The following is a conversation between Morag Barrett, founder and CEO of SkyeTeam, and Author of You, Me, We: Why We All Need a Friend at Work (and How to Show Up as One!), and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.
Denver: An essential element for achieving success at the individual team and organizational level is having an ally mindset. This mindset involves having coworkers who support and stand by us through good and bad times, which enables us to thrive. Without such support, we may struggle and eventually fail, leaving behind nothing but wreckage.
Here to discuss this concept with us is Morag Barrett, founder and CEO of SkyeTeam, leadership expert, and bestselling author of three books, her most recent being You, Me, We: Why We All Need a Friend at Work (and How to Show Up as One!).
Welcome to The Business of Giving, Morag.
Morag: Thanks, Denver. I’m excited for this conversation.
Denver: I am as well. What a splendid book you wrote. I really enjoyed it. And it all starts with connection. So what does the latest data show, Morag, on how connected we are at work these days?
Morag: Well, it’s a pretty dismal picture. I mean, there was an epidemic of loneliness even before the pandemic, but I remember even with my company, we’ve been virtual for the 16 years we’ve been in business. In that March, when we were all sent home to work from home, having to work from home and choosing to work from home– two very different mindsets and skill sets.
And what we have seen from our research and the research both from Gallup and Harvard and all the other publications I’m reading, is that sense of isolation and disconnection has only increased. In fact, 20% of the leaders who’ve completed our Ally mindset profile report that they have no friends or allies at work, not even one.
Morag: And that, to me, is heartbreaking.
“And instead what we do in You, Me, We is to reframe that question as: Am I a friend at work? Because you have to show up as a friend, as an ally to others and to yourself if you want others to reciprocate. So that’s our message. Go first. Be that sought-out colleague, and take care of your own needs, and together, we will all be better and succeed.”
Denver: Yeah. I saw the other day that 72% of people said they’re lonely on a monthly basis at work, and I think 55% on a weekly basis. So it truly is an epidemic.
Speaking of Gallup, I remember when that survey came out ,and they had that fun question in there: Do you have a best friend at work? Not really taken seriously, kind of rounded it out. But now we look back on that and say, Wow, what an important question that really was! Tell us a little bit about the importance of having a best friend at work.
Morag: So the question you are referring to is question 10 of the 12 questions that Gallup have been asking for more than 20 years, that help to identify what they describe as an engaged workforce. So first of all, what do we mean by engaged or disengaged?
Well, engaged means I’m leaning in, I’m curious, I’m excited. I’m going the extra mile. Creativity and innovation is happening. We’re collaborating. We’re coming together to solve problems. And when the proverbial hits the fan, we’re rallying around to fix things. That’s engagement in action. It’s exciting, it’s exhilarating, it’s fun. Dare I say fun?
At the other end of the scale, and I think we’ve all had these moments, is disengaged. Now, if it’s just a moment– it’s Monday morning; I’m tired; I had a big weekend, fair enough. The challenge becomes when we are stuck, disengaged; we are leaning back. Maybe we are doing just enough to get by. Maybe we’re not doing even just enough to get by.
But ultimately, when we have disengaged employees, what happens is that business performance suffers. Information flow slows down. The quality of the decisions that we can make individually and as a team suffers. And ultimately, individual leadership reputations get damaged. So the desire is: How do we create an environment where people can thrive?
And that’s what the Gallup 12 questions were getting at. And they would argue that question 10 was always a serious question: Do I have a best friend at work? But I also remember thinking at that time I was in banking, and I remember people saying, Well, you know, it’s not personal, it’s just business. Well…
Denver: Yeah. Right.
Morag: …that’s BS, I now know.
But business is personal. If you don’t build relationships internally and externally, you’re not going to be successful. So in You, Me, We: Why We All Need a Friend at Work (and How to Show Up as One!), my best friends at work, Eric Spencer and Ruby Vesely, my co-authors, we reframed the question from: Do I have a best friend at work?… which is passive and reactive. It allows me to sit there and go, No, because Denver’s got the better podcast than I have. Or Denver…
Denver: No one likes me.
Morag: Blah, blah. But it allows me to say no and wait for the world to come to me. And instead what we do in You, Me, We is to reframe that question as: Am I a friend at work? Because you have to show up as a friend, as an ally to others and to yourself if you want others to reciprocate. So that’s our message. Go first. Be that sought out colleague, and take care of your own needs, and together, we will all be better and succeed.
