Chocolate Chips, Isolation, and Reflection

Image by Richard John from Pixabay

“What do you mean they are all gone?”

“I just bought them.”

“I didn’t get any.”

Me – looking for the chocolate chips

Those words left my mouth with force. A force disproportional to the meager chips.

After apologizing and making amends the interaction kept playing in my head.

Why did I react that way? What was that all about, they are just chocolate chips?

The easy path is to blame this isolation, to excuse way these reactions as a “normal” reaction to being together so often.

The difficult path is honest reflection.

Asking yourself hard questions.

Trying to determine the source of the reaction in the first place.

Scarcity.

A collage of images and feelings from younger days streamed through my mind. Struggles, fears, lack of control, and sadness all observed and filtered through an earlier version of myself.

This was no longer about chocolate chips.

As we work hard to comfort others during this time, we may need to extend that comfort to ourselves (and even our former selves) as we struggle with the emotions that bubble to the surface.

Reflect on those emotions. What are they trying to tell you?

Where are your chocolate chips?

Tow Truck Driver Attentive

Image by Greg Reese from Pixabay

His name was Chris.

He was the second tow truck driver that day. (We learned about turnpike authority, State Police and tow truck jurisdiction that day, but that is another story.)

We talked and asked him a few questions. Questions about the job, what he likes, what he doesn’t like.

We learned that most people are so upset when their cars break down, that they are mean and rude to the tow truck driver (the very person there to come to the rescue). We learned that the work is long (12 hour shifts) and is a little boring. We learned which cars get towed a lot, and which ones never get towed – except for accidents.

But then things shifted.

Chris began to ask us questions.

Where were we going? What did we do? What type of program were we presenting? Will we still be able to make it there in time?

Chris, and his questions continued.

How did we get into this line of work? What was it like getting started? Did it take a lot of money, effort, or time? How did we create content?

His questions showed he was listening. He would reflect on our responses, wait for each of us to speak, then follow up with additional questions. Sometimes going back to one of our original answers and asking a follow up or asking how it connected to the new idea or response.

He asked about our clients, how we find them (or how they find us) and how we market ourselves, and our competition.

He was more interested and attentive than many people in our own circles. As consultants and coaches, we are used to asking the questions, we are used to teaching people how to coach and listen and ask questions. We are not used to this type of attentive behavior.

It was amazing.

Being listened to and heard is something that feels special when it happens. There are so many ways to be distracted today, especially during a conversation. We half listen while doing other things, and often we “keep it light” and never really talk to people about the deeper things.

Ironically we were on our way to teach about Coaching and how to listen and ask questions as a coach.

Thanks to Chris, we now have a new standard as coaches on how to listen and ask questions.

We want to strive to be Tow Truck Driver Attentive.

Tow Truck Driver Attentive: to become the kind of coaches (and people) who listen well, ask questions and display genuine curiosity and interest in those around you.

For the next week, try to be Tow Truck Driver Attentive to those around you. In your various circles, listen and ask questions. Follow up and be curious. You may find or learn something new and make those around feel important and special.

Thanks for the example Chris.

You showed us a little magic on an otherwise stressful and tough day.

Streams

Image by cowins on Pixabay

On this particular job site, each member of the team has a job to do. Each morning assignments are given. As each task is completed, the next task is assigned. The leader of this team must plan out each day, and give out the next part of the plan as every individual task is completed.

This approach has been in place for a while. Let’s call it the “wait until you complete this task before you get the next one approach” for lack of a better, more concise term.

To makes things even more interesting, certain members of the team became better at particular tasks. As the assignments were issued, those who were better at certain tasks were always assigned those tasks.

This system has revealed a few issues.

  1. Members of the team have developed skills, but a very narrow set of skills. They can do certain parts of the work, but not all of it. When someone is out or busy, work can come to a halt.
  2. Projects have become more complex. The work accomplished on day one has to connect to someone else’s work the next day, and it wasn’t matching up. There was a lot of doing work, then going back to fix it the next day.

Once identified, the leader came up with a better plan.

Streams. That is what we need.”

I paused to wait for the explanation.

Streams. A continual flow from the start to the finish on these various projects. I realize that by just assigning tasks, individual parts were completed, but there was no connection into the larger project as a whole. No real understanding of how these part fit together. No ownership of the whole.”

I paused again.

Streams. I could map out the beginning and the end, and let them flow through the entire part or project. I bet they would be happier. I recently heard some grumbling because when parts don’t fit together they have to redo work. I bet this will help them develop more well rounded skills . I have to go create these Streams.

