. Make a call and take action on it.

 

“What are you waiting for? You have a vision. You know what you want to do next. Why aren’t you doing it?”

 

Don’t rely on your boss to make you happy.

 

Ask yourself, “What was this week like? Did I do my best? Treat my people well? Make good choices?” Take regular accounting of your own performance against your own standards of excellence. Expect greatness.

 

There’s a lot of boss bashing out there. Stop bashing the boss. It only hurts your career.

 

Business revolves around relationships.

 

Rule #1: Build the relationship with your boss. There’s a “we factor” and you’re role in the relationship is equally important. It takes two.

 

YOU have tremendous power in yourself — through your choices — to have good work wherever you are.

 

Put in the work that it takes to enjoy work! Don’t be stuck.Take action to get to joy at work!

 

If you need a private job search coach, contact Dana through her website or through LInkedIn.

 

http://DanaManciagli.com

https://www.linkedin.com/in/danamanciagli
Check out this episode!


Ditch This Destructive Sales Approach Today

Most of the sales people I work with have the best interests of their clients at heart. They’re looking to make deals that’ll be great for all parties involved. But that’s not universal. I’m glad to say that the attitude I’m about to tell you about is rare and getting rarer. But it’s still out there, and it should be eradicated.

This attitude is bad. It’s bad for your relationships. It’s bad for your image. It’s bad for your business. It’s bad for your sales. In fact, I recently met a salesman who offered me an incredible deal on something I’ve been interested in for a long time. And, rather than give him the sale, I’d prefer to go without. By revealing this common sales approach, he lost a slam-dunk sale and a potentially powerful referrer.

The Setup

Last week at an event, I met two guys in sales. I learned from talking with them that they both sell group entertainment packages, each for a different company. Mark (names changed to protect the innocent) sells short, local cruises. He talked about the relationships he had with clients and prospects and about the experiences groups have when working with his company. He showed genuine interest in the work I do, and saw value in it for himself and his team. I’ll refer him business whenever I can.

John (names changed to protect the guilty) sells a thrilling, unique, and amazing ride-like experience to groups. I’ve known about the existence of his product for some time, and I have always thought, “I’m gonna do that. That looks fun!” At the end of our ten minute conversation, John failed to make one of the world’s easiest sales. He offered me the opportunity to do something I very much want to do. He offered it for free. A free thrilling, unique, amazing ride-like experience I’ve wanted to try, offered for free, and I will not accept his offer. I probably will never refer any business to him either.

Why?

At the beginning of our conversation, John told Mark and me the secret to sales. “The secret to sales,” he said, “is to make people feel obligated to you.” That’s the sales approach I’ve been talking about. I wondered immediately if he really meant that, and my improv training kicked in.

My job in improv is to make my partner look good. John was my partner in improv. I thought that statement didn’t make him look too hot, so I offered him an easy-shift alternative. “Yeah,” I said, almost as though I agreed with him. “Gratitude works for me. Express gratitude. Treat people in ways I’d be grateful to be treated. Offer whatever support I can. People respond well.”

“Gratitude, yeah,” replied John. “I guess it’s good to feel gratitude. Obligation, though. That’s the stuff. People feel like they owe you something, so they buy what you’re selling. Works no matter what.”

Ten minutes later, John gave Mark and me his card and offered both of us a free ride, “any time.” I want the ride. But I do not want a relationship where the currency is obligation. John had already pulled back the curtain to show the inner workings of his offer. It’s a spider web. He gives a free ride. He expects I’ll feel obligated to him for giving me something of value for free. And then, out of a sense of IOU, I’ll buy a group experience, and/or, I’ll refer others to him so he can sell them a group experience.

The thing is, I value relationships above all other resources in business and beyond. I’ll never send John business because I won’t deliberately expose anyone I care about to his spider web of expected obligation.

Relationships Matter

Obligation lives right next to resentment. When we feel obligated, that often leads us to feeling resentful of the obligation. “Crap. I’ve got to go do this thing for this person. I wish I didn’t have to.” By contrast, when we’re motivated by gratitude, the story we tell ourselves is different. “I’d like to go do this thing for this person. I’ll feel good to give back to someone who’s given to me.”