Denver: Well stated. Go first is the answer to a lot of questions, whether you be a leader or whatever. Be the first one to be vulnerable. Just go first. Instead, we are waiting for others to take the lead.
Let’s get to the ally relationship. That is really something which I found to be incredibly interesting. Tell us what is an ally relationship.
Morag: Well, I think people listening to this can do it right now. A simple way and an exercise I do regularly is to think about people who’ve made a difference for you in your life and/or your career, the people you would jump at the chance to work with again. And thinking about you, Denver, I mean, who’s somebody who immediately has come to mind as somebody you really enjoyed working with? Tell us the story. Who comes to mind? And what was it about them that made them special?
Denver: Yeah. I could go on with a bunch of people and I…
Morag: Pick one. Pick one of them then.
Denver: No. And I would… I’m going to see him tomorrow as a matter of fact, so I…but no, I can think of being at work, stepping out of my office and seeing somebody as I got into the hallway that I really wanted to see… probably someone like you…. and walked towards them.
And I’ve also seen some people that I’m like, Oh my God, I’ll do this and I’ll go back into… like I forgot something and then go back into the office because you want to avoid that person. So I do know that.
And so much of that for me has always come down to positivity. I’ve always sought out people who are positive, and I don’t know if you can teach positivity, but people who just make you feel great and who lift your spirits; those are the ones that you really, really seek out.
Morag: I love it. So here’s what we’ve heard from the thousands of leaders that we’ve asked this question, is when we think about the colleagues we would jump at the chance to work with again, it is invariably about how they made you feel. So it is maybe the optimistic, glass-half-full person, the positivity that you’ve described. Maybe it was the tough feedback that they gave me, the feedback I needed to hear, not just what I wanted to hear.
But what the themes that come through invariably is: The ally is the person that you go to or think of first when you want to celebrate a win. They’re also the person you turn to when things have gone off the rails because you know they’re not going to gossip about it. And they’re going to give you that feedback you need to hear, the kick in the pants, and help you to come back from those career missteps.
And it’s powerful, because at work, if we are surrounded by at least one, but several or a team of allies, then it’s easy to be a good colleague on the good days. The true test is when the world goes sideways, whether it’s a pandemic or a missed opportunity, or a client that says no. How do you rally around in times of uncertainty where the stakes are high, emotions are raised– that’s when you need to know who your allies are and to whom you are an ally.
So I’ve got a second part of this challenge though. You’re meeting one of your allies, best friends tomorrow. I challenge you to say, Hey… you’re recording this podcast, you were thinking about colleagues, hey, I thought of you. Glad we’re meeting today, and here’s what makes you stand out for me.
And for those listening on this podcast, I want you to do the same. Whoever came to mind as the colleague you would jump at the chance to work with again, send them a LinkedIn message or text, an email or a message to the universe. And it’s powerful.
I had a leader do this literally last month, and they called me this week to tell me… it’s a sad tale, I’ll just warn you, to tell me how that played out. So he reached out to this colleague he hadn’t spoken to in a few years. It resulted in a long conversation. It resulted in a 90-minute coffee meeting. The following week, they reconnected. Two weeks later, that person had passed away.
And this leader is still processing it. He said, but had he not reached out, he would not have had that opportunity to kind of seal that relationship in a way that was meaningful.
Denver: Close the circle. Yeah.
Morag: So whoever you are thinking about, you jump at those colleagues. I dare you. I double dog dare you. Send them a message because I guarantee… deposit into that relationship bank account.
Denver: No, I’m actually pretty good at doing that with people and I recognize that, I think, from recognition at work. And when you can recognize at work and it’s expected because there’s some award that’s going to be given, it doesn’t carry the meaning of when it’s unexpected, when it’s unsolicited, when it’s serendipitous.
And somebody does this or points you out, and it comes out of the blue. And the way that makes you feel, it’s better. It is completely different. You know what I mean? So…
Morag: I’ll give you another example. I was leading in a leadership event for some senior IT leaders last Fall. We did this activity. One of the guys texted somebody, told the story; he texted his current boss who was not in the room, and that’s fine. I said, Well, if any of you get a reply while we’re continuing this program, let me know.
