Tonight is the fifth night of Hanukkah. It’s a celebration of the Maccabees’ victory over a tyrant king in Damascus. The story, retold for 2,200 years or so, is that the Maccabees fought for their freedom for three years. When they won, they wished to rededicate their Temple and to light the symbolic menorah, the flames of which must never go out. Unfortunately, there was only a small quantity of oil to light the menorah, yet that oil miraculously lasted eight days. In those eight days, the Jews were able to acquire more oil and the flame never stopped burning.
Now that was a struggle. The modern day equivalent is when you wake up in the morning, dash off to work and then notice that you forgot your phone charger, your phone is at 13%, and you need your phone to make it to your appointments. Yet by some miracle, your phone stays “alive” for you all day. It’s a miracle, only it’s just a miracle for you, not your entire tribe. And it didn’t involve years of oppression, so maybe it’s not a great analogy, but it’s still a bit of a miracle.
I am amazed at how that miracle of belief and encouragement shows up in the workplace. In November, I conducted a presentation skills class and one participant was terrified. Her partner helped her practice, encouraged her, and generally helped her see each thing she was doing right. At the end of the course, she was able to stand on her own, literally, and make an effective and interesting presentation.
How can you provide the miracle of light to another person in your workplace who is struggling?
I just love it when I “catch” employees doing it with love.
A park ranger was standing in 95 degree heat and humidity. All day long she moved her ladder to the spot where a friend or relative could see the name of their loved one inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
I watched for a while. Each time, the ranger gently created a rubbing of the name of a fallen loved one and handed the paper to the recipient with a caring tenderness. She understood that her job had meaning. It wasn’t just a job to her.
If someone recorded you at work, what would they see?
Last fall my colleague Jennifer Ledet, leadership consultant, and I enrolled in a Facilitation Course which led to our certification as facilitators. In that high-level program we learned advanced facilitation techniques such as:
- how to gain consensus across time zones, cultures, and continents
- how to help teams manage multimillion-dollar projects and make high-level global decisions
- how to create buy-in and acceptance when many options are all reasonable and each person, division, and company has different needs and the stakes are high
This is graduate-level facilitation!
Before companies, organizations, and boards of all types can achieve graduate-level facilitation, they must master Civility 101. Before a facilitation session, I survey employees regarding their concerns and am always struck by the number of workplace issues that are matters of common courtesy.
Here are the absolute basics of facilitation, and of civility for that matter:
Don’t yell, scream, or pound your fist on tables. Don’t throw things or point your finger at anyone. Don’t slam the door when you leave the room or purposefully tip over chairs (if you are clumsy like me, well, then it’s okay).
Speak calmly and professionally at all times.
Don’t name call or label people as ignorant, lazy, fat, stupid, unmotivated, or even worse.
Refer to people with respect.
Don’t talk ill of people after the meeting.
Don’t tell or threaten anyone after the meeting (or at any time for that matter).
Don’t say, “You will be sorry,” or “This will hurt your career,” or “You better watch your back.”
Remember that what you say before and after the meeting is as important as what you say during the meeting.
Don’t allow meetings to be about how things went wrong.
Ask, “How can we prevent this from happening again?”
“What safeguards are in place for the future?”
“How important is it that this doesn’t occur again?”
“How can we support the person, department, or process to reach our objectives?”
If there are people in your organization who exhibit these behaviors, please forward this message to them. Then go to your HR department, your in-house lawyer, or your greatest sponsor and ask for training — lots of it! It is needed and the cost of not having a professional and productive workplace is huge, not to mention that your organization is exhibiting signs of harassment.
Is your organization more advanced? Great! You are ready for graduate school!