If I give to another with no expectations of obligation, then we are equals throughout the transaction, from beginning to end. The transaction is complete immediately after I’ve given. But the transaction stretches on with barbed hooks when I have an expectation of obligation. The transaction is only half complete after I’ve given, even if there’s no cash fee for my service. I’m left in a perpetual state of waiting, of incompleteness until you return the favor. I’ll exact my fee one day. And I’ll resent you if the return doesn’t come within my arbitrarily sensed frame of “right timing.”

Drop This Sales Approach

When I began this article, I expected my guidance would be, “Drop this “obligation” approach to selling. I realize now, as I close, that it’s bigger than that. The expectation of obligation is a symptom of a much bigger disease. The disease is viewing business and sales as a zero sum game. In a zero sum game, there is often seen to be a winner and a loser, but that’s not the only way of creating a zero-sum.

Here’s another zero-sum approach. If I give you something, then I am in the negative and you are in the positive. The world is out of balance until you right the imbalance by giving back to me. You owe me. If you owe me, I resent you. Every time.

A Giving Alternative

If I give to you with no expectation from you, we’re both increased. You’ve gotten my gift. I’ve got the reward of having made a difference in your day or in your life. And I’ve built good will in my community. On last week’s episode of our podcast, Mighty Good Work, guest Chris Free said that if you treat people in your community well, “they’ll call you when they need help. And sometimes… they pay you for that help.”

When you pour generosity into your community without specific expectation, then you find yourself in a community of gratitude and generosity. And, you’ve given people a sample of the value you have to give. It comes back.

In the world we now live in, of white papers and free webinars, and free-mium SaaS products, maybe this isn’t news. But not everyone is here yet in the win-win world we occupy. Sales isn’t zero sum. Win-win isn’t everyone sacrificing equally. The best business transactions elevate everyone’s position.We can both have the better end of the deal.

Be Equal

If John, with a genuine smile, had offered me a free ride, I would have taken it in a twinkling. And I’d have been grateful. He’d have lost nothing (one ride doesn’t cost much for them to provide). I would have gained a thrilling experience. He’d have the pleasure of giving. I’d have the pleasure of feeling grateful. And he’d have the added benefit that I’d be looking for opportunities to refer business to him. I’m a connector.

As it stands, I won’t refer him business, even though he’s made that same offer. His sales approach is toxic. And I won’t poison my relationships.

John’s not a bad guy. He just hasn’t learned to be equal. Business, sales, exists as an opportunity to increase everyone’s position all at once.


Collaboration Culture is "Got Your Back" Culture

Tracy and Cal work for a company that names “Collaboration” as a core value, but no one has ever defined collaboration.

Tracy and Cal head back to their desks after the meeting. Tracy says, “Cal, You told me last month when I started working here that you were going to have my back.”

Cal says, “I did. You heard me tell them you were doing your best.”

Tracy feels hopeless. “Yeah. Exactly. Now thanks to you, they all think I’m drowning. They think my best is crappy.”

Cal asks, “What’d you want me to say?”

Tracy stops walking and says, “Where were you last week to help insure I was better prepared for that meeting before I put my foot in it? You knew I was on the wrong track and you did nothing. You call that collaboration?”

What does collaboration mean?

The expression, “Got your back,” means different things to different people.

In some of the teams I’ve worked with, there’s very little agreement as to the meaning. Tracy feels hung out to dry while Cal knows he’s got her back. Often, the argument is not so much about the facts of who’s doing what, but about what it means to truly have your teammate’s back.

This is something I give a lot of thought to. “Got Your Back” is a central principle in every training program conducted by my company, The Yes Works. Our Adeptability Training is built on principles from neuroscience, organizational psychology, improvisation, and best practices in leadership practice. We help teams to function at higher and higher levels of teamishness through exceptionally collaborative relationships. “Got Your Back” (which we describe as making your teammates look good — and be good) is one of my favorites among those principles. Everyone can always improve in their practice of it.

Ultimate Got-Your-Back, Ultimate Collaboration

As Lon, a recent acquaintance of mine, told me today over coffee, “I ask myself, ‘who do I need to be to amplify my wife’s best?’ And she asks herself, ‘Who do I need to be to amplify Lon’s best?’” That’s not a question with one simple answer. And it’s a question of a higher level than most use when considering how to have a team mate’s back in collaboration.