Well, within about 30 minutes, this guy got a reply from his boss, and the reply was, Oh my goodness, you’ve made my day! Because of course, again, as you get more senior, we tend to get more taken for granted, or people don’t give us the feedback because you’ll think I’m soft, or you’re just thinking I’m sucking up, whatever excuse.
So anyway, we get the first message. He reads it out; we are all in the room, 20 of us. We hear the message; we get goosebumps. Fifteen minutes later, there’s another text. The boss goes, “Oh my God, I really can’t stop thinking about it. You’ve made my day. I’m going to have to tell my wife about this when we get home.” So think about it.
That one-on-one interaction of just saying, I see you. Thank you for what you do and what you’ve done for me. Didn’t just make a difference between the subordinate and their boss, it made a difference for the 20 of us who heard the reply. And now it’s had ripple effects into that leader’s home life and social life because he’s now dining out on you won’t believe what.
“So step one is: look up. How am I feeling? How do I want people to feel? Step two is: show up. How do I need to turn the dial up or down? More talkative, less talkative, more assertive, less assertive, whatever it might be. And then step three is literally: step up. Go do that thing… So look up, show up, step up. That’s the mantra that can cause us to be intentional about the leadership behaviors and skills we bring to bear that ensure that you, me, and we are better together.”
Denver: Yeah. No, I hear you. And he can also anticipate that he’s going to send a similar kind of message to somebody else because of how he felt about it. And I see that when I go into stores sometimes and somebody holds the door. If somebody holds the door for me, I’m a hundred times more inclined to hold the door for the person behind me than I otherwise might be. So there is a contagion, a positive contagion…
Denver: …that really results from this.
Let’s talk a little bit about connection, and you maintain there are three steps. And I want you to just walk us through those. The first one would be to look up. What does that entail?
Morag: Well, I know from my own career it is very easy to get sucked into the hamster wheel of :got to get it done, got to get it done, got to get it done. Hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle.
Morag: I realize probably 180 degrees from anybody listening, but we get so, so narrowly focused on our to-do list, what we need to get done. This is the way I am, one size fits all, do, do, do. So in order to be a better leader, colleague, friend, husband, wife, whatever it is, better friend at work, the first step is to pause on that hamster wheel and look up. And think about: How do I feel in my own presence? Am I having fun at work? Do I enjoy this job? Am I enjoying life?
And how do others feel in my presence? Because you already talked about it. You walk out of your office, there are people that light you up and you can’t wait to talk to them. And there are energy drainers. So step one is: look up, whatever it is. How am I feeling? How do I want to feel? How are others feeling in my presence? How do I want them to feel? That’s step one.
Step two then is: show up. It’s the… well, given that’s what I want to achieve, how do I need to show up in this next interaction, this conversation, in this meeting? And for example, as me, here we are recording this podcast. You do not need the quiet, contemplative, reflective Morag. I promise I can do that. Who enjoys silence. Because that would not make for a very engaging conversation.
You need the… okay, second cup of coffee, slightly perky, boisterous, fun, engaging Morag so that we’ve got the dialogue. And as leaders, if we know we’re going into a meeting where we have to solve a serious problem, and we don’t want to do group think, then I need to show up and ask open questions. I need to get input from others, versus just showing up and telling people what to do.
So step one is: look up. How am I feeling? How do I want people to feel? Step two is: show up. How do I need to turn the dial: up or down? More talkative, less talkative, more assertive, less assertive, whatever it might be. And then step three is literally: step up. Go do that thing. Or at least take a moment at the end to say: Did I do what I said I was going to do?
And if I didn’t, what was the excuse, the reason? And heck, the next meeting, the next conversation, I get a chance to do it all over again and continually readjust. So look up, show up, step up. That’s the mantra that can cause us to be intentional about the leadership behaviors and skills we bring to bear that ensure that you, me, and we are better together.
Denver: What a summary. That was perfect.
Morag: Oh, I love it.
Denver: Yeah. Let me ask you a question about each of those. Let’s talk about: Look up. I mean, part of it is: look up, and this has a little bit to do about sending that text message out and along those same lines. Sometimes when people reach out, they’re a little uncomfortable. They may feel a little bit vulnerable. They feel like they may be bothering somebody, like: they don’t want to hear from me. They’re…
Morag: Have they been listening to my mind’s chat? Oh, I have that one all the time.
