In my best self world, a “mashup” is taking one or many of the principles and mashing them together with an experience or habit. Not an industry term, just mine. Here is my first attempt at writing a mashup, so you can see how it works. Surprisingly, I don’t always know which principles will show up to the party when I start the process.
I have been conducting training classes over the last two days. Me and another facilitator in front of a room trying to create an open, safe space for lively discussion and psychological safety.
So I start off with a group hug – oh, wait, I don’t. I start off by making fun of an attendee I don’t know. Why? Because that is the weird dynamic I learned growing up. Maybe it is my family, maybe it is my genetic makeup. This conversation style stands out in the Minnesota Nice culture (which isn’t nice by the way). Maybe it is that I’ve worked in IT most of my adult life and this is part of the IT bro culture I’ve been a part of. Maybe it is a little bit of all of these things.
Agile Best Self Principle #1: Our highest priority is to be our best self and enable others to be their best selves.
So how can I meet the first best self principle by making fun of a stranger? It is one of my go to stances. It is such a strong habit and interaction pattern, it can be hard for me dial back. Of course I want participants in my classes to feel they can show up as their best selves. But I have these bad habits and a weird definition of fun and bonding. Let’s bring in another principle to help…
Agile Best Self Principle #6: The most effective way to be your best self is to be mindful and intentional.
At first glance, it sounds like I’ve just given myself permission to continue to mindfully and intentionally be a caustic jerk. That is not where I’m going with this. First, let’s move ahead with the assumption that many of the people I work with understand and recognize this interaction pattern. Second, as an adult, I’m responsible for dealing with the impact of my words. I’m not going to let myself off the hook by saying the receiver in this interaction should “Assume good intent.” I think that is a cop out in many situations, but that will be another blog post.
In that context, verbalizing intent is very important. When I started joking around with a student in the class, I intentionally shared my intent (yes, that is what I meant to write). I said: “This is my way of showing affection, I have worked with engineers most of my life. Consider my comments a verbal hug.” Situation clarified. The target of my attention smiled. He got it.
If you can’t verbalize your intent, you don’t know what your intent is.
This one is a little easier to deal with than the next item. If you can’t verbalize your intent, that is ok. It took me a while to land on my vision statement of being a connector and catalyst. My monkey mind had a great time exploring lots of places before I landed on my personal why.
If you don’t want to verbalize your intent that is a red flag.
If you don’t want to verbalize your intent, you are are either in an unsafe space or you know you are not coming from your best self. We’ve all been there. I’ve lashed out at people because my intent comes from protecting my ego. No judgment from me on this point. I find it helpful to be honest with myself about my intent. If it is my ego lashing out, I have some work to do.
Agile Best Self Principle #12: At regular intervals, reflect on how to become your best self, then tune and adjust.
So this post is part of me thinking through the tune and adjust strategy. Writing about the interaction helps me understand the habit as well as how it applies to being my best self. My authentic self did not see this interaction as bullying someone or picking on someone. However, my authentic self would have thrown up all over starting a class with a hug. Not my style. My style is to find a participant who enjoys some fun repartee. When I’m the trainer or the professor at the front of the classroom, I do have pretty good instincts for picking out those in the room who want to play along with me.
In the case mentioned here, the participant I was joking around with came up to me after class and told me: “I like the way you kicked off class. Sometimes people don’t get me when I lead trainings, so I’ll just start by saying “This is me giving you a verbal hug, then they can key into my sense of humor right away. Thank you for that.”
Who knew that I could help someone show up as his best self simply by verbalizing intent? Turn up the good!
Copyright © 2021 Michaele Gardner and Brian Hackerson