Building Safety (Part 2): Do I Belong Here?

As a business coach in The Woodlands, I am always struck by the great sense of belonging that this community generates. It is welcoming but not overly so. People there have to get to know you. Yet, there is something special about The Woodlands. And the people who live there are proud to be part of this vibrant community.

All of us want to belong. As human beings one of our primal instincts is to look for belonging cues. And, like The Woodlands, we want to belong to something bigger than ourselves. Belonging is about connection. Very often, one of the challenges I work with as a personal business coach in companies is with the culture and creating a greater sense of belonging.

There are companies who want their employees to feel like family. That sounds good. And when applied correctly it is great. People feel safe. When applied incorrectly it can bring a sense of separation, anxiety and feeling isolated. People will feel that they are in danger.

I had a client who ran his business like his personal family. He tolerated outbursts of anger, broken promises, missed deadlines and he had family favorites. For all the belonging cues he wanted to generate he failed as he let “his” family philosophy tear his company apart.

On the other side I collaborated with a company that created a sense of family, a wonderful sense of inclusion. It worked. What was the difference?

In the first company, accountability was subjective, selective and ultimately, because it was not consistent, ineffective. People could not count on or trust each other to get the work done right and on time. When disconnectors, which is what this type of behavior does, is allowed to proliferate, no one feels safe in getting their job done, there is little trust and whatever greater purpose they were working for as a team is destroyed. The employees were being included in a family that was toxic.

The second company ran things quite differently. It was a safe environment because everyone was held accountable. There was a sense of belonging because people felt safe because they could trust their teammates to do their work on time and correctly.

The idea of “family” inspires the idea of togetherness. Yet, you can be in a dysfunctional family where you are together physically but disconnected mentally and physically. This is not a place where you can pursue your self-improvement.

When there is accountability, collaboration and achievement of common goals at expected levels and in a timely manner, the bonding that takes place between individuals in the company serves as the foundation for greater growth, productivity and happiness.

Why? The social support network, you create at work, your family, is the primary driver of workers’ happiness and productivity. And, the studies on happiness and work back this conclusion.

Most of us have experienced the good and the bad “family” work environment. To answer the question: “Do I belong here?” Ask yourself the following questions:

What is this job doing for me?
What is it doing to me?
What does it have me becoming?
Is that acceptable?

If you like your answers stay. And, if you don’t and that you don’t feel safe. This is your cue to move on because you don’t belong and it is time to move on.

A Contest to Reveal Culture

In the last post I spoke about some of the foundational components to building a strong culture. It is necessary for people to feel safe and to believe they belong to something bigger than themselves. Also, for a culture to thrive it needs a clear mission, vision and an established purpose.

As a business coach in the Woodlands and as a business coach in Houston, a clear sense of purpose makes the possibilities for growth and advancement of an organization much clearer. Why? With clarity comes pointed and focused action. The individuals and teams who make up the culture have a clear purpose.

Several years ago, a designer and engineer, Peter Skillman, held a competition to find out the following: Why do certain groups add up to be greater than the sum of their parts, while others add up to be less?

To this end he assembled a series of four-person groups at three major universities and a few other places. He challenged each group to build the tallest possible structure using the follow items.

  • Twenty pieces of uncooked spaghetti
  • One yard of transparent tape
  • One yard of string
  • One standard sized marshmallow

The contest had one rule. The marshmallow had to be on the top. The most interesting part, to me, was not so much the task but the teams he assembled. Some of the teams were business students and some were kindergartners.

The business students strategized. The kindergartners had a different approach. They did not strategize, analyze or share experiences. They were too young, not only to strategize, analyze and share experiences. They did not know how to ask questions, propose options or hone ideas. All of which the business students knew how to do. Their entire technique was about how to bunch stuff together.

In dozens of trials around the country and in other parts of the world, the kindergartners won. Their structures averaged twenty-six inches tall, while the business students’ structures ended up averaging less than ten inches in height.

The results may be hard to absorb. Suffice it to say, as a personal development business coach, it was the kindergartners who had the greater personal development and self-improvement. In the next post I will discuss how these results came about. In a word, it is surprising.

How to Have Your Best Year Yet Part 3

In the last post I shared with you three more questions to ask yourself on your path to achieving your best year yet. Altogether here are the six questions presented to this point.

1. What did I accomplish in the past year? Or what did I accomplish in the last 12 months? You can start having your best year yet at any time.

2. What were my major disappointments?

3. What did I learn?

4. How do I limit myself and how can I stop? This question, to me, is one of the most challenging. You have to take a deep introspective look at yourself and come to an understanding of how you may limit yourself and how can you stop.

5. What are my values? As with the other questions, there are no right or wrong answers here. If is important to define your values. It will give you a mirror into how you conduct your business and your life. It will show you your priorities in how you accomplish things.

6. What roles do I play? This is critical. Identify all the roles you play in your life. Most people are fascinated when they discover all the roles they play?

In this segment, I will finish up with the last four questions. As I have shared in the last two posts, I do business coaching in The Woodlands and surrounding areas, including Houston. Not all business coaches offer the same types of services. I am definitely not the business coach for everyone. It is important that you interview your coach thoroughly and that they do the same for you. This is a collaboration. My practice includes not just the business, but the personal side. The two, in my opinion are strongly linked and it is a must to address both areas in order for a client to achieve the success or results he or she desired. My role at times can be strictly as a business coach. Other times it can be more focused on self-improvement business coaching. And, when you put it all together it adds up to what is personal business coaching. All business coaching, in the end, is personal. It is about what you, not the coach, is going to gain from the coaching relationship.

In striving for your best year yet, it is important to have someone to hold you accountable. This may be a coach or someone else. Regardless, when you have accountability, you increase your odds greatly of achieving your goals.

On the road to your best year yet, here are the last four questions.

7. What are my goals for each role? You have defined the roles you play. Now what are the goals for each role.

8. What is my major role for next year? This is a great question because your answer guides you to where you will want to focus a large part of your time and energy in the coming year. And most importantly, it starts you on the path to creating priorities.

9. What are my top 10 goals for next year? This brings greater focus.

10. How can I make sure I achieve my top 10 goals? Here is where you put in the action steps you must take to achieve your goals and to have your best year yet.

In the end, everything you have done can be distilled down to one page. Start with listing the top two or three priorities in terms of behavior and habits, not goals that will allow you to achieve your goals.

Next, write a paragraph about your belief system that will enable you to achieve your goals. This is your new paradigm.

Next, write down your major focus and how you are going to make it a reality.

Finally, write down your top 10 goals for the year and when you wish to have achieved them during the course of the year.

Keep it brief. The goal is to fit it all on one page of paper. When you have it you now have your blueprint for your best year yet. Keep it where you can read it once a week. When you do, you will be on your way to having your best year yet.