Colleagues disagree about whether they’re being supportive because few teams have any specific definition of what a supportive attitude or supportive behavior looks like. I don’t have one either. I have eight. Each definition represents a different level of practice, and each level reflects a higher degree of functionality, productivity, and satisfaction on the team.

I’ve got your back:

  • Level 1: I won’t throw you under the bus. I’ve got your back.
  • Level 2: If you’re in distress and you ask me for help, I’ll agree to help. I’ve got your back.
  • Level 3: If I see that you’re in distress, I’ll stop and volunteer my help. I’ve got your back.
  • Level 4: I know where you’re likely to need help, and I’ll ask if you’re struggling and need my help. I’ve got your back. This includes looking for the inspiration in every idea, and seeing the value in intention.
  • Level 5: I know your strengths and weaknesses. My help will come in such a way and at such a time that your weakness will never show. The help is there before you know you need it. I’ve got your back. This includes allowing yourself to be inspired to action by those around you in all that they do.
  • Level 6: I know our strengths and weaknesses as a team. I develop my skills and those of my team and find resources to eradicate those weaknesses and contribute to seamless team production. I’ve got your back.
  • Level 7: No matter what’s going on with me, I’m going to bring my A game. You can depend on me to bring my best, even when I’m tired or overwhelmed or scared. I’ve got your back.
  • Level 8: No matter what’s going on with me, I’m dedicated to your success. I will do what I can to bring out your best. I’ve got your back.

Collaboration and you.

What level are you playing at? What level is your team playing at? What level would you like to play at?  No doubt you want your company to prosper. What level of “Got your back” do you and your team need to play at in order to reach your goals?

Levels 7 and 8 require a whole culture of got-your-back. I can only bring my best, and truly be committed to bringing out your best, if I’m confident you’ve got my back. Someone’s got to look out for my best interests. If I know the team is looking out for my best interests, then I don’t have to.

What are you doing to move your team along the continuum? Leadership coach, Cy Wakeman, suggests a single question for the arsenal of every leader. When the shit hits the fan… When an employee complains about a peer… When a deadline is missed… “What did you do to help?”

Adeptability training is another way to move everyone up through the levels of got-your-back habit. This is simple, but not easy. Each of us plays at different levels at different times and in different circumstances. Each of us has moments where we fall off the Got Your Back track altogether. With practice, repetition, awareness, and intention, you can enhance your relationships — and (as Lon said at lunch today) “who you are,” in relationships — in business and beyond.

 

____________

Communication and collaboration are some of the hardest things to get right in any company culture, and the difficulty increases exponentially as you add more people to the team. Adeptability Training gets teams communicating and collaborating effectively as a matter of habit and mindset. Book a call today.


Make "Work Haters" an Endangered Species

Altogether too many people hate their jobs. Company cultures have a lot to overcome. My facebook feed is littered with people griping about their bosses, complaining about customers, and using “TGIF” like a clarion call to freedom. But the freedom is short lived. Do a quick google image search for “Monday.”

  • “I hate Mondays.”
  • “If Monday had a face, I’d punch it.”
  • “Look on the bright side… At least Mondays only happen once a week.”
  • “My week: Monday, Monday 2, Monday 3, Monday 4, Friday, Saturday, Pre-Monday.”

Apparently, Monday has a lot of detractors. If you haven’t thought about this before, think about it now. TGIF Monday haters are not giving their employers their best. With those beliefs about workdays, how could they?

But it’s not their fault. I blame culture. I blame schools. I blame, “Yabadabadoo!”

However we got here, we must take back the world of work. Work can be good. For more and more of us, work is good. And we’re learning about how business thrives when workers view work as good. And an increasing number of companies are taking the need for work that’s good for workers seriously. Tech companies are early adopters of great company culture as a value. Infusionsoft, for instance, has gone so far as to hire a “Dream Manager,” whose job is to see to it that employees are attaining their dreams. Go, Dan Ralphs!

Some tech companies exist to serve the employees of other companies. Limeade, for example, sells whole-person wellness tech to companies nationwide to help them keep culture buoyant and employees happy and healthy. I recently recorded an interview with Dr. Laura Hamill, the Chief People Officer at Limeade. It was a great conversation about what makes for a great place to work, about how to get the most from your greatest resource — your people — and about company culture. (You’re going to want to listen to that podcast episode when we release it.)