Denver: I think that they’re busy doing that to-do list you just talked about. The last person they want to hear from is me…
Morag: Is me.
Denver: I don’t know if I want to do that. I don’t feel comfortable in doing that. How do I deal with that?
Morag: Well, firstly, you’ve got to get over yourself. So I have that all the time, especially when I’m reaching out. I’ve got a CEO that I want to drop a message to him. I’m thinking, well, they’re dealing with something difficult. I don’t want to distract them. And in fact, no, that’s not the point. That’s about me versus about what they need. And right now, because they are dealing with a difficult thing, actually what they might need is to know that there are allies out there that are rooting for them.
And it’s interesting, my friend and mentor, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, asked a room of a hundred thought leaders, senior executives three questions that made me go, Aha! Nailed it! Number one is: Does the work that you do essentially make the world a better place? Are you adding value? And I would hope that most of us are saying yes. Nobody sets out to not add value and do their best work.
His second question was then: Does the idea of selling yourself or celebrating your successes make you uncomfortable? And of course, most of us, well, we, yeah, we don’t want to be seen as a braggard. And his third question was, well, Which is more important? Making the world a better place or your discomfort? And it was like, mic-drop moment. Okay, I get it.
So when we hesitate to reach out, then for me it’s, I ask myself, What is it? What am I afraid of? And we’re afraid of being rejected, of not being responded to. But if I’ve left the world in a better place, even if this CEO doesn’t respond to my email, I’ve put good juju out into the world. You know, nobody’s going to die.
Morag: But the reaction might actually help increase momentum for him, for me, again, for us.
Denver: Yeah, so…
Morag: So do it anyway. Take the risk.
“So role models, both the positive ones of: I wish I was more like that. You’re probably more like that than you realize. What you tend to admire in others are the values that you have within you. Now you just need to learn to turn the dial up. You can also learn from the sucky bosses, the toxic colleagues, the what not to do. And again, make it an intentional choice of: What is it that you want to be known for.”
Denver: Do it anyway. A lot of that rejection’s in our mind. And another way of thinking about it is when you do that, what is the worst thing that could possibly happen? And when you think about it, not much at all. Chances are it’s not going to happen. And if they don’t respond, so what? You know what I mean? How horrible is that?
Let’s go to: show up. You suggest role models. Tell me a little bit about that.
Morag: Well, it’s easy. Look around at the people who work around you, and: What do you admire in them? Because we always do it. We’re always looking at the next thinking, Oh, I wish I was more like Denver. Look, he’s so articulate. He’s great at this. Well, okay, well what is it that he does, you do, that I can emulate? And it’s not just to become a clone of you, but like your questions, the way that you pause, I can adapt and adopt some of those habits.
So role models, both the positive ones of: I wish I was more like that. You’re probably more like that than you realize. What you tend to admire in others are the values that you have within you. Now you just need to learn to turn the dial up. You can also learn from the sucky bosses, the toxic colleagues, the what not to do.
And again, make it an intentional choice of: What is it that you want to be known for? When you walk out of the room, do you want there to be a collective sigh of relief of: Oh my God, they’ve gone, or a moment, Oh, I’m sorry you’re leaving, or, I’m sorry, you’re going. And then people will get back on their hamster wheel.
But you get to choose that story and narrative by how you show up every single day. So emulate your role models. Be authentic. Choose what works for you, and avoid the stuff that you know that pushes your buttons or your colleagues’ buttons that you see from the not-so-good role models.
Denver: Yeah, absolutely. I think a good rule of thumb sometimes, when you show up, is to… by the time you leave, have more energy in that room when you left than when you showed up. And when you can create energy, that is like a placeholder for so many other positive things.
Well, since you have shown your unparalleled ability to summarize, I’m going to ask you to summarize the five practices of: step up.
Morag: Oh, so five practices. So in our research for You, Me, We, we designed an Ally Mindset Profile, which anybody listening to is welcome to complete with our compliments. You can go to skyeteam.cloud/youmewe and it’ll take you straight to that self-assessment. And we call them practices because even though I’ve written three books on this topic, I still make mistakes, and I’m still learning to refine them.
