The Shift from Division to Discovery During and After COVID-19
Most of us have been transformed in unexpected ways by the pause COVID-19 forced in our lives. We can dwell on the negatives, but the inspiring people we’ve been writing about in our articles at Ever Widening Circles can teach us a wonderful insight for our times: The future will belong to those who find the positive gifts of insight through any stretch of chaos and negativity.
One of those gifts is the opportunity to begin again in our relationships with each other in the workplace. I believe the pandemic has given us the opportunity to appreciate what we have in common, like never before. And once we discover our common ground, we can safely and happily explore how our differences become multipliers for innovative thinking.
Once we have a relationship, we can make a conscious shift from division to discovery.
A new era has dawned, and it will be time to get into the mindset of explorers. We will not be going back to work, we will be going forward together into an unfamiliar landscape where some of our most precious organizational methods will be useless. We will have to discover what resources we have to draw from, and the most quickly accessible will be in the uniqueness of each other’s talents and temperaments.
We will have to collaborate our way out of this unfamiliar territory, and to do that, we will have to come together. Here are three steps to doing that, just like the amazing people we write about:
- Start celebrating what you have in common with each other.
Focus on this in the coming month, while everyone is out of their routines. The pandemic gives us a new place to start in our relationships because it leveled the playing field overnight, and many of us shared the same struggles. We suddenly were trying to educate our own kids at home and navigate the grocery store like we were handling plutonium. We had to try cutting our own hair, and we hoped we didn’t get a toothache while our dentist office was closed.
So we started going on long walks or cooking new things together. We could take a break from remote work to sit outside on a sunny Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., and it felt a bit magical. We looked for ways to be helpful to others and got curious about things we said we’d always like to do. The gift of a homemade birthday card or loaf of bread became precious.
And many of those