Benefits of Getting On The Same Page With One’s Self And Others
Most of us have heard from leaders, managers, parents, or significant others—or thought to ourselves— “It’s very important in this situation for us to be on the same page.”
Sounds like a simple and obvious way forward. However, in reality, it’s never easy for two parties to initiate and sustain “same page” collaboration on a complicated plan. Would-be partners often find that their positions have drifted apart due to the passage of time and life’s unexpected storms. Navigating back to the safe harbor of a sustainable common plan can be a daunting challenge.
Keeping Time and Score
It occurred to me after reading Geoffrey Moore’s great business article, “Keeping Score, Keeping Time: How the Productivity Zone Enables Zone Management,” that thinking differently about time is an important key to getting and staying on the same page. It is also the exact opposite of what many expect to be the driver of timely success in sports and business.
Success in sporting events has many different measures. Officials monitor the time left to score in the game or record competitors’ finishing times. Final scores or the order of finishes are recorded and victors are recognized. If needed, official reviews or photo finishes resolve potential disputes. Some sports extend the time of play if the score is tied in regulation time. Razor close contests that decide winners and losers provide the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”
Business also keeps time and score but in different ways. At the close of the fiscal year, a company’s current “score” is its measure of profitability, which also will determine its sustainability. Other measures of success include; client and employee retention and satisfaction, employee performance and promotions, and shareholders’ returns measured against expectations.
“Growth in terms of company performance is much easier to measure than the personal growth that fuels a company’s success. Organizations that focus on personal growth and development as well as recognizing the importance of hitting business targets tend to be more resilient in the face of challenges and more capable of sustaining long-term success.”
– author unknown
We know how important good game plans are in sports; why is getting and staying on the same page in business so elusive?
Making Time and Not Keeping Score
While deciding whether to use the term “make time” or “take time,” I asked a good friend for an opinion; their response caught me off guard and made me laugh out loud: “We make time for what we want to do and take time from what we don’t want to do.” (Let that response sink in for a moment…)
Using the same skills (e.g., keeping time and keeping score) that traditionally bring success in business and sports might not deliver or translate into, high trust and respect in professional and personal relationships—especially when multiple parties are working collaboratively to get on the same page. Some compare the ‘hard skills’ that bring success in sports and business to the “soft skills” needed to build strong professional and personal relationships; the challenge with soft skills is that they’re difficult to identify and teach and even harder to measure their success.
Most are familiar with Eisenhower’s ‘Time Management Matrix’, which Stephen Covey popularized in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In his book, he urges us to focus our time in ‘Quadrant II’ (Important, Not Urgent); this quadrant includes relationship building, finding new opportunities, preventive activities, and personal growth. If, in fact, relationships are important but not urgent, then we will need to make time—pausing concern about the clock and the score— to create and sustain essential connections to the people that matter most.
In a world that demands that we solve problems quickly and always answer questions correctly while achieving the highest levels of productivity and efficiency, it should come as no surprise that we don’t often enough slow down to “be present,” to ask thoughtful questions, to listen and reflect on answers, and to respond with respect. The importance of such “soft skills” are sometimes disregarded in daily life; however, in our best moments, we know that these skills represent the primary pillars of every strong professional and personal relationship.
“A partnership is any relationship in which two people are equally committed to the success of their work together and intentionally strive to demonstrate trust and respect toward one another. Partnerships occur in every arena of human interaction and at all levels of social and financial status.”
– Jonathan Thomas, MSW
Questions Are The Answers
A very commonly used greeting is, “How are you?” Unfortunately, few people using that phrase are asking for or willing to take the time to listen to a detailed answer. Many people rely on a standard but less than a truthful answer: “Fine, thanks.” Gordon Livingston, in his book Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, writes, “…the problems of the elderly are frequently serious but [they’re] seldom interesting.” Regardless of a person’s age, what’s keeping them up at night is of certain interest only to them, however, this unrest can color every aspect of their life and change a simple challenge [task] into an overwhelming one.
