If you are anything like me, jumping off a perfectly good bridge, platform or building makes no logical sense at all. Is the structure burning? Crumbling? Are we being chased by lions? Zombies? No? Then also.. “No”. Add a profound nausea and tingling legs at the thought of heights and the answer is simply.. “Hell No!” Not even “No thanks”, just “Hell No” said with a quiet but firm confidence that it will never happen.
Enter teenage daughter, the burning platform. Anyone who has ever had to endure teenagers let alone a teenage girl understands that challenge. If you don’t, here’s a preview – your child transforms from someone that you can communicate with to – well a Zombie – uncommunicative, grunts and groans if you are lucky in answer to questions, all about themselves, moody, sullen with spurts of former self that keep hope alive. It’s this hope that drove me to wonder how I could connect with this alien person after a year of fighting, setting and resetting boundaries and the feeling that I was never going to get through. I missed my child. I understood what she was going through (somewhat, as I was never as bad.. no really!) but I also understood that her behaviour was not acceptable and there had to be boundaries as well as nurturing of our relationship. So where to next?
My daughter is a daredevil of note. She loves the adrenaline rush of speed, heights and anything extreme (see my problem) and whilst I have a similar spirit mine excludes anything to do with heights. In coming up with a plan to enable our relationship, I figured if we could do at least one fun extreme thing every so often, it would open the door a little wider for our relationship to move into another space. We needed to create strong memories together that we could look back on and laugh at. Something beyond the boundaries and discipline.
So, I decided on Lake Eland – Oribi Gorge, where there are plenty of extreme activities that I could send her on.. ok ok.. I had done the suspension bridge before – so I knew I could do it, albeit slowly and shakily, however it was the Longest Zip Line in Africa that I thought she would enjoy the most. Pause….. me, well, not. My friends will attest to the “Hell no” stance that I had previously held. I was terrified. My daughter could see it, never mind how much I tried to hide it, she could see it. Her enthusiasm was overflowing, and she couldn’t wait. I however, needed alcohol, rescue, Calmets – anything and I didn’t bring any – stoopid move! My daughter’s enthusiasm and “Mom, it will be fine and fun!” kept me grimacing the smiles. I had to breathe deeply, go to the ladies often and keep distracted from the daunting task ahead of me. I nearly pulled out when the wind picked up and the sky clouded over, and no-one was buying my “it’s a sign” whine. But eventually they had me on the wires of the first zip line.
They were clever in the design. The first 3 lines are not over the gorge. They are comfortable lines that enable you to get the hang of it first – no pun intended. They steadily get longer, higher and faster and by the time you reach the 680-meter 100km per hour line over the gorge you are thinking, “hell yeah” – albeit quietly with an “OMG” screech as you leave the platform. They remind you to look around as you are going over the gorge and I made that effort – it was incredible. There are 14 lines, an hour and a half of pure adrenaline and I must say.. FUN! I would never have thought in a million years that I would ever have done that let alone that I’d want to do it again. And I do.
Over the next couple of days, I unpacked the experience and the lessons learnt and then realised that the entire process had some real relevance in business. I hear the cynicism in that frown but hear me out.
How often do we struggle with communication and understanding each other in the work place? How often do we as managers wonder how we are going to get through to our staff? How often are we presented with idea’s that make us very uncomfortable and we throw them away without really exploring them because of our discomfort, fears and or prejudices? How often then do we miss the opportunity for real solutions, real fun, and real impact that could drive the change our businesses need? I’d hazard a guess to the answer being “Too often”!
So where do we start? Look at doing the following;
- Define or name your burning issues
- Be brave enough to challenge and disrupt your own thinking, skills and experiences
- Look beyond your needs and find out what is important to the team to gain their enthusiasm and commitment
- Make time for quality interactions with the individuals in your team
- Be even braver and try something that you have never tried before
- Design a plan that includes giving everyone time to adjust
- And then execute – the plan – not the people!
- Don’t find excuses not to execute
- Know that not everything will work immediately. You will need to build a plan that uses different approaches to ensure the change you need
Remember – people do not grow in comfort zones – that includes you! Step up and out – you may surprise yourself!
And if you are stuck, contact us – and we will guide you through the process.