Dr. Hamill says, “Culture is an employment benefit.” Culture is an increasingly important component of recruitment, engagement, and retention efforts in the best companies in the world. Workers are coming to demand great culture. And as Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

The Yes Works is also in the business of engineering and supporting great company culture. Our clients know people matter. Habits of interaction matter. Relationships matter.

Culture lives in relationship habit.

What are great business relationship habits? To us at The Yes Works, a great business relationship is marked by health and synergy: the ability for those within the relationship to produce more, better work within the relationship than they would have been able to produce without it, and the ability and the likelihood to continue doing so into the future. Applying principles of theater improv can strengthen and enliven business relationships — within a company, with clients, with vendors, and with your network at large.

Improv is rich relationship soil with many components. Just ask Twitter CEO, Dick Costolo. He recommends that you, “Manage your company like an improv group.“The following four principles constitute a powerful first glance into improv for business. Take a deep breath before you proceed. This is simple stuff… Each principle is simple. Even taken together as the beginning of a system, it’s simple. But simple don’t make it easy. As you engage with these ideas, consider what you recognize — for better and for worse — in yourself and your work relationships. This is personal. Let it be.

 

Yay for Failing: It’s temporary, inevitable, and full of useful information.

Nobody likes to go down in a flaming blaze of nope. Essentially, there are two ways that people respond to a TRY and MISS: Some people tuck their tails between their legs and have trouble afterward looking themselves in the eye. Others shrug, dust off, and try again. Thomas Edison, for instance, is reputed to have said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.” Imagine having a boss who thought that way about your work.

“Yay for Failing” is a perspective, not a celebration of accomplishing nothing. With a “Yay for failing” mentality, you can fall down hard and get back to work without a long mourning period and without shame. Shame is a serious enemy of productivity, contribution, and collaboration. Without fear of failure, people work with great intensity and a keen eye to purpose.

With a “Yay for failing” culture, created and lived by a “Yay for failing” leadership, nothing gets swept under the rug. Missed deadlines are not hidden, so timely adjustments can be made. Failures are acknowledged and reviewed for their lessons. Team members work transparently so others can learn from them, and so they can be effectively coached themselves.

It’s not often any individual failure that costs business time, money, and opportunity on a large scale. It’s failure to recognize failure early, and to respond to it healthfully, and to embrace each failure as a step on the path. And failure punished or ridiculed costs even more in abysmal morale, and diminished risk taking, and declining eagerness to contribute.

 

Got Your Back: We’re stronger, more resilient, and more capable together.

Working on a team or working alone, not one of us can do it on our own. We need support, insight, help, and encouragement from others no matter what our work is.

“Got Your Back” is a principle that gets deeper and more profound the more you use it. On the face of it, “Got Your Back” means I’ll help you out when you need it. Call on me, and I’ll be there. As a principle of improv, it means that I’m committed to making you, my team member, look good. It means I’ll back your play when the chips are down. It means I’ll anticipate your needs, by knowing you well. It means I’m always a servant to our shared purpose.

It means I’m looking for the gold in your contributions. If you’ve put forward an idea that could never work, would never work, you’ve put that idea forward with good intentions, and with wisdom. I’m on the lookout for the value within your intentions. We call that, “making sense of the non-sense.” As a result of my treasure hunting your idea, you feel good. You know you’re valued. You experience that your contributions matter. And the team’s purpose is advanced even by unworkable ideas. No intellectual capital goes to waste.

Too often, co-workers throw one another under the bus — in order to shift blame away from themselves, in order to look better by comparison, in order to play for self-advancement.

“Got Your Back” is an incomparable tool for an effective company culture of collaboration.

 

Everything Is an Offer: Our minds are designed to make associations that creatively address the problems we face without our even trying — if we give ourselves the freedom.  We are all natively creative problem solvers.

In improv, a living creation is built on a single idea — the first offer. We define an offer as anything at all that your mind can take inspiration from, associate with, and respond to. In other words, everything is an offer. Your brain responds to everything that you give attention to. Everything.

