This Canada day I had the privilege of joining a friend’s extended family over the long weekend.
We went up on Friday of the long weekend, we got the invite from a cast mate of my wife’s from her last show “Jukebox Hero”. He came from a small town in northern Ontario, a small rural town surrounded in farmland. We arrived in the afternoon to what was at one time a farm but now a partially cleared campground. This campground was not covered in tents but a neatly organized town of very nice RVs. Of course as many of you know, each RV comes with a 3/4 or 1 ton truck to pull it and we arrived in a Mini Cooper Convertible, we clearly did not get the memo.
We rolled through this extended family noticing family members sitting in small groups around one RV or another already enjoying their weekend. Sam’s cast mate met us near the back end of the property and showed us around the pond to the back where there was a nice grassy area. There we proceeded to set up my very sturdy, odd and somewhat geeky Dutch camping tent. While we built it we got lots of looks but more than anything we got welcoming comments, offers of help, tools and several drinks delivered. We were starting to feel more than welcome.
After we finished the tent, the party started. We were invited to 2 dinner BBQs, offered numerous refreshing drinks and given a tour of the property. This included warm hugs and introduction to not just the cast mate’s family but friends and neighbours from their home town; which was only 3 kms away.
As the night progressed I played bartender for a while and started to get to know people in the camp. I found myself sitting around the largest camp fire I can remember, a used heating oil tank cut in half and each side filled with chopped wood and burning. There was no chance of getting cold.
I fell into conversation with one of the women sitting beside me. She started to tell me about the group and the town, and telling me the names of about 10 other women sitting alongside the fire. These 10 were part of a slightly larger group of, all friends. They all grew up together in the nearby town, went to school together +/- a couple grades. Some worked together, they attended each other’s weddings and helped raise each other’s kids. Some had been through hard times, sickness, divorce and other losses, but they had helped each other through it. So now after life as friends for 40-ish years they were still getting together each long weekend to spend time together. It was obvious from the stories I was told that they did not always see eye to eye or agree with each other’s actions, but they were ALL still here.
It was at this point that it hit me, these women CHOSE to be friends. Regardless of experience, events or personalities they CHOSE to be friends. They did this by CHOOSING to see the positives in each other, and CHOOSING the benefits of long term friendships over the aspects of each other’s personalities they didn’t like. I realized that with almost all the relationships in our lives, whether family, friends or work we choose to see the characteristics and abilities in people we want to see. We can focus on the positive items or the negative, yet it seems all too often we get stuck on the negatives and isolate ourselves.
The same is true at work, especially in team building. In 2004 I had the opportunity to build a new department, inside the dealership, from scratch. I decided that credentials and skills were not going to be the only thing I looked at. I looked for people that liked to work with other people. People that saw the positives in each other. The result was a department that achieved it’s goals, but also became the department and team others wanted to join.
This brings me back to why I do what I’m doing at Strategic Evolutions.
I like working with people, I like to help find their strengths and the positive aspects of each one. I focus on those when organizing a team to achieve a goal. I also try and focus every member of the team on the same thing. What strengths do they believe they bring to the team, and what strengths do they see in each other?
To be a successful team each member needs to CHOSE to to succeed, CHOSE to work together and CHOSE to find the strengths of their team mates. Without this decision it’s much too easy to find fault, point fingers and fail.
Finally, I have found, generally retrospectively, that this CHOICE is often part of a culture in a company. While each person may have different inclination coming into the company, the culture they find there determines how they will act. Maybe it’s as simple as feeling there is a common goal, finding support or finding someone that immediately sees the best in them.
I’m not sure what it was that made this group of women at the campfire CHOSE to be friends regardless of differences, but I’m thankful meeting them helped me to understand.
I wonder, do you understand why you CHOOSE to like certain people, and at work do you make the same CHOICES? If you’re considering your company culture, is CHOOSING each other’s strengths over weaknesses part of it?
If you’re considering your company culture, is CHOOSING each other’s strengths over weaknesses part of it?