Last week I was lucky to attend International Womens Day through Women Techmakers hosted at Google UK. I also finished reading the book “To sell is human” by Daniel Pink. These two things shared surprisingly similar themes and learnings around leadership that I thought were important to share!
Making your partner look good
No, I don’t just mean a relationship partner, but anyone you interact with.
The premise of this is found in improv too. The worst thing you can do in improv when working with someone is to reject their previous statement. Your job as their partner is to build on their ideas and in turn you both look good!
There are several different facets of this that I think are easy to take and use for your own purposes which I’ll explain in more detail below. How to make more meaningful introductions. Saying “Yes and” to create possibilities. Creating your own press conference to squash the fears of Q&A and ask sincere questions.
Where are you from?
When you meet a new person, what do you usually ask? What do you do? Who are they? What can they do for you perhaps?
These style questions are limiting, they don’t necessarily allow open answers. Perhaps a better question is out there?
Daniel Pink suggests asking “where are you from?” which can allow the other person to answer in a way that works for them.
For instance you can answer in the past tense; I grew up in Swindon, went to University in Plymouth, and moved to London two and a half years ago.
You can answer in the present tense; I currently work at Facebook as a Partner Engineer, which is this interesting hybrid role right in the middle of engineering and talking to people.
It even opens the opportunity for talking in other angles such as a potential future; maybe we’re hoping to move to live somewhere new? Perhaps we’re thinking about a career move?
We’ve all been there when you’re super excited about an idea and then someone goes “yes, but” and explains several reasons why your idea won’t work. This sucks for everyone. You lose motivation in your idea. And the potential for your idea is lost!
Instead of saying “but”, consider its more inclusive friend “and”.
For example: if I wanted to host a BBQ, my close friends might be like “but what about the vegetarians?!!”. How about we change that to “yes, and let’s also make sure there’s some vegetarian options”. How does that feel now?
The idea has been listened to (you’ve been heard!) and then worked on and improved. Any problems you might’ve have had has been addressed with solutions.
You now have more possibilities than problems!
We’re getting into a space where problems are addressed with solutions!
This activity requires a friend or two to join you. Hopefully you’ve now made some using the where are you from section earlier!
The scariest part of giving a talk for many of us, is the whole Q&A aspect at the end. What if we get a question we can’t answer? So let’s practice that part in a safe space.
You pick a theme, perhaps something you’re speaking about soon. Your friends’ job is now to ask you questions. Exactly like you’ve seen at press conferences or on tv. You can take turns in the different roles to experience both sides of being a press reporter and conference talker.
For example, I might be giving a talk on how to crochet. My friends can then ask me thoughtful questions like; why did you learn to crochet, what have you made, how would you recommend learning. Spend at least 5 minutes on each persons topics, ensuring that you come up with lots of different questions.
Being the press reporter, you get to deliberate practice listening with the intent to ask questions. You get better at asking more meaningful questions!
As the conference talker, you get to practice answering questions! The more you experience this the more comfortable you’ll be next time Q&A time happens!
The ideas above are just a few examples you can use which form a wider area called servant leadership. As a leader your job is to serve those around you. Which is typically the reverse from how most people consider leadership.
If you can help those around you grow, they’ll do better, and go on to help other people grow too!
“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.” “The difference manifests itself in the care taken by the servant-first to make sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. The best test, and difficult to administer, is: Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants? And, what is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?”
All of this has resonated pretty strongly with me. Enough so that I wrote this blog post!
I love the idea of making your partner look good. I think it’s something I’ve been doing inherently for a while. Giving back is a massive part of my identity from running code clubs for kids and adults, to making sure the new person at work is helped to feel included into the team from day one.
The surprising learning for me came with the concept of improv. I’ve never considered myself into theatre much or acting, but I now have a real drive to push myself more in this area. I’m scarily (to me) considering joining an improv class in London.
So with that, my final question to you should be obvious: What are you going to do to help make those around you look good?