If our goal is to get on the same page with ourselves or others, let’s consider reframing the How are you? question. We’re looking for a question that is open to all that we’re going through at the moment, captures the emotions or energy surrounding this situation, and records the current intensity level for future reference. Consider an important, powerful and corresponding question that focuses on a current location in a CoreSelf Circle: (Illustration from simplenoteasy.org)
“Where am I?” (Or, “Where are we?”)
Now give this question a numerical weight on a scale of 1-10, 1 being low energy and certainty or high uncertainty and anxiety; 10 being high energy and certainty. This is a quick, subjective gut-check; don’t overthink it—just record the number.
“Where do I want to be? (Or, “Where do we want to be?”)
Utilizing the same nomenclature you used to answer the first question, answer this question with a weighted number. For example, is the situation you are facing weighing you down, making you feel incredibly overwhelmed (#2)? If so, simply getting back to average (#5) would represent significant progress and relief. Perhaps, during a challenging time at work when your team has an above-average performance (#6), but you believe that it’s possible to step up the deliverables (#9) even with limited resources and a short timeline, you would be motivated to stretch for the much higher score.
As Hal Gregersen in Questions Are The Answer would remind us:
“Great questions have a catalytic quality — that is, they dissolve barriers to creative thinking and channel the pursuit of solutions into new, accelerated pathways. When problem-solving, the emphasis far too often falls on finding a single correct answer. However, the power of a great question has the potential to ignite a type of innovative thinking that is essential to our globalized, digitized, and disruptive world.”
It turns out that a function of our brain involving the hippocampus includes the ability to articulate exactly where we are and where we want to be at any moment. Regardless of the intensity of a situation, how overwhelmed we feel, or how angry we might get, each of us possesses the ability to make the time to pause and ask ourselves the two important questions regarding our location (1-10) listed above.
The process of answering the location questions creates a window between where we are and where we want to be; that space provides an opportunity to ask and consider a third question:
“How can I get there?” (Or, “How do we get there?”)
Making, Taking, and Having Time
Deciding to make the effort to spend the time, when time is very precious, to resolve a particular challenge or strengthen an important relationship earns you lasting credit for making time for things that matter most.
“As with most things in life, the process of determining what we want is improved with targeted questions and deeper awareness. The more we ask and the more we listen – with both our heads and our hearts – the better the answers we receive. And every step we take is an opportunity to get feedback and make refinements.”
– Joseph Deitch, Elevate
Returning to sports for a moment, we’re all familiar with colored cards that represent fouls in soccer and penalty flags in football. In gymnastics, before the digital age, judges would hold up cards with a score between 1-10 after performing a routine, with 10 representing a perfect score. The next time you find yourself in a heated discussion or difficult conversation at work—instead of holding up a yellow card or throwing a red challenge flag—visualize yourself holding up a white piece of paper; picture a number on the side facing the other party as representing “Where you are,” (1-10) in this discussion. On the side of the paper facing you is the number representing “Where you would like to be.” (1-10). It’s likely that this imaginary visual exercise will ease your tension and provide a virtual space for you to add some compassion, curiosity, or exploratory communication to the conversation.
“Meaningful relationships and meaningful work are mutually reinforcing, especially when supported by radical truth and radical transparency.”
– Ray Dalio
Most of us don’t take advantage of how our minds work best when it comes to relating to those around us, especially when it comes to respectfully getting on the same page, first with ourselves, and then with others.
Of course, practicing this skill is not something that you can do on your own, it requires collaboration and interaction. At Simple. Not Easy, we offer workshops in CoreSelf Positioning to help you as an individual to develop the very skills that will help you successfully communicate and succeed. There are also workshop opportunities for corporate teams. Whether you are facing a difficult problem and are in need of immediate intervention, or you feel that you could be more successful with greater group cohesion, our goal is to show you how you all can reach your collective goals together.
This blog contains some of the CoreSelf framework, developed by Simple. Not Easy, to help Get on the Same Page with ourselves and others. Moreover, the tools provide organizations and individuals with a methodology to identify, teach, and measure “soft skills.”
Learn more about our workshops and reach out to our team on the website today!