As you might have gathered from a certain post last week, part of the culture where I work is to have fun. So much so that it’s number three on the list of our Principles of Operation. I’ve worked there less than two years, but in that time I’ve seen costume competitions, Spirit Weeks, bridal showers, gangsta rap progress reports, bake-offs, company-wide April Fools pranks, and, once per year, an annual company retreat. Each retreat has a different theme – and last year’s (my first), “making your dream a reality” was nothing short of life changing. It may actually be one of the single most influential things in shaping the course of this last year, and truly inspired me to go after my biggest dream, proving that with the right combination of factors, it really can come true.
This year’s theme was teamwork – not just in the workplace, but more importantly, in life. NOT your average (excruciatingly lame) corporate teambuilding exercise in the slightest. Each and every person we choose to surround ourselves with becomes a member of our “team” – and the seminar, based around John Maxwell’s book The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, was full of lessons that can apply just as much to daily life, friendships and relationships as it can to the workplace. Last year, before the retreat, our boss asked us all to complete an assignment: write out, in one page, our biggest dream. “Dream really big,” he’d said, “bigger than you think you can even achieve yourselves.” After two days of study, reflection, exercises and sharing (on top of rock climbing, hiking, and Scene It sessions late into the night), I left feeling inspired. This year, the session was just as personal. Not uncomfortably so, but I think more so than you’d expect from a workplace. And (on top of the geocaching activity – do I look like a hip-waders type of girl? :)), I think that’s the reason it had so much impact.
We all have “teams” in our lives. Knowing how to build the right ones can be the difference between achieving your goals and remaining stuck, or stagnant. It made me think of something I’d been pondering recently – of the hundreds of people on Facebook to whom we grant access to our lives, how many can actually be counted on on a deeper, more meaningful level than a poke or a status comment? Even in social circles, is every person you have on your team going to be reliable? I think sometimes we keep people in our lives, on our ‘teams’, as it were, because they’ve been there for a long time – when in reality, people grow apart, they form opinions and other people enter their lives, loyalties waiver and the closeness that may have initially been there can weaken through the years. Yet we don’t let go. We keep them around because there’s nothing to say they really shouldn’t be – but in the end, they’re not really on our team any more at all.
My boss had an interesting thought: in organizations, there’s usually a Board of Directors who meet once a month or so to ask how things were going, offer advice, solutions to problems, and generally listen to how the company was doing and ask what they could do to make it better. But what if we had a personal Board of Directors? For our life? A group of people who wanted to be in your life for the very same reason: to make you a better person. It often takes a crisis or some life-shaking event to realise who your friends truly are. The ones who are genuinely on your team will show themselves when things get tough. It’s a very reactive process. What if, instead, we took a proactive approach – instead of “you’re dying, what can I do to help,” asking “what are your goals, and what can I do to help you get there?” I don’t think the Board would have to be very big. They just have to be people whose values align with yours, and who see who you really are, help you get to where you want to be, and generally make you a better person just by being around. My boss said his was comprised of three people: one guy who’d let him vent and get everything out of his system when things were hard; a genuine rock of support. Another, the “tell it like it is” guy. Straight-talking, no-nonsense, no-sugar-coating – someone who truly has your best interests at heart, and isn’t afraid to show you the reality to make sure you’re on the right path. And the third – the wise sage sort of team member. A bit older, wiser, more experienced – a calming force who’ll always keep you grounded.
I’ve never been one to have a big social circle. People have come into and exited my life at various stages, but, I realised at this retreat, there are a very small handful of people I’m blessed to have on my team. People who’ll let me rant and rage when I’m stressed over something and always be the cheerleader in my court. People who’ll check in to see if things are going okay, just because they care, and be at my doorstep with a bottle of wine and a Doctor Who DVD if they’re not. People who’ll give me food for thought, engage in intellectual debate, and show me all sides to every scenario – even if they might not be the ones I’ve chosen. People who’ll give honest feedback with never an ill-intention – knowing that it’s for the best. People who know my heart and soul inside and out… and remain steadfast and loyal friends. People who’ll help me become a better person just by being who they are. They may be few in number and scattered across the world, but I think life is so much better with a handful of genuine, good-for-you friends, than ten or twenty whose loyalties are never quite 100%. And for my little team? I am truly blessed, and eternally, eternally thankful.
This Personal Board of Directors idea could really be onto something. Proactive relationships rather than reactive ones. Ask yourself today. Do you have a solid team in your life, or is it time for evaluation?