Around this time last year, we supported an Irish university’s graduate school induction programme. The participants are going to be working extensively in teams over the course of the year. We didn’t start with the traditional questions of “What are you going to do?”, and “How are you going to do it?”. Instead, we started with the questions of:
“Who are you?”, and “Why are you here?” .
In small groups, we asked them to share their top value and what it looks like when it is honoured.
As we explored their experience of the exercise, participants shared how while they had different top values, they were all quite similar and could “really relate” to the values that others shared. “For example, we all shared and ‘got’ how important loyalty was.”
Relating is easy. Relationship is trickier.
Awareness of others` values in life, especially in a team, is a really powerful way of better understanding what makes someone tick. And often when conflict erupts in teams, it is, at some level, a result of someone’s values having been stepped on.
Interestingly, the person who originally brought the value of loyalty and shared this with the group, likely had come to that top value through a quite visceral experience that had deeply touched them. Whilst others generally approved of the value and could relate to it and it’s general importance, it likely means something rather different to them.
All values ultimately lead to a shared humanity.
But to get there quickly by overlooking personal touchpoints, risks the danger of someone not being seen or heard.
Our desire for connection often impels us to respond with “me too!” when others share values, but in doing so, we make it about ourselves and not them.
It’s not about you, it’s about them.
When we go to “oh, me too!”, instead of “tell me more”, we create a niceness in the moment, but we forego that opportunity to discover the depth of the other, which is necessary for deeper connection.
The best questions we can think of when another shares something of significance, like a value, is “What’s that like for you?” and “What’s important about that for you?”
At the heart of building relationship is curiosity.
It puts us “over there” and gets us out of our “me” centered worldview. And building relationship is as the heart of leadership.
We have left the age of command and control – the managers land of compliance. We now live and work in a world where commitment is paramount – the land of leadership. And inviting perspectives and sharing your own is a bridge to getting there.
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