Memory, empathy & the pathway forward.

It’s said that every time you recall something you change the memory. So in fact our memories are never an accurate reflection of what happened, precisely. They a version of our truth, but not the ultimate truth. It becomes the story that we tell ourselves; not the reality to which we have experienced.

But the abstract connection with reality doesn’t lessen the impact of the story (or the memory) on us as people. So that’s where it get’s complicated.

If this is indeed all true, then challenges we face at work (or in any part of our lives) to resolve conflict and come to a common understanding of a situation can seem impossible. How do we reconcile two stories that while similar, are nuanced with slight differences?

I’ve sat in what I call the middle of the table, between a manager and employee; listening to two people argue about essentially the same thing, searching for the pathway forward.

The pathway forward would be easier, had the relationship been founded in empathy and compassion, long before the conversation being had in that moment.

A foundation where there is a common understanding that each of us are unique individuals battered and bruised in someway by life’s daily joys and turmoil. That while we see things differently, different isn’t bad. Where we are compassionate enough to recognise intensity of emotions and feel safe enough to know that when there is a problem to overcome, that we ourselves are not the problem. It’s not about blame – it’s about understanding.

We all come with a story. The story we have crafted for ourselves about our life which casts a shadow or a light over every interaction we have.

Understanding that there is another side to the coin, a blind spot, a perspective that we can’t see – having the patience to hear it and explore it.. well that’s the pathway to a better relationship – with whoever is on the other side of the table.

** If you’re feeling like some brain food, this video about Empathy vs Sympathy is one I find particularly insightful.

This blog post from Seth Godin is also intriguing when it comes to exploring our inner narrative.

This article in the New Yorker is longer form and explores memory even further and its connection to emotional responses.

Image credit: Nancy Kamergorodsky

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Being Wrong, Fast Drawing, Culture Fit, Recruitment & Mindset #cherishcurates

#cherishcurates – where I summarise the top 5 bits of content I came across this week that have added to my thinking on all things people, performance and how we work.

This week the top 5 (in no particular order are) are:

  • What makes a good leader – Gary Vaynerchuck
  • Fast drawing for everyone – Google
  • Culture Fit – Thrive Global
  • How To Answer Six Tricky Interview Questions – Liz Ryan

  • The nature of mindsets – Ash Buchanan

***

What Makes a Good Leader – Gary Vaynerchuk

This week Gary Vaynerchuk dropped episode 206 of the Daily Vee. If you don’t know him or this series google it – he’s not for everyone and my guess is that you will love him or hate him. I’m the first. In the later part of the video he drops this statement:

…when you have the full bravado and leadership and you’re a leader the number one thing to feel comfortable with is saying you’re wrong, changing the course, having that humility to go along with that ego… 

When I heard this I was like YARRRSSSS but then I was like… why I am I reacting to this like it’s a new fact, like it’s some kind of wisdom that’s been bottled in a jar away from human ears. I look back on myself, leaders I have worked with and maybe the reason for the response is that we don’t see this behaviour enough. The humility to say “that didn’t work” and the courage to try again – in public.

Fast Drawing for Everyone – Google

Ahhh this is so cool! Google are amid developing a product that helps you create simple graphics on your phone, tablet or desktop. I see this as particularly useful to the L&D all-rounder who might not be an illustrator or designer at heart, but in spirit and needs to get their hands on some clean graphics for presentations, digital environments, activities – you name it! From the blog:

Drawing on your phone or computer can be slow and difficult—so we created AutoDraw, a new web-based tool that pairs machine learning with drawings created by talented artists to help you draw.

Culture Fit – Thrive Global

This article was really interesting, it challenged the reader to think about what it means to say “hmm I just don’t think they are a culture fit” .. really what the heck does that mean? The ‘hard data’ of their article draws from a survey by Cubiks… Regardless of the accuracy of the data the question remains..

…..when you say ‘culture fit’ what do you mean?

In recruitment, I use it to describe that holistic assessment of the candidate. They might have the right experience, qualifications – they might even be able to predictably perform in the short term. But will they get results the way that we want to achieve them, that aligns to our values and defined behaviours; what will they add to our culture that compliments and positively challenges what we do. If I can’t see that link then it’s a red flag. One quote of the article really stood out for me:

“I don’t optimize for fit with our existing culture, because over time that will lead to uniformity and irrelevancy. Instead, I try to envision a future where this person’s unique point of view has shifted how we work and what we value. I hire for an individual’s potential cultural contribution.”

The article mentions breaking down ‘culture fit’ into cultural contribution: what will this person bring to the team that will challenge us and help us; and values fit: does this person share our goals and aspirations.

