Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom


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Building Bridges

Bay Bridge WowI was recently in San Francisco and was fascinated by the new Bay Bridge.

Now, I’ve crossed the old bridge many times.  It did what it was supposed to do – get me from here to there.  This new bridge didn’t seem like anything remarkable; in fact, I barely noticed the change at all… until late in the evening.  As I looked out the window of my hotel, I saw it… the lights.  They were glorious.  I was struck by how dynamic that bridge was: functional and beautiful.  It made an impact.  So I went online to learn a little more.  Now, it still goes from here to there, but did you know that this “epic transformation… into a global icon” does a few other cool things too?

  • It holds two Guinness world records (not the beer, though that may be almost as cool in certain circles);
  • It took six years to complete;
  • It is built to withstand major earthquakes and is, in fact, a lifeline route;
  • It offers panoramic views of the city; and
  • For the first time, it meets the needs of many with pedestrian and bike lanes.

It got me thinking about work.

When you’re new to an organization or are working with a team or client, you’re constantly building connections and forging relationships to “get you from here to there.”  We’re building bridges.

Everyone has their own style.  Each team has its own dynamic.  Each project has its own deadline.  Oftentimes, we are so caught up in “our” style, the dynamics of the team as they exist today (or did in the past) and the deadline that we don’t pay as much attention as we should to those bridges we’re building.

Yes, those bridges – those relationships – are functional.  They help us learn the ropes, motivate the team or achieve the goal.  But a bridge is much more than that.  It’s our connection from the past to the future, from where we were to where we want to be.  It’s a place we will turn to again and again… a place that will be familiar and somehow new.

Like a bridge, a relationship can be functional and fun.  It’s dynamic.  It can:

  • Set records;
  • Span years;
  • Save your life;
  • Be a great adventure; and
  • Help people meet many needs.

That will only happen though, if you invest as much (if not more) time, focus and care into building lasting relationships as you do in the short term projects and personal objectives.  And frankly, I believe your style in leadership and teamwork is pretty darn important too.  Your teammates will get things done when focused on a goal.  How many of those people will be there – years later – if you don’t invest in them as well?  How many people will be there if they don’t feel respected?  Don’t feel valued?

At the heart of each of us, we want to feel loved – feel appreciated – feel valued.  We want to have a meaningful impact on the lives of those we touch and the things we are working to achieve.  We want to know that other people care.  We want to build deep, real relationships: not with people who ask passing questions and forget your answers, but instead with those who invest their lives in seeing you succeed and thrive, professionally and personally.

Yes, bridges and relationships can be built that get you from here to there.  How solid are those bridges though?  Are you sure they will stand the test of time?  Or are there warning signs that you may be ignoring?

In my quest to learn more for this piece, I read about the Quebec Bridge.  It was an engineering marvel, but there were warning signs along the way that were ignored.  It didn’t end well, collapsing in 1907 and costing lives.  It could have been avoided.  The problems could have been corrected.  It could have dazzled.  It didn’t.

What bridges are you building today?  Are they strong?  Can you do more?

What bridges did you build years ago?  Are you maintaining them?  Will they be more?

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Score 1 for the Other Team

Ever had one of those days?

Ever had one of those days?

So, sometimes no matter how hard you try, you still have one of those days.  Perhaps you lose a teammate – a valuable one. Maybe you lose a sale – one you have been working on for a while. Maybe you lose a client – one that you have moved Heaven and earth to keep happy – to someone offering a lower price, fancy new bells and whistles, the latest whatever it may be.  You rallied the troops around that teammate/sale/client, and you still lost.  How do you react?  Are you angry?  Frustrated?  Off your game?

I would ask two questions in a situation like this.
1.  How strong was your relationship?
2.  How well were you listening?
What do you think about when you think about the important relationships in your life?  Can you picture the laughter, the way that person makes you feel when you are around them, the shared memories?  Those are important parts of a relationship, true.  But how many of those relationships have come and gone? What is different about the ones that have lasted years?  One key difference is probably in the amount of hard work you’ve put into it – the ongoing attention you pay to that special person.  Let’s face it.  Some of the most important, maybe even most transformative, relationships you’ve ever had are long gone. The best friend, the first love.  We’ve all done it.  Perhaps we chalk it up to “outgrowing” it, we “learned what we were supposed to learn” and are better people.  That’s great.  But maybe it wasn’t just a phase.  Maybe we didn’t pay enough attention, took that person for granted, or allowed too many excuses to get in the way of getting outside of our box.  Getting uncomfortable.  Getting vulnerable. Getting real.  Maybe our relationship wasn’t as deep as we really thought it was.  After all, if you really get down to the heart of any relationship and bust your buns to stay there, you can feel if something is drifting out of focus.  You’re working with your head and your heart.
Then, there is the listening part of it.  In any sales environment, we know we should be listening more than we speak. That’s a given.  But what about those later stages of your relationship?  When you’ve worked with a client for a long time, it’s natural that you get to know them.  You care for their welfare and have a personal stake in their success.  And once you have celebrated success, signed the client and developed that personal stake in it, there’s a danger of becoming too familiar… “Knowing” too much.  You assume the next sale. You may talk too much because you are so comfortable, and you forget to listen.  Needs change.  If you are actively listening, always asking questions, keeping that relationship “new”, always working at it, then you’ll hear those cues that perhaps something isn’t quite right.  It’s hard to hear those hints over the sound of your own voice though.  It’s easy when you’re quiet… when you listen.
Even when you do your absolute best, you still will lose one here and there.  But don’t forget to ask yourself if you really were doing your best after all.  And on those days when you do lose one, remember to be grateful for everything in the win column.  Now, make sure they stay there