But the five practices are, number one, abundance and generosity. Do you approach success in the world as a scarce resource, in which case you’re likely to hoard information, hoard talent. It’s likely to be a me-first mindset. Or do you see it as an abundant resource, in which case you are likely to be more generous with your time, your expertise, to step in and help others to succeed? And in doing so, help yourself to succeed. So…
“So abundance and generosity, connection and compassion, courage and vulnerability, candor and debate, action and accountability, and the Ally Mindset Profile will show you where your natural strengths are and give you tips and advice as to how you can turn the dial up and leverage those other practices to make you the friend at work that you need, and others need, in order to succeed.”
Denver: A great metaphor for that, if I can add, is that of a lake and a river.
Morag: Ooh, tell me more.
Denver: I mean, when Sallie Krawcheck was on the program once and I remember her telling me about this, and she was talking about how women need to be more aggressive in investing. She was the leading woman on Wall Street for many, many a year. She said, unfortunately, women sometimes look at their finances as a lake, and it’s going to drain.
So every time you take out of the lake, the lake gets lower. Where men, who are more aggressive, have a sense of it being a river and it’s just going to keep on rushing and doing things along those lines. And she said that was the more abundant, and that allows you to take the risks you want because the water’s going to keep on coming on in. Where the lake was something, she says, we husband; we’re worried about it, those resources.
And I always thought that was an interesting metaphor and I’d never thought about it. I don’t know if it applies to investing really as much as other things, but I think it really made it came alive for me. What’s number two?
Morag: Well, I like that. I’ll just close that loop out because what it reminds me with all of these, there’s a pro and con of doing too much or too little, which goes back to the lake and river because being an abundant and generous, which is my foundational operating system for the world, is I’ve realized I’ve got to create boundaries and guardrails.
I need to define what success means for me first so that I can decide how much of me I can give to help you to be successful. Because otherwise, I’m always giving and never refueling myself. So abundance and generosity with guardrails is the first one. Then, once I am looking to help you to be successful, connection and compassion is the next one.
I get to know you beyond your job title. I am curious about your backstory, about what causes you to thrive, what causes you to be de-energized. And I’ve already heard pessimism and the, oh no, or the trouble with that is likely to be draining to you, but the, hey, what could we do and could we do it this way? The optimism is going to buoy you up. So connection and compassion is the second one.
From there, because we’ve now communicated at a human level… we’re starting to build trust and psychological safety, you get to what Dr. Brené Brown writes so much about, which is courage and vulnerability. Because if I don’t believe you have my back, if I don’t have those seeds of trust, then I am not going to have the courage to admit mistakes or vulnerability to tell you that I need help or to accept help when it comes.
And I’m also not going to lead into the fourth element, which is candor and debate, where we speak our truth, hopefully elegantly, but even inelegantly, so that we can solve issues before they get in the way of success. But it’s candor and debate. It doesn’t mean you just pull the pin on a candor grenade and lob it in with a, “Denver, that sucks, what a stupid idea,” and then sit back. You have to be able to deliver candid and especially tough messages in a way that encourages a conversation afterwards, that increases our understanding of where we’re both coming from.
And then you get to the fifth element, which is action and accountability, which is personal accountability for: what am I going to do, but also action and accountability for what are we doing, so that I don’t need to micromanage you. I don’t have to second guess. Are you going to think I’m soft if I call you? Am I going to think that you think that I think you’re… I’m bothering you if I ring you because we’ve set clear expectations. And then the loop continues.
So abundance and generosity, connection and compassion, courage and vulnerability, candor and debate, action and accountability, and the Ally Mindset Profile will show you where your natural strengths are and give you tips and advice as to how you can turn the dial up and leverage those other practices to make you the friend at work that you need, and others need, in order to succeed.
Denver: Really good. Let me dig into one of those. I’m going to take candor and debate because I think what I’ve run into in terms of challenges that organizations have is conflict. They avoid conflict at all costs, and therefore where they end up with is mediocrity because they don’t really get these issues out, and they fester. And they sometimes get a diluted compromise, which doesn’t serve anybody any purpose whatsoever.
So with candor, I always want to tell people: You don’t have to be mean-spirited about it. People say, Well, that’s who I am. I’m being authentic. No, there’s a way you can say what you want to say, and you can still be true to yourself. But how do you create intellectual friction at work, which will produce great ideas without producing the social friction that so often accompanies it?
Morag: Ooh, that was a different question than I was expecting you to go to, which just shows we need to show up and listen deeply. Because here’s the thing, the candor and debate…
Denver: Answer your question first.