It’s a good article – get’s you thinking about the impact of the language you use and culture fit within your business.

How To Answer Six Tricky Interview Questions – Liz Ryan

I first came across Liz Ryan about 5 years ago. Something I love about her articles is her no BS approach to advice. Recruitment I feel these days can be a soulless business. There are some improvements, but I think in general for job seekers it is a tough game to play and that’s before people even get to the interview.

Ryan talks about the interview questions we all ask and gives coaching tips on how to answer, noting that some of the questions are just down right bad form from recruiters. Here are the questions that got me thinking..

What’s your greatest weakness? To be honest I gave this question up a while ago, I usually ask things like “what are some areas you’d like to grow in”. I’m not overly interested in what people think they are terrible at. More interested in how they see the process of life long learning.

Why do you want this job? Guilty sometimes I find myself saying, only my version is this “you could work anywhere tell me your story”. I need to think this one over a bit more.

The nature of mindsets – Ash Buchanan

This post is long and detailed. Best consumed if you have a 30 minute window and are feeling like some brain food. It unpacks the importance of mindsets, mindset states and provides further reading on the topic. From the 8 principles that underlie mindsets, here are my top 3:

  • Mindsets are unique to everyone
  • Mindsets are imperfect models of reality
  • Mindsets are self-protective

I think about some of the coaching conversations I have had quite recently. In those moments you are trying to alter or persuade these mindsets to rewire and this article provides some great language for coaches to support their managers or clients through the process of a mindset change for improved performance.

This is a good one to reflect on. Worth the time if you have it, which I know you do. I’ll leave you with this.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Image Credit : Wait, but why  (one of the greatest blogs on the internet!!)

Why should anyone be led by you?

I recently heard this statement at a leadership course I went to – click here if you want to know what course I attended, highly recommend.

Why should anyone be led by you?

Well sheeeezyyyy,  when you say it like that..

Brings it back into context that leadership isn’t about you. Well that’s what I believe anyway. I’m not alone in my thought’s many a great leadership influencers talk about leadership being a privilege, a sacrifice, not necessarily a one way trip to glory (gives me some grounding that I’m not crazy). 

From what I have seen from my …what 13 years of working, even back when I was a McCounter chick, was good leaders going bad. What did we do? Well people respond to their environments, put good people in poor conditions and sad things will happen. Put great people in positive workplaces and see the fire spark alive.. you get my drift.

We incentivize self-centred leadership, maybe accidentally (or on purpose). The minute you make budgets the greatest incentive (cut X% of the wages) you have put money before people, and many leaders will begin putting themselves first. Imagine that you’re not the saint you are perhaps pretending to be, if you were out in a position where the formula was: hey, if you save $15,000 in wages you’ll get that promotion – your entire leadership experience has become about you.

That was an overly simplistic example, but it brings me back to the words..

… why should anyone be led by you…

Because people have options, they aren’t bound to your business – why should anyone stick around and be led by you? What do you offer… is it…

  • impossible deadlines
  • a workplace with immense pressure to impress shareholders
  • being too busy to really care about your team, so you forget what’s important

or..

  • a workplace where people are treated like people, not transactions
  • a team where achieving goals with a purpose matters
  • opportunities for development including the tough, uncomfortable feedback
  • a relationship with you that includes you saying the words “i’m sorry, I stuffed up, how can we fix this together”

I don’t expect the leaders I work with to be perfect. Far from it, kind of like in any relationship, it’s the imperfections and the flaws that draw you closer, it’s the honestly and the candid conversations that build a connection. Pretending your perfect does nothing, because we know you are pretending.

So, why should anyone be led by you?

 

Further reading.. love this excerpt from HBR – https://hbr.org/2000/09/why-should-anyone-be-led-by-you

We all know that leaders need vision and energy, but after an exhaustive review of the most influential theories on leadership–as well as workshops with thousands of leaders and aspiring leaders–the authors learned that great leaders also share four unexpected qualities.

The first quality of exceptional leaders is that they selectively reveal their weaknesses (weaknesses, not fatal flaws). Doing so lets employees see that they are approachable. It builds an atmosphere of trust and helps galvanize commitment.

The second quality of inspirational leaders is their heavy reliance on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and course of their actions. Such leaders are good “situation sensors”–they can sense what’s going on without having things spelled out for them.

Managing employees with “tough empathy” is the third quality of exceptional leadership. Tough empathy means giving people what they need, not what they want. Leaders must empathize passionately and realistically with employees, care intensely about the work they do, and be straightforward with them.