A speck of dust can become a marketing idea. If I say, “speck” out loud, that could lead you to think of the bacon-like Swiss cured meat, speck. If you give voice to that association, it may occur to me that we could find a way to take advantage of the popularity and viral nature of the bacon fad to sell our vacuum cleaners. (Let’s just assume for the sake of argument that using bacon to sell vacuums is a good idea.)

Too many of us live our lives believing, “I am not creative.” Non-sense. Each of us has creativity. Each of us makes different associations given the same stimulus. Permit yourself to value that association (and from “Got Your Back” above, also to the stimulus), and you’ll find your brain supplies you with boundless ideas. And each idea you express is stimulus — an offer — for someone else.

This kind of association won’t always lead you and your team in a straight line, but this is the stuff that breeds innovation. Defining your culture as one in which everything is an offer creates a fertile ground for association. Innovation is association plus execution.

 

Yes, And: Notice the power of acceptance — of your ideas, of others’ ideas — and the unstoppable creativity of every human mind.

Clearly, these principles have overlapping implications. The practice of “Yes, And” would have you accept that every offer has merit. Sometimes the merit is buried a bit.

In the workplace,  practicing “Yes, And” means that no ideas are dismissed. In communication, you would deliberately discipline yourself to make sense of the non-sense. To accept that the idea before you has merit, and to contribute your associations to the discussion. This is a concrete method of having your team mate’s back.

Here’s how that might play out. Gary comes to you with an idea for a new product line. “We should keep making vacuum cleaners, but make them single-use vacuum cleaners.” On the face of it, this sounds nuts. Who’s going to buy a single-use vacuum cleaner? If you tell Gary that his idea is stupid or that he sounds crazy, he’s going to stop contributing. He may even take his ideas to your competitor.

How could you employ “Yes, And”? The easiest way might be, “Ok (your yes). I don’t see it yet. Tell me more (your and).” As you advance with the skill of “Yes, And,” your response might be, “I like the way you’re thinking. That falls right in line with the conventional wisdom that to make lots of money you should sell something that people need, and that they’ll need to replace.” Gary will then likely get excited and tell you more about his idea. You may find that from his elaboration, you are able to glean some gold. As your skill becomes still more advanced, you might say, “There’s something to that! While I can’t see making all the vacuum components disposable in a way that’s environmentally sound or cost effective, I know that people do hate getting their hands dirty. With the vacuum industry going more and more bagless, touching the dust becomes a greater and greater problem for our customers. Let’s put our heads together to see if we can improve our user experience in that arena.”

 

So, simple, right? Simple, but challenging! Big-time challenging. But rewarding. Fulfilling, joy producing, and lucrative, to boot! And challenging.

That’s why when we work with teams, we promise, “No ineffective, powerpoint lecturing yak-yak.” Because, it’s one thing to understand this stuff, and it’s another thing altogether to put it into practice. In the exercises and activities we facilitate with the teams we support, participants PRACTICE. And PRACTICE again. We give each participant  many, many reps of practice in each hour we spend together. Because, reps build skills. Skills repeated build habits. Healthy habits make up healthy culture. And healthy culture is self-perpetuating.

Try using these principles yourself. Define these principles as a part of your company’s culture and ask your team to put them into play. If you find you cannot overcome the force of habit (bad habit) that prevents people from this kind of generous behavior (or if you see the potential and want your team to be great at employing it) call on The Yes Works to learn how we can help you create an improv culture in your company.


An Effective Apology in 7 Parts

It’s often said in business, but rarely written in so many words: “Shit happens.” Sometimes, the shit that happens is our responsibility, and it lands on others.  Sometimes, hell, it hits the fan, and lands on a great many people. At these times, there’s damage to repair. So, humans have invented the apology. Properly deployed, the apology is an incredibly powerful tool of reconciliation and relationship repair.

Sadly however, apologies are rarely properly deployed.  When botched, they’re weak tools of repair at best. At worst, they’re powerful tools for relationship destruction and prohibiting reconciliation.

Bad Apology

Take for example the not-so-funny comedy-of-errors created by Chip Wilson, CEO of yoga apparel manufacturer LuluLemon Athletica. People loved them. Their yoga pants sold and sold and sold. Then, they changed their fabric source, and people complained that their pants were too sheer, revealing more than they wished to reveal when they bent over — which people often do in yoga class.