Morag: Nah, nah, nah, nah. Well, see, candor and debate also goes to like feedback. And I can debate topics; I can debate how we’re going to run our business until the cows come home. That’s fun. But candor and debate when it comes to, Hey, Denver, do you mind not doing cracking your knuckles? Because that’s … I hate that sound.
But giving tough feedback to somebody, I am like the biggest scaredy cat ever, and I have to get over it and do it anyway. So a lot of these is by creating the container or the environment. As a team leader, it’s saying, Here’s what you can expect of me as your boss. I am going to be a straight shooter. However, If the way I deliver feedback doesn’t work for you, you must let me know because there’s no point.
Like your example, delivering feedback and being authentic, but it’s clean up on aisle 13, and relationships are damaged. It’s just going to cause everybody to filter their messages for you next time because they don’t want to be the one in the crosshairs. You can also create regular tools in your meetings that are all about: let’s argue different points of view.
What might our clients say about this decision? What might the impact of new technology have on this part of our business? And get people used to being contrary because the whole point here is you want to avoid what is known as predictable surprises. The disasters that we should have seen coming that we didn’t… or we chose to ignore, and they’ve come and bitten us in the ass.
Denver: They have.
Morag: Can I say that?
Denver: One thing I’ve observed, Morag, on feedback is that you really work hard to give appropriate feedback, but again, it’s focused on yourself and how I’m giving feedback. And being a manager over the years, I realized that I had five people who reported to me, and if I said the exact same thing to all five of those people, the spectrum of the way they would take that feedback would be as wide as it could possibly be.
A lot of… one person would say, Who cares what Denver thinks? You know what I mean? I’m just going to keep on going. And another person will be paralyzed for three weeks, and you almost have to begin to say, before I start to give the feedback: How is this feedback going to be received? And then you have to alter the feedback based on who the recipient is.
Morag: Absolutely. Well, I mean, think about it. There’s feedback that my husband can give me, that… my colleagues can give to me…
Denver: Yeah. No, you know what I mean? We know how that goes.
Morag: …or my kids, or vice versa. Feedback that my colleagues could give me. But if Jeff did it, it would be like red rag to a bull. And I liked what you said there, because it’s using the: Look up, show up, step up.
It’s the: How will this land for them? How is this going to help them? How do I want them to feel? Because even in giving tough feedback, our intent shouldn’t be. And if it is, call me. It shouldn’t be to make people feel less than. If we’re giving feedback, it should always be about: because I want you to be even more successful. And this, if you don’t address it, is going to impact your success.
So how do you want them to feel? Again, recognizing that they may still have the emotional rollercoaster of denial or shock or guilt or whatever it might be. How can you help them to get through it? Because then, that’s the show up. So how do I start the conversation? And often as leaders, and I’ve fallen into this trap, we try to script the whole goddam thing.
Morag: All you can do is open the door. What are the first two or three sentences? And after that, you have to improv.
Denver: You’re right.
Morag: What are the two or three sentences that you can use that won’t cause emotions to escalate, that won’t belittle, that don’t sound judging? Plan for it. And then you step up, you go deliver, and you improvise from there.
But then you also pause and say, Well, what worked? What didn’t? What will I do next time? What have I learned from this experience? So, look up, show up, step up. It’s such a deceptively simple but powerful mnemonic that helps keep us focused.
Denver: Yeah. Yeah. Feedback, I guess, it’s really never what you say, it’s what they hear. And that is the rule of thumb.
Give us an example of somebody who’s adopted this Ally mindset, which has led to some positive outcomes. And this could be you, Morag, or a client or a colleague, but just give us an idea of where it has worked, so listeners get a better idea as to how this can improve their lives.
Morag: So we were working with a team just last year as we were writing the book, and all very smart individuals, a lot of egos in the room. But the team was not gelling. And it was a focus on the what they did; they were focusing on the hard, tangible results, which is a natural thing in many businesses. They weren’t, however, focusing on who they were and how they related– the people side.
So they invited us in because they were done with average. They wanted to be better than average. So we facilitated an offsite, and it started with an activity, which was: draw your career history, how you got to where you are today, and include one thing for fun. And you’re not allowed to use words. And of course, every, Oh, I can’t draw! This sucks!
