Strengthen Relationships

Whether online, at work or at home, I measure the quality of my life by the health of my relationships. How am I feeling about the people and organizations I connect with? What am I accomplishing through those relationships? Are they helping me grow? Or distracting me from my hopes and dreams?

Cyndy Erickson, Shelly Johnson and I presented a workshop recently at the Iowa Non-Profit Summit on strengthening relationships to achieve a more productive workplace. Key components of strong friendships and partnerships are communication, focus, continuing assessment and feedback. Not a simple task, but the rewards are great.

Jose, one of my Earth Heroes summed it up, “Miss Martha, when I’m special I work really hard.” In very few words Jose eloquently stated the key to education. It’s about the relationships. Between students and teachers and among students.

This fascinating article in The New Yorker says this about the creative process, “Like every element of ‘Hopscotch,’ we figured it out through conversation, testing, discovery, iterating.” Opera director Yuval Sharon has created an amazing experience in limousines and on rooftops in Los Angeles. The piece made me want to fly to LA to see it and I’m not even an opera fan!

I’m sure their conversations included honest feedback, one of the most difficult components of communication. How often do we avoid mirroring someone’s unproductive behavior to them? Or withhold the positive feedback that provides motivation and incentive for futher effort?

What are the costs of avoiding those conversations? Cyndy Erickson facilitates Fierce Conversations including delegation, confrontational and coaching conversations. It can be done as a one- or two-day workshop and could be combined with Real Colors or other professional development.

Real Colors is a personality assessment based on Myers-Briggs. We use it to help groups identify strengths and preferences. Then we build on it to develop better communication and stronger teams.

What is amazing to me, but perhaps shouldn’t be, is the way the group at the Summit received a brief centering/mindfulness exercise. More and more I’m using techniques I’ve learned from yoga to bring groups into the present as we begin programs. Giving permission and instruction for stillness and breathing seems to strike a chord among many.

For strong relationships, the ability to pause and breathe deeply is essential to overlooking minor annoyances, for gathering courage for the difficult conversation, for rewarding jobs well done.

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