Thanksgiving is right around the corner. And that means spicy Bloody Marys, roasted turkey with orange cranberry sauce, cornbread dressing, roasted potatoes, gravy, green beans, scalloped oysters and too many desserts. Two hours later, out come the rye bread, mayo, lettuce and dill pickles to make turkey sandwiches. Perfect.
What?! That doesn’t sound like Thanksgiving at your house? Why not? What’s wrong with you?
Funny how we think the way we do things is the right way. Maybe even the only way. “Of course everyone does it like this. That’s how it’s done.”
Imagine my surprise years ago while celebrating Thanksgiving at my college boyfriend’s house. I remember it well. His mother brought out the cranberry sauce—still in the shape of the can she’d extracted it from. It wasn’t even mashed up to appear homemade! (Big judgment on my part.)
Consider this. If someone can be thrown off-kilter by something as simple as a different style of cranberry sauce, just imagine the chaos that different work and management styles can create.
We figure we are doing things the right way. The way it’s done. But no, all of a sudden, one of our colleagues does something contrary. What’s wrong with him? It’s like we’re from different planets.
How can we recognize that our differences are an asset? That they create stronger teams? How can we become open to new ideas without judgment?
When teams are struggling with their differences, it can be helpful to use the metaphor of traveling to other lands. We invite them to consider that each person lives in their own “land,” which is informed by their traditions, upbringing, education and other influences. We emphasize that we are asking them to share what it’s like in their lands and then to travel to others’ lands. Travel allows us to experience the world from another’s perspective.
What does it take to be a good traveler? Lack of judgment, open-mindedness, willingness to try new things and curiosity. Good travelers leave judgment at the border.
As you visit your colleagues’ lands, ask questions like:
- What is unique, interesting or edgy about your land?
- What are some of the personal biases and prejudices that show up in your land?
- Who/what is not welcome in your land?
- What is your favorite thing about your land?
Take time to visit each person’s land and learn more about it. Doing this, your team should have developed some empathy, curiosity and appreciation for each others’ lands. They will be able to chart a new geography, bringing the best from each land to most benefit the organization.
To create your new land together, ask questions like:
- What do you appreciate about your colleagues’ lands?
- What would be helpful to you?
- What would you like to import to the land you create together?
- How will your new land serve the organization’s goals?
We tend to think of our own values and beliefs as the “correct ones.” Yet every person on your team has a different narrative and perspective, all equally valid. There is no one truth. Organizations flourish when differences exist because it allows for even greater learning and innovating possibilities.
Perhaps it is time for your team to do some traveling. Let Chris Cook be your travel guide and take your organization to its peak. Call 541.601.0114 or email Chris to start making travel plans today!