Loyalty Leader Quick Tips

Get to Know the “Other” Side of Your Co-workers

November 17, 2016

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My husband and son like to tease me whenever we play a game of backyard baseball. It seems I’ve never learned the proper way to throw a ball. No matter how patiently they coach me, I still don’t get it. Every time I throw, the ball either goes way out of the yard or straight into the dirt. Sometimes they encourage me to throw a ball just so they can have a good laugh (at my expense).

On the flip-side, my husband can’t carry a tune to save his life. His voice squeaks and grinds as he jumps between octaves. He gets bewildered glances from fellow worshippers every time he sings hymns in church. At home, we sometimes encourage him to belt out a tune from The Sound of Music, just so we can have a good laugh (at his expense).

My husband is talented at baseball and I can carry a tune. While we were chatting one night about our unique talents, I was reminded of the wide range of talents present on every team of employees. Yet, we often fail to recognize these talents because we focus on an individual’s failings instead of taking time to learn about his or her strengths.

Here’s one exercise I use during team building seminars for my clients.

I ask everyone on the team to select a partner. They are encouraged to choose the person they know the least about. Using a timer, the employees are given one minute to tell their partner about a unique talent or interest they may have. They can talk about something they accomplished when they were younger, something unique about their family or background, an activity they’re currently involved in, or even a dream they have about their future.

While each person is speaking, his or her partner must practice active listening to try to remember as many details as possible. After the minute is up, they switch roles.

This exercise was originally designed to teach employees about active listening, but something amazing started to happen. They did learn more about listening skills, but more importantly they started learning about each other on a different level. Many employees discovered common interests that created an instant rapport.

Here are just a few of the discoveries made during one workshop:

  • Two employees discovered they were singers and members of two different choral groups that perform on weekends. Prior to this, they had barely talked to each other working side by side in their department. Now they go to lunch together and chat about what’s going on with their singing careers.
  • Three employees from one team had military backgrounds and discovered that they had a mutual interest in the National Guard.
  • One employee had extensive computer expertise that his manager was unaware of. It dramatically changed his co-workers’ perception of his abilities. As a result, his role in the department was expanded to tap into his passion and knowledge of computers.

I have observed employees discovering mutual interests about travel destinations, gourmet cooking, volunteerism, community groups, and much more. During the 15-minute break after this exercise, a buzz of conversation takes place between employees who had worked together for years but barely knew one another.

Getting to know your co-workers at a deeper level and learning about their unique talents or interests can build rapport and mutual respect. Recognizing these talents will help you to focus on the positive aspects of the individuals you work with on a daily basis.



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