When CEO Chip Wilson could have said, “Sorry. My bad. We shouldn’t have gone with the cheaper fabric. Free, better replacements on me.” Instead, he essentially blamed customers whose thighs were too big. And he did it on national television, saying, “It’s, you know, really about the rubbing through the thighs… how much pressure is there.” Bad form, Chip, blaming the people who made you rich for the decline in quality and opacity.

Well, all is not lost. That’s why we invented apologies, for people like Chip (and the rest of us — to err is human). “I can fix this, he said. “I’ll post a video online,” he said. Good idea. He can reach thousands, millions of people to make amends for the offense he gave.

You get second chances

So he did make a video and post it online.  He said, ““I’m sad for the people at LuluLemon who I care so much about, that have really had to face the brunt of my actions.” Good. He’s aware that his actions affect his employees. That’s good. He continued, “I take responsibility for all that has occurred.” Good.  He owns it. Going on, “and the impact it has had on you. I’m sorry to have put you all through this.” Ok.  And now, surely, he’ll apologize to his customers, to women everywhere, and to anyone else he may have offended for blaming the sheerness of his clothing on too big thighs instead of cost-cutting.

But, no. He stops there. Not even a single word to customers. Why’d you post that online, Chip?  Oh, I see. You posted that online in order to add insult to injury.

Stock prices plummeted. Chip resigned. LuluLemon’s rep still hasn’t recovered.

So, that’s one way to really screw it up — fail to ever actually apologize to those who are waiting for your apology — but, how do you do it right?

It’s not a magic trick, and there’s no sleight of hand. If you determine that you’re responsible for something that’s caused someone else displeasure…

(Side note: I’ve said it twice now.  Responsible. Notice I didn’t say, “culpable.” You don’t have to be at fault. If you promise to give a presentation in Anchorage on Tuesday, that’s your responsibility.  If all flights in and out of Anchorage have been cancelled due to a storm for a week, that’s an act of god, and not your fault. Guess what… An apology is still warranted.)

An Adept Apology

If you’re responsible for something that’s caused someone else displeasure… Here are 7 ingredients you can mix together to make an effective apology soup.  You don’t need every one, every time, but when in doubt, don’t skimp.

  • Simply name the offending action or event.  “We at LuluLemon compromised the quality of our clothing by going with a less expensive fabric supplier.” Or, if you don’t catch it that early, “I blamed my customers on national television for the sheerness that was actually caused by an inferior material.” Or, if you were meant to be the keynote speaker in Anchorage, “I didn’t show up for your event.”
  • Express empathy. Demonstrate that you know that your actions had an impact, and that you have enough insight into others that you can imagine what that impact may have been. “You, our customers, came to rely on the quality of our apparel, and have been disappointed, and by showing a bit more tush than you intended, perhaps embarrassed.” Or, if you didn’t catch it that early, “You may have been shocked and disappointed, perhaps offended by my misplaced blame and fat-shaming.” Or, if you didn’t make it to AK, “You were left to twiddle your thumbs without your keynote speaker. I imagine that was disappointing and likely boring.”
  • Express regret or apology. You don’t have to grovel. Just note that different would have been better. “I’m sorry.” Or, “I wish we hadn’t changed suppliers.” Or, “We’d all be better off if we had stuck with a fabric that was working.” Or, “I never should have said those things.” Or, if you were due in the frozen north, “I wish I could have been there.”
  • Explain (without defense – sans defensiveness – no defending) why it happened. Use “I” language. This is not to be an excuse. Demonstrate that you have the insight that would make this apology meaningful.  This begins to give them assurance that you know enough to be able to prevent its happening again. By the way, keep it brief. This is meant to be a proof of concept, not a treatise. “I was really feeling the pressure, and I didn’t want to damage our (or my) image by admitting we’d compromised quality.” Or, “We put profits ahead of quality.” Or, if you flub the first one, “I really have a problem with prejudice against people who are overweight.” Or, “I lash out like a rabid dog when I feel cornered.”  Notice the “I” language. You didn’t see, “Your thighs are too big.” There was no, “The devil made me do it.” If all the flights were canceled for a week, “I couldn’t get a flight. All the flights were cancelled for a week.”
  • Offer a remedy. Very often, most of the time, you can’t completely heal the rift. But you can make a gesture that demonstrates that you are sincere. You may or may not be able to make the other party whole, but you can put your money (literal or figurative) where your mouth is. “If you bought pants that showed ass-pects you intended to keep hidden, while I can’t restore your dignity, your next pair of yoga pants — original opaque formula — is on me.” (Maybe you leave out the part about dignity, or maybe you keep it as a part of your naming the impact. Probably, you’d leave out the ass pun.) Or, if you’ve already put your foot in your mouth, “I’m going to sensitivity training next week.” Or, “I’m going to put myself in stockades in Time Square at noon on Tuesday. Please don’t throw hard vegetables.” Or, if you were kept from the cold, “Is there an opportunity for us to reschedule?”
  • Make a credible commitment for the future, and live up to it. “Credible” is important here. We’ve got to be able to believe you. Don’t promise the moon. “I promise never to utter another offensive word so long as I live,” is not credible. Try, “I’m going to call our old distributor and get the high-quality fabric back.” Or, if you’ve already offended half of America, “I’m going to strive to think before I speak, and care for our customers — body, mind, and soul. Namaste.” And, “I’m going to start doing yoga so I’m not so volatile under stress.” Or, if you couldn’t fly north, “I’m going to prohibit snow-storms for a week surrounding and future engagements.” Hopefully, you were paying attention, and caught that one. That’s not credible. And in a case where it’s not your actions that caused the breach, this ingredient isn’t needed.
  • Listen. Really listen. You may have given a credible and beautifully crafted apology, but don’t think that ends it. An apology cannot completely close the rift. Trust must be regained. The greater the rift, the greater the need for rebuilding. Emotional pressure has built up under the strain. Your apology opens the door to release the pressure. Now listen as the pressure escapes. You may get an earful. If you are still, non-reactive, peaceful, and receptive during the entirety of the eruption, you may find that when the other party is through venting, they will stop. Then there is peace. Then there is nothing more to say. All you need do is honor your commitments to repair the relationship.