The fourth quality of top-notch leaders is that they capitalize on their differences. They use what’s unique about themselves to create a social distance and to signal separateness, which in turn motivates employees to perform better.

All four qualities are necessary for inspirational leadership, but they cannot be used mechanically; they must be mixed and matched to meet the demands of particular situations. Most important, however, is that the qualities encourage authenticity among leaders. To be a true leader, the authors advise, “Be yourself–more–with skill.”

 

4 truths every new networker needs to know

I remember walking into my first networking event – Ahhhhhhh! I remember wanting to stand against the wall and eat my free pre event snacks until the session started. Totally normal response by the way, after all these people in the room are actually out to get you and want you to leave (sarcasm).

So these are my top 4 truths about networking. Remember them next time you encounter a bout of omfg-strangers-are-scary anxiety.

Truth 1 – Striking up a conversation (or joining in) is easier than you think

It’s a networking event, 99% of people are there to talk to new people. Keep it simple, I find introducing yourself and saying “Hi I’m Cherish, nice to meet you” and asking a basic question such as “have you been to one of these events before” a good way to kick off the conversation. But what if you walk in and everyone is already in groups chatting away? Then what? Firstly if there is a snack station, go get yourself a drink, you always want to keep one hand free so you can shake hands and interact. Approach a smaller group (1-3 people) and introduce yourself. Admitting you don’t know anyone at the event is a cool ice breaker, we all know those feels and chances are the group chat you have joined.. well they met each other about 2 minutes ago as well.

There will always be the 1% of people who are just not very nice to socialise with. I’ve met them, the type of people who will give you one word answers and show very little interest in your kind attempts to get to know them. They are the exception not the rule. If you find a sunshine hater just excuse yourself and move on (more about that later).

Truth 2 – You do have something to offer 

If you have listening ears then you have something to offer. Networking is not actually about fanning people with business cards and moving on. It’s not about pitching your product, well at least not directly. It’s about getting to know people and that means a bit of active listening. Being in the moment and asking questions. There is nothing worse than talking to someone who is constantly looking away from you, looking for god knows what. It just sucks.

Be there in the moment and treat that person well. You don’t have to have all the experience to be interesting to talk to, ask questions, be interested. Stop worrying about your story and focus on understanding the experience of someone else. Naturally you will end up sharing a bit about yourself, without the stress of needing to say or be something you are not. You don’t remember people because they are experienced, you remember them because they were interesting and fun to talk to. You do have something to offer, always.

Truth 3 – It’s okay to excuse yourself from the conversation to talk to someone new

Sometimes you might spend an entire event talking to one person. But most of the time that’s not really what you are there for. It’s okay to excuse yourself from the conversation to talk to someone new. This is BY FAR the hardest part of networking because you want to leave on a positive note. This article, this one and this one all have a number of strategies you can use. You will need to build some courage, particularly if you experience a bit of social anxiety. But it is okay to detach yourself and speak to other people, that’s what you are there for.

Truth 4 – It get’s easier

With every event you attend it will get easier. You may have the urge to drag someone along that you know to every event. If so have a game plan, otherwise you will end up standing in the corner talking about your weekend and internet memes instead of getting out there and experiencing all the fun of meeting new people.

Go on, you rock – get out there!


Image credit – click here | Quote credit: click here 

Creativity, stories and surprises – why I dig HR!

People ask me why I like working in HR. They seem to think my days are spent listening to complaints and disciplining people – which is actually a very small part of my role (maybe I’m the exception not the rule?). So I thought for a bit of Monday happiness I’d share my favourite parts of working in HR.

#1. Creating weird names for things.
I reflect fondly on the many times my HR counterparts and I sat around brainstorming the name of the next performance appraisal, what theme the next quarter should have or how we could inject the fun into policies. It’s like unleashing your inner Advertising Guru, only you are not a guru you just hope that some random catchy genius will find you.

#2. I get inspired by cool people
Some humans are just god-damn amazeballs. Some of my highlights include: watching people complete qualifications for the first time; seeing coaching in action; getting to know team members with big ambitions; and witty rhetoric with employees who really live the vision, mission and values. I tip my hat to all of you.

#3. I’m continually surprised 
Whether it be people sharing their funny anecdotes with me, or making epic work faux-pas, the laughs never stop when you are in the know when it comes to people’s lives – such a privilege.

#4. I am get great pleasure and amusement out of HR stereotypes
I adore the way HR is portrayed in mainstream media, it’s glorious! The first time I saw Archer and was introduced to the character of Pam I laughed myself silly. I enjoy a good joke about HR and most of all I enjoy smashing the stereotype.

Happy Monday!

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