Coffee and a Story
There is an advantage to getting out of the office. I have always held that belief, especially when faced with a difficult decision, complex project or just simply a need to stretch one’s legs. You may bump into someone you know or a stranger and that random conversation becomes the catalyst for a new idea or a different perspective.
Today, I happily got up from the desk. The sunlight beamed onto my face as the electronic doors opened, giving way to palm trees and the sound of birds chirping in the distance. I began my stroll, walking with some degree of purpose to the closest coffee house on campus. It was no Starbucks but I was willing to reduce my coffee standard just a smidgen. No big deal.
As I made my way along the walkway, I imagined what the next decade of my life would yield. My goals have evolved compared to when I was much younger. I think about the things I would like to give back to communities or organizations that can ill afford pricey consultants. We cannot continue to discount the potential that exists in communities with less resources. If we were able to distill and translate hard academic language into easily digested components, many more people would probably begin to understand the world we live in. Academia must be packaged as something appealing and relevant to lives of ordinary men and women. We live in an age of so much data, but if we are unable to locate what we are looking for; unable to interpret the data that we are confronted with; unable to filter what is fiction from non-fiction, then we will be faced with the tools to change our attitude to challenges. My thinking is that the best way to improve our chances, rests in preparing each generation with the best tools to help create better solutions for their future.
As I waited on my bagel (somehow having coffee without a bagel was sinful), I fell into an easy conversation with the concessionaire who introduced himself as Larry. I learned he was successful in completing graduate school with a Masters in Computer Science. Now Jerry appeared to be in his mid-forties but what struck me was how excited he was about having earned this degree and how his business orientation would help him to re-define his future. The possibilities are endless.
For the next fifteen minutes we shared stories about education and its role in providing added value to our complex lives. We concurred that sometimes our worldviews stifled our appreciation of how diverse our world is and we lose the opportunity to move from being just good to being exceptional in our relationships and our chosen professions.
Larry, shared a story that got me thinking about personalities and how we miss clues that can help to develop healthier relationships in the work-place. In this story, Larry reported to a female boss, who was not well liked and was described as a task master. She was polite but she expected no chit chat nor did she appear remotely interested in hearing about people’s lives outside of the work sphere. He remembered approaching her with his trade-mark smile and sunny disposition. Her response to his actions he interpreted as cold. He learned to turn down the charm whenever he had to meet her. So, on completing projects he would go to her office and in a tone devoid of emotion he would say, ” I have completed the assessments. The results are captured in this file.” He determined after a number of such interactions that this was the kind of relationship she found satisfying, because on his evaluation, compared to the others he had before, the result was that his behavior had improved.
His story led me to a profile test I completed some years ago called Emergenetics. The Company’s website describes what they do in first opening lines. The words that I find to be key to unlocking results I have placed in bold.
“Emergenetics International is an innovative, results-oriented organizational solutions company specializing in analyzing, identifying and leveraging the way people think and behave.”
Organizations are reliant on people to bring about successful outcomes, so why not invest in understanding how to help them perform optimally. No two companies are created equal, and I am in no way suggesting that the solution to every perceivable conflict or challenge experienced by professionals will be fixed by understanding personally types. What I am suggesting is that an awareness of non-verbal and verbal clues will help us frame how we pursue conversations with others.
I took from Larry’s story the view that we can regulate our preferred communication style to “match” the preferred style of business associates. Larry recognized the need to alter his ray of sunlight language style to one that matched the style of his supervisor. As he pointed out, his boss was interested in results and the words she constantly used were key performance indicators, accountability and high impact employees, so he started to speak her language. That simple action authored a new beginning that helped to improve his relationship with his supervisor.
-Suzette Henry Campbell, 2014