Why Apology Matters

Not every rift requires all of these ingredients. Often, you can get by with only a few. But the more complete the recipe, the more powerful the apology.  Don’t bring a knife to a gun apology.

Apologies can:

  • Build trust
  • Repair relationships
  • Accelerate the pace of business
  • Demonstrate strength of character

An apology is not:

  • A sign of weakness
  • A miracle cure
  • A time to make demands

So, I’ll leave you with this. An apology is an offering. It’s an offering of reconciliation to another, and of strength and integrity to yourself. It is not a time or opportunity to make demands. Even, “Please forgive me,” is a demand. “I hope you can forgive me,” is better.

Try one today. Make a call. Write a letter. Tell me how it goes.

(ABC covered Chip Wilson’s failed apology – watch here)

 

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High-Performance Accountability Culture: Imagine your team operating with high-level EQ. Trouble is, reading an article doesn’t often change behavior. That’s why we created Adeptability Training for your team for a communication and collaboration culture as a matter of habit and mindset. Want an Adeptable team?

Book a call today.


You Can Keep Your Damn Sugar

Fear Can Muck Up Your Relationships

One of my dad’s favorite jokes (at least I think it was one of his favorites.  He certainly tells it often) goes like this:

Bob decides to do some baking and discovers that he doesn’t have any sugar.  “No problem,” Bob thinks, “I’ll just borrow some from Harry.  I’m sure he wouldn’t mind lending me a cup of sugar.” And he sets out to walk next door to Harry’s place.

On his way, Bob thinks to himself, “I’m sure Harry won’t mind.  He’ll give me some sugar. Why wouldn’t he?  We’re neighbors after all. He will. But what if he doesn’t?  Why not?  I mean, after I lent him my canoe last week. I didn’t even complain that he’d kept the canoe a day longer than he said he would.  He’s got to lend me the sugar! I can’t believe Harry would even consider saying no.  I thought we had a better relationship than that.  I mean really.  Some friend.”

Bob knocks on Harry’s front door.  While he’s waiting, he thinks, “Imagine, saying no to a simple cup of sugar.  What a jerk.  To think I’ve called him friend.”

Harry opens his front door to find Bob standing stiffly on his porch, and Bob shouts: “YOU CAN KEEP YOUR DAMN SUGAR!”

