“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood, now is the time to understand more, so that we fear less.”
I love this quote from Marie Curie, a recognized scientist, first woman to win a Nobel Prize, a pioneer in nuclear physics and a remarkable woman. Since stumbling on it, I had multiple opportunities to reflect on its relevance both in my personal life and at work; my last business trip to Moscow provided yet another confirmation of its true meaning.
One of the sales leaders I coach, a strong and very capable woman, wanted to bring her leadership team together in order to enhance their collaboration and their overall effectiveness, in a year of dramatic change. We explored the key issues preventing the team from operating at their best and trust kept coming back as an underlying issue. The situation was a little further complicated by the fact that only half of the team was based in Moscow while the rest was dispersed in the regional offices across this vast Country territory.
In the above quote instruction spirit, I sought to understand by myself what was gripping the collaboration machinery of the team and I interviewed all 20 of them. This was a mini-challenge by itself, given the time constraint (a week), and the 11 hours’ time zone difference. I am so glad to have followed my intuition as those interviews revealed critical information that guided the agenda that I ended up proposing to my client. Each of the people I spoke to was smart, capable, eager to contribute more and somewhat frustrated with the current situation. Many of them were all relatively recent in their role, although most of them had been in the company for quite some time.
I was struck by the diverse talent and experience that existed in the team as well as the fact that most of them were not aware that the frustration they felt was widely shared amongst their peers.
So it seemed critical to provide room and context for each of them to gain appreciation of what their colleagues had to bring to the table. And I carefully crafted the agenda to enable this outcome.
They started the workshop by sharing a personal piece of information that their colleagues could not have known about them and it was incredible to watch them becoming more open as they discovered that this person they talked to on the phone every week was also a flutist, singed in a choir, had founded a professional dancing school or was passionate about baroque music. Suddenly these colleagues were also people that had interests, hobbies, talents that they shared or could relate to.
When I projected the slides that summarized the main and common themes that had emerged from the interviews, they all engaged in the conversation, realizing that they also shared challenges and issues that frustrated them.
When we broke for lunch, I asked them to sit down with a colleague they did not know well.
The rest of the workshop provided group work opportunities where few of them picked a business challenge they were passionate about and attempted to solve it together.
And by the end of the 2nd day, they all had increased their understanding of their peers and their leader and they all felt more confident about tackling the business challenges at hand.
They showed me again that as the rest of the quote said, “it is always the time to understand more, so we fear less”