Recently I was meeting with two clients, an estate planner and a financial adviser who facilitate retirement workshops together on evenings at a community center.
The purpose of our meeting was to help these two presenters prepare their upcoming session - not only for content, but for logistics, interaction, transition between speakers and the best way to close and set appointments. Since the sessions are from 6:30 to 9:30 on weekday nights, the participants may struggle to stay awake, sit still or even interact with the presenter. With this observation the estate planner noted that her ADD kept her from sitting still at a recent seminar, and she was amazed by those who could stay focused, paying constant attention to the speaker, sitting still for hours. Her comment was that "everyone is a snowflake" and that this presents challenges to a speaker. How often should there be breaks? Will a slide show be appropriate, book exercises? How long should the total session be, how detailed is the information? We cannot fit to everyone's needs, but appealing to as many as possible can affect the success or failure of the presentation, as well as the sharing of the content.
Yes, everyone is a snowflake - we are all unique in many ways.
And this expression came up a few days later in a coaching session with the executive director and two top managers of a small non-profit. The session was focused on communications, using the book Crucial Conversations* to determine the discussion points.
A recent verbal confrontation between the two managers precipitated the executive director to schedule the text and discussion coaching sessions. As leaders of the organization and role models, these two managers needed to explore why the confrontation occurred and how it could be avoided moving forward. This situation is bringing two leaders with very different styles together to establish and reinforce good communication skills throughout the organization. As role models they are working to better understand each other and those unique qualities and skills that make them successful in their different departments. They are working to understand what makes others tick and how to be respectful of the differences, not only to work better themselves, but to be able to coach other staff members as well.
Here the snowflake example is again appropriate with the way we all respond differently in different circumstances. Some of us wear our hearts on our sleeves, sharing troubles and challenges with our coworkers. Others keep everything inside and their preoccupation with a matter may appear to be a snub or a disregard, when it is simply not that at all.
A consciousness of everyone's uniqueness and a respect for it will help us be more successful in communications. To paraphrase an old expression, "walk a mile in my shoes", clearly reinforces how important empathy and understanding are to our success and interaction with others both personally and professionally. When we stop focusing on ourselves and consider that not everyone can sit still for three hours, or that I only drive five miles to work and someone else drives 50 with traffic and is grumpy when they get to the office, we are more tolerant of the different behaviors that can often cause issues. We can learn how to respect others opinions, even when we don't agree with them.
Life is an ongoing learning session. By teaching ourselves to be more tolerant and more respectful of everyone's uniqueness, we expand our minds and are better at what we do.
* Crucial Conversations - Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High, Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzler, McGraw Hill, New York, 2012