Sunday, July 17, 2005

We're Ready for Bigger Small Talk

I'm convinced that, in general, we humans are getting to the point where talking about the weather, sports, politics and recipes is not as fulfilling as it used to be. Sure, we have to start somewhere in our conversations and the aforementioned topics are great places to start. But I get the feeling that most people are dying to connect on a deeper level which will lead us to all kinds of unpredictable relationship opportunities.

I'm reminded of a former boss who once told me that business has nothing to do with relationships. It is that type of thinker I used to think really dominated the world of work, but I'm beginning to change my mind.

I spent 2 days last week working with top-level executives about leadership - more specifically, about how we as leaders are ultimately responsible for the results we get from our work teams - and even with our friends and families.

Although there are still those people in leadership roles who believe the best results can be obtained by force and fear, and will show you the results they get by use of that leadership style (at least in the short term), I'm very encouraged by the leaders who do want to go beyond their traditional leadership practices.

Fear may well be a motivator and can get quick results, but rarely will that tactic work with human beings over the long haul. When we treat human beings as objects to be used for our own gain, we rarely get much real satisfaction.

Maybe the problem is that few of us really want to know how our behavior impacts those around us. We all know the statistic from the Gallup poll that says that 80% of employees leave jobs because of their immediate supervisors, yet I'm guessing that old 80-20 rule applies here too: 80% of those supervisors who the employees are leaving probably don't look in the mirror to figure out why the employees are leaving.

Ben Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic orchestra, and co-author of the book "The Art of Possibility." He also conducts leadership seminars and has produced, with his wife Roz, two training videos which are outstanding. In one, "Leadership: An Art of Possibility," Ben shares that one of the ways to see the impact you as a leader have is to look for the shining eyes of the people around you. Shining eyes are evident when the spark of possibility is present. Ben says if he doesn't see shining eyes around him, the first question he asks himself is "What am I not being that their eyes aren't shining?"

If things aren't going exactly the way you would like them to go in your life - whether that's as a leader or as a parent or as a student or as an employee or really as any of the many roles we all play - consider Ben's question for yourself: "What am I not being that things aren't going the way I'd like?"

When you take that honest look at yourself with sincerity and authenticity, you might find huge opportunities to move beyond your own personal status quo and be well on your way to creating significant lasting transformations in your personal and professional relationships.

A great place to begin is by listening to the small talk around you. How might you contribute to raising the level of that small talk? Of course it can't end with the talk - we need to figure out together how to move beyond talk to action. But it's got to start somewhere.


At 4:01 PM, Blogger Hanna Cooper said...


Thanks for this post - really important stuff here.

Your comment about your boss who claimed that business had nothing to do with relationships - when, in my experience, it's actually ALL about relationships! - reminded me of a similar comment that I once got from a boss: that people can't expect to get their personal needs met at work. Oy - while we can't expect work or workplaces to meet all of our personal needs, I would hope that our work/workplaces do connect in someways with who we are as people, as humans. Most workplaces have a long way to go in this regard.

To me, the subtext here is that we all want meaning in what we spend our time doing - or otherwise, why do it? Since most of us spend a lot of time at work, it seems reasonable that we want to have connection, relationship, sincerity, authenticity as part of what that time at work is about.

Thanks for helping all of us raise the bar and talk bigger small talk!


At 4:46 PM, Blogger Jodee said...

Right on, Hanna! Unless you're a sole proprietor in a windowless, phoneless, internetless environment, there has to be some semblance of connection with someone human. Although it may not be the case in absolutely every single situation, I'm with you in believing that if we could figure out a way to better integrate our personal lives with our work lives we would have happier workers and happier people.

Now I'm not saying we need to bare all in every situation - I'm simply saying that we've got to be willing to venture outside our familiar zones both at work and outside of work to reap the benefits of fuller lives. I know you're there, too - we can start with us and BE the change we wish to see in the world (to quote Ghandi)!


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