But by the time everybody had done their art gallery, and we’d laughed at what was supposed to be elks, but they were little stick animals, it really didn’t matter. But the stories, they found connections of, Oh, you live there? I live there. You went to that school? So did I a few years later. But connections that they didn’t otherwise have.
So you could see the walls start to come down. And then as we presented the Ally Mindset Profile results, it went from: you do this to Ah, the profile says… Now how do we solve for this? So relationships, whether it’s one-on-one or within a team, they are built or destroyed one conversation at a time.
And whether you self-medicate or whether you bring in a facilitator like myself or Eric or Ruby at SkyeTeam, having the conversation of what’s working and what’s not, and: What’s one thing I can do different to help us to succeed? That’s how you start to build the trust, the connections that build for a high performing team.
Denver: Yeah. Yeah. It really is the relationships. And I’ve noticed in the collaboration world, particularly in the nonprofit sector, people over the last three years are not rushing to get the common goal and objective that they want. And that used to be the case. We have to get a playbook here. We all have to have an idea of where we want to go so we can work together as different organizations.
And that has been abandoned, at least in my experience, in the last 36 months, which is: let’s just take time to get to know each other. Let’s build trust in a relationship. Because if we do not put in that initial time to kind of bond along those lines, the thing is going to disintegrate down the road.
Morag: So I’m working for a government contractor. They do very scientific stuff. So you can make whatever generalistic stereotyping you want of the taut type of leaders that they have there. And it picks up on what you just said, which is the power of small talk.
And one of the leaders was going through the program and said to Eric, he said, “So what you’re saying is I need to start my meetings with small talk.” And he goes, yes. So this guy started. He called it literally, it was Morag’s three minutes of small talk. It was… his name Mark’s… three minutes of small talk.
Well, it took on a life of its own such that now everybody in the company starts their meeting with Mark’s three minutes of small talk. So it lightened it, it created… it’s like it created a habit that wasn’t there naturally. And that’s what we can all do, is just create the space for us to connect at a human level so that we can solve the complex challenges together.
And what I’ve learned through the pandemic is we can do it even through Zoom if we are intentional about looking up and thinking about: How do we want to feel? I want to feel connected, even if we’re working across states. How do I need to show up? I need to look at the camera, actually have my camera on for most of the meeting. I need to smile.
We need to make small talk, and then I need to step up and do it, even if it feels hokey, even if it feels contrived. And I can share and introduce you to many really good friends that I have made during the pandemic. And we have never met in three dimensions. We’ve only met through the camera.
And before the pandemic, I would’ve thought that was impossible. But the truth is, if you want it to happen, you can make it happen. By looking up, showing up and stepping up.
Denver: Absolutely. We’ve gotten better at it. And now I feel relieved that we had about five minutes of small talk before we started recording.
Morag: Oh, yeah. That was fun, wasn’t it?
Denver: So after reading the book, Morag, what is the first action you would recommend people take?
Morag: They need to be my friend at work. And write me a review online, please.
Denver: There you go.
Morag: So the first action that you can take is find a friend, give them a copy of the book. Share your insights because that’s… people say, well, how many allies do I need? How many friends at work do I need? Well, as I shared at the beginning, 20% of us have none. 67% of the folks who’ve completed the Ally Mindset Profile tell me that their success has been undermined by the words or actions of a colleague.
So you are either one of those folks who doesn’t see allies, or potentially being misperceived as somebody who’s undermining other’s success. This is in all of our interests. So pick one relationship that you want to strengthen. Pick one relationship where you know you are already their ally and friend at work, and go tell them.
Make the implicit explicit. And that’s how you start to transform teams and organizations. And I promise, the results you can achieve will amaze you.
Denver: Yeah. It is amazing, the direct correlation between how large someone’s network at work is and how successful they are. It’s remarkable.
The book again is You, Me, We: Why We All Need a Friend at Work (and How to Show Up as One!). You’re my friend now and I want to…
Morag: Love it, Denver.
Denver: …thank you so much. Over the rectangle, I want to thank you so much for being here today. It was a real delight to have you on the program, Morag.
Morag: Thank you, Denver. It was an honor.
Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving serves as a Trusted Advisor and Executive Coach to Nonprofit Leaders. His Book, The Business of Giving: New Best Practices for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Leaders in an Uncertain World, is available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.