Where have you assigned tasks instead of Streams? How could creating a flow of work from the start to finish increase satisfaction, performance, and connection to the whole?

Let’s try giving members of the team Streams instead of tasks and watch them develop and flow from the beginning to the end.

Obstacle Hunters

Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com

There are obstacles getting in the way of projects and progress. Obstacles on the job site. Obstacles in our offices, and workplace. Obstacles are those things (old processes, equipment, software, procedures, routines, traditions) that will delay and disrupt the workflow. Obstacles waste time, energy, and resources.

But obstacles are interesting beasts. They like to remain unspoken, unidentified, or undisturbed.

Obstacles like to mask themselves as something else.

Obstacles like to pretend they are just petty offensives.

Obstacles like to create divisions between us.

Obstacles will do almost anything to remain in place instead of being addressed and removed.

What if we took a different approach?

We could become Obstacle Hunters.

A collective agreement to stand together (side by side) to notice, track down, and find obstacles. A collective agreement with the freedom to bring up any obstacles that may disrupt or delay your daily progress. A collective agreement that each member of the team should be an Obstacle Hunter (even if the obstacle was created by leadership). A collective agreement that obstacles are hurting our progress and ability to deliver and there is no fear, offense, or worry when we bring obstacles forward.

What are you waiting for? You and your team face these obstacles every day. These obstacles will want to remain hidden from view and out of focus. It is time to start hunting these obstacles down and get them out of the way of your progress and team satisfaction.

Let’s go hunting today. Watch out obstacles, we are coming for you.

Taking Initiative

(Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com)

The session is about conflict and learning their preferred styles and other styles.

The session ends with some group work and a case study.

The case study provides a scenario and context to apply what they just learned.

The scenario describes being partnered with a peer to organize and work on a project together. But, when they arrive at the meeting, the peer has already started the project and assigned work to other members of the team.

Participants are asked to describe what they would do.

The response to this scenario has ALWAYS been the same.

“I would confront this peer about moving forward without me.”

“I would address this peer’s behavior and establish some structure and boundaries so we are working together on this project.”

“I would talk to my boss about this peer and make sure our roles are clear.”

The response to this scenario has ALWAYS been the same.

The response to this scenario has ALWAYS been the same, until recently.

This group surprised me.

“I would thank the peer for taking initiative and ask them how I can help moving forward.”

“I would support this peer and see if they need me to take a more active role.”

They went on to explain their response.

“You see, I am super busy. And just because it didn’t work out perfectly, or not exactly what I had in mind, that is fine with me. I appreciate when someone takes initiative and gets things moving. I don’t always have to be in charge, sometimes I can play a support role for what is already in motion.”

Wow.

Let me say that again. Wow!

A much different response and view of someone else taking initiative.

A response that rewards action and doesn’t take things personally.

How many times do we see taking initiative as a threat?

How often does our ego get in the way of movement?

How often do we see negative things when there is something positive to be appreciated?

Maybe it is time for a new response to taking initiative.

Just because that project, that dinner, that event was not exactly what you had in mind, can we learn to appreciate those taking initiative instead?

Let me know if you struggle with others taking initiative and if you try taking this alternative view in your own world, workplace, household, or lives in the comments section.

Emotional Baggage Check

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(Image courtesy of Pixabay.com)

A few of us were talking about how to best prepare for an upcoming event.

You know the type of event: the one with lots of people getting together, both family and friends.

As fun as these events can be, stress and other pressures seem to also arrive whenever lot of people gather in one place.

Half joking, we developed a plan.

“What if we created an emotional baggage check. You know, when people arrive, we could have them check their emotional baggage at the door.”

We all laughed, but then it hit us. What if we really did this? What if this emotional baggage check worked?

How could it work?

  1. When you arrive at the event, you are given a card, and numbered envelope, and a pen.
  2. You write down on the card any difficult or hard emotions that you are carrying into the event.
  3. You place the card in the envelope and exchange it for a corresponding numbered ticket.
  4. You attend the event emotional baggage free.
  5. When the event ends, you have the choice of claiming your emotional baggage, or leaving it behind. (Any envelopes left behind are burned and buried.)
  6. Repeat steps one through three as many times as needed.

We are emotional creatures. Those emotions sometimes disrupt events and relationships, even when we try to keep these emotions to ourselves.

Instead of keeping those emotions bottled up, perhaps the physical act of writing down and checking the emotional baggage is enough to give us a needed break from those challenging or difficult emotions.

And who knows? Once we experience events without those emotional responses, it may feel good enough that we won’t pick them back up.