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Continuous Vitality Part 3


Continuous Vitality Part 3

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Workplaces That Make Sense For People
Enduring Motivation

Last month in the continuous vitality discussion we examined motivation, demotivation and the KITA approach. If you want to catch up or revisit this article, click on the following link and it will be like going back in time: Continuous Vitality Part 2

How do we align with the people we work with? Maybe we should call this article; 'the old guy lecturing on how to get along with others'.

We can bandy about with tips all day and about how to gain continuous vitality, but making the connection with your leader and fellow workers is more than simply doing a good job on a daily basis. That connection is rooted in your relationship with your leader and directly ties to your (and their) satisfaction, stress level and engagement on the job. We talk about this topic at almost every workshop at Priority Learning because the audience eventually brings it up. These two connections are so deeply rooted in our happiness and our happiness is so deeply rooted in our vitality, we think that it is truly important. More and more, getting along with coworkers is what people want to talk about and mostly we don't get to choose the coworkers, so the easiest way to make a difference is with YOUR style. Why you? Because you can control how you act and can't really control how they act. So the biggest difference is for you to choose how you will approach others, build relationships, manage daily interactions and do what you are willing to do for them in the long and short term. Here are some ideas to consider for colleagues and coworkers.

Be polite - Mom taught us to say please and thank you and the rules apply as much for the people we work with as to the ones who have "customer status." Today it seems harder and harder for folks and it is the thing that is the quickest to be noticed and copied. Hold the door for others, listen more than you speak, smile and let others use the copier first. Think of ways to give a compliment, be patient when others are not so courteous. Now, many of you are saying; "I'm polite" and you probably are, however, do others define you by your civility? When others start to tell you in glowing tones that you are always courteous and polite, you can relax on this one a bit.

Stay away from personal judgments - It is amazing how others see our biases before we do. People who tell "French Jokes" really think they are funny while most of us simply think; "That could be offensive and I wonder if they know?" Joke tellers say "Can't they take a joke?" The rest of us say; "What was funny about that?" Each time someone crosses that line, it reveals itself as bias.

So the place to begin is by identifying yours. Is it men, women, older people, young folk, Hispanics, Blacks, Islamic radicals, managers, people with money, poor people or what? What is it?" We all have them and once you know your bias, you can begin to examine the bias and eliminate it. Talk to others and share your bias and look to them for guidance to eliminate bias from your language and eventually from your thought process. I don't need to explain the value of diversity. By now I think we all get it, but if you don't acknowledge and eliminate at least the language, it will creep into conversations when you least expect it. The easiest thing for people to think is; "If she feels that way about them, I wonder what she thinks about me?

Talk to everyone - Remember in high school when all the popular kids had a group and, if you weren’t part of the group, you were rejected, ignored or marginalized if you made conversation with the popular kids. That dynamic happens in every high school, I'm sure, but think about the net effect. There were silos created and people thirty years later still refer to being in or out. While the best years of our lives are not ruined, they certainly could have been enhanced if all of us were able to take advantage of a larger circle of friends. Work can be a lot like high school. We naturally gravitate to the people we are most comfortable with and will spend the lion's share of our time with them.

So that you understand this one, it's not about equality as much as balance and the quality of individual interactions. While personally satisfying to only spend time and energy on the "cool kids" others may feel rejected or at least marginalized. Look at people and say, "Hi", make small talk and show interest. It is not only the right thing to do...the benefits are enormous. People see you as approachable and accessible. It lowers stress levels, makes others feel welcome and believe it or not, social scientists will tell you that it improves performance and longevity of workers.

Learn from others - Curiosity is a gift and is in direct opposition to having all the answers. Recently, I had the pleasure of spending time with a client in a leadership development program that had forty years of successful career behind them with about three years to go to retirement. What a great time in life, huh? This is quite an accomplishment these days with the quantity of frequent job changes, career shifts and start overs. That's the good news.

The bad news was that something in this person's behavior felt it was important to constantly tell their colleagues, leaders or about anyone who would listen that they had; "Been there, done that and had the T-shirt" on about any issue that surfaced. Maybe you know this person in your own experience and can identify how it feels to be in every meeting in which there is a requirement to pay attention to "back in the day" stories. At some point it got to be too much for the audience and they let me know by way of evaluation that it was disrupting their experience.

What to do when that happens is for another day but my point is that the simple and lasting shift in behavior is simple curiosity. Ask good questions, care that they can come up with the answer first. Ask about new approaches and ideas and as an older colleague from Corning Glass once advised, "Be irresistibly curious." Tell what you heard and let them know that you have learned from them. There is a funny by-product of this sort of thing. They want to know what you think.

Create a layer affect - Build on the relationship. Once you know that a coworker's child is named Joey, make sure you ask good questions about Joey from time to time. Remember birthdays, anniversaries, ask how people are feeling after recovering from the flu, and about the family dog's recent encounter with a shy skunk. Think of the last interaction and add to it by reminding them of what you spoke about last time. By the way, that's impressive to people. We brush through our lives and barely notice others sometimes. It only takes a moment and the lasting effect is much, much longer.

Finally focus out and not in - When we teach listening skills here we talk about three levels of listening:
Level one -We only hear until we can tell our related or top-you story so we are thinking while they are talking. A bit more like competition then listening but something we do the majority of the time.
Level two -Listening for content with the intent of ask good quality questions and adding reflection techniques to let others know that we are really hearing.
Level three -All the steps in level two plus really observing body language, facial expression and voice inflection to hear at a 360 degree level.
Coworkers like it best when you can listen at levels two and three. What this requires is to look people in the eye, disengage from what you were doing and really, no really, focus. Not as hard as it sounds and practice is the best thing you can do.

So, here is the formula for gaining the greatest chance to enjoy your coworkers and add value to your work life. Be polite, stay away from judgments, talk to everyone, learn from others, build a layer effect with your relationships and focus out and not in. That ends the old guy's lecture for this month.

Next month the plan is to take on those relationship challenges with your leader. Please let us know what you think and enjoy the remainder of April and early May.

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Ralph Twombly
Priority Learning

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.



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