Is it reasonable to expect that most of us will intuitively understand and be able to master the new social mores of a new environment?
Let’s say you were visiting a foreign culture? Would you be confident you would just get it? Or would you first seek some advice from someone experienced in the norms, behaviour, and etiquette?
I know I would want the lowdown, if only to not unwittingly offend let alone come across like an idiot.
The online environment that we are engaging most days is one that our wider culture has been involved in for less than a decade on mass. We wouldn’t assume that a person would simply just get a new foreign culture of a distant country just by visiting it (we all know the ignorant tourist), so why is that we have left so much of what we do online down to common sense.
From what I see, with the potential for wide amplification of anything we share, good sense and understanding seems to be at premium.
Before we start bringing our next project to life, let’s do a double take and make sure we understand the implications of what will happen with it online.
First thing two things to ask:
- Have I got my facts straight?
- Are there people who really need to know what’s going on before everyone else does?
5 years ago I was given the advice to focus on encouraging those around me in everything that matters. Encourage. Encourage. Encourage.
My challenge has to been to learn the discipline of building encouragement into the way I lead and how I bring others on board with what I start. The great thing about practicing this approach is that it ends up bleeding into how we do life. Encouragement reinforces what is good in others empowering those around us to keep moving forward.
So the first thing is encouragement.
The second thing is to do is follow up with the question, “So what can I do to help you?”
When we embark on a new project the dream that plays in our minds eye is a lot like line 1; our feelings of success is matched by our sense of the momentum behind our idea – we are in control and the future is bright.
In reality the start is a lot like line 3 – when we have no momentum behind us every move we make seems like it either makes or breaks us. It’s not until we actually begin to relax into the growing inertia behind our idea-come-to-life that our sense of getting anywhere with it becomes more harmonised and reliable.
Those of us who have done it before would probably be happy with line 2, understanding that sensing continued momentum will help us to trust the notion of any sort of success.
One of my favourite techniques to unbundle a complex idea (and in the process reveal a clear path forward) is putting pencil to paper.
Keeping it super simple and highly transportable, with no batteries required, a decent size of paper and a sharp pencil are all that’s required to help spell out the issue, gain shared understanding, and craft solutions. I’m not an excellent drawer, in fact I mostly use boxes, abbreviations and a lot of arrows, but the gestures, the movements of the pencil, and the development of the drawing help to bring deeper context to the ideas at hand in a way that just talking cannot.
The secret of the technique lies in that it’s very difficult to draw out a concept and think of something else. The process of converting thought to illustration or diagram, commits the mind to what it is we are trying to express and in the process focuses the grey matter between the ears. The obvious benefit is that we are less distracted and that, surprise surprise, increases our problem solving speed.
But make it pencil not pen. Everyone understands pencil can be easily undone and this makes us feel drawing with pencil is more forgiving. Ink on the other hand has a sense of permanence and we are more cautious using it as a result.
I was recently challenged by someone about how I approached empowering a team member. My form of empowerment aimed to give the person the chance to put forward their case for change. It seems though, that encouraging advocacy isn’t empowering for a lot of people - in fact it can be demotivating as pitching ideas pulls them out of the comfort zone.
Empowerment is a tricky art. What works for someone can be seen as debilitating for someone else. A classic example is competition. I work alongside some people who live to compare themselves against a measure and see how they stack up. For these people. competing is actually liberating. It brings focus and it gives them the permission to go all out in the pursuit of victory. I also work with people for whom competition is nothing but an unbearable pressure that hinders their ownership of something rather than encourages it.
What we must remember is that our natural tendency is to reference the world as we see it. The art of empowering others requires a great amount of insight into the skill of empathy, or the ability to see the world as others see it.
Our starting place is to recognise our self-referencing bias and increase the frequency of open-ended questions we ask others. The finish is all about listening to what they have to stay and making sure we understand where they are coming from.