Happens in Business Relationships Everyday

This is an extreme example of a kind of “dialogue” many of us have every day.  I put dialogue in quotes because clearly this is something a bit closer to a monologue, but it includes Bob’s imagining of Harry’s response.  He doesn’t even need Harry to bring the “conversation” through to completion.

I find this joke funny because I recognize myself in Bob.  I have:

  • decided not to ask for business because was sure the answer would be no.
  • decided not to ask for a raise because I thought my boss would get mad.
  • chosen not to ask for a promotion…
  • determined someone else was a moron because I couldn’t understand their rationale.
  • not pointed out an error because I was sure the others had seen it and decided it wasn’t important.

And I also find it funny because I’ve been in Harry’s shoes, stunned and bemused by someone’s response to me – seemingly coming from left field. And I’ve been frustrated be people who’ve let opportunities pass by because thy thought they knew what I’d want.

Point In Case

The other day, one of my clients was telling me about trouble he’d been having with some of the coaching I’d given him the week before.  He told me he’d loved the tool I’d given him, but after using it for a few days, he became unsure of how to use it in certain circumstances.  And so for the rest of the week, he did without it, and the benefits it had brought him fell away. “Why didn’t you call me to talk with me about how to apply it?” I asked.

He told me, “I didn’t want to bother you.  We weren’t scheduled to talk for almost a week, and I knew you were busy.”

“It’s true,” I told him.  “I was busy, but I would have taken a few minutes with you.  Our relationship is bigger than schedules and appointments.”

It’s not just that this client was trying to spare me the nuisance of having to talk with him (not something I would have considered a nuisance).  In order to arrive at that thought, my client had a version of Bob’s conversation in his own head. The thing about these conversations we have is that they are based in fear.  Sometimes, we talk ourselves out of the chance to have what we want in a relationship with someone else.  Sometimes we talk ourselves into grabbing what we want.  Bob might just as well have shouted, “Jerk,” shoved Harry out of the way, rushed into the kitchen and thrown open the cupboard.  “I lent you my canoe, so the least you can do is let me have this sugar!”

The Cost

These unilateral conversations lead to workplace theft. “I deserve it.” They lead to lost sales. “She wasn’t going to buy anyway.” They lead to interpersonal strife. “Why bother trying to work it out with that jerk?”

The cost of having these conversations solo is that we can never gain what we’re really after – acceptance and appreciation in relationships we value.  We want to see ourselves through others’ eyes and find we matter. We’ll easily sacrifice performance if it means we can avoid having our fears confirmed.

In Concrete

When I was a realtor, I had trouble – as so many in business do – in asking for referrals.  I knew, from my clients’ heartfelt thanks, that they’d gotten good value in our relationship and felt well served.  Still, in my fear, the conversation in my head went like this: “If you feel you’ve gotten good service from me, and you know anyone else who is planning to buy or sell a home and who would appreciate having the kind of customer service I’ve given you, would you ask them if it’s alright if I gave them a call?” Then they’d say, “Wow!  Your service was great, until now.  Now you’re just another pushy salesman,” in my head.

Then I’d laugh, and I’d really ask for the referral, and often they’d give me one.  Sometimes they wouldn’t have a referral to give.  Never did they seem to be put out.

What to Do

After you laugh at yourself for the “conversation” in your head, have the conversation in the real world with the other person.

If you don’t have the conversation, and instead, have only the “conversation,” then you’re cheating yourself.  Worst case scenario if you ask – you don’t get.  If you don’t ask, you surely don’t get, or you get by grabbing, and you feel lousy.  If you ask and you don’t get, then heck, at least you gave it a shot.

And we do this everywhere in life.  Don’t ask for the date, don’t get the date.  Don’t ask your husband for that backrub, don’t get the backrub. In order to be received, we’ve got to put it out there.  Our radios only serve to give us music, news, and entertainment because there are towers out there broadcasting.

One of my favorite shows as a kid was 3-2-1 Contact.  “Contact is secret; is the moment when everything happens! Contact is the answer; is the reason that everything happens!  Contact! Let’s make contact!”

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Speaking of contact… Communication and collaboration are some of the hardest things to get right in any company culture, and the difficulty increases exponentially as you add more people to the team. Adeptability Training gets teams communicating and collaborating effectively as a matter of habit and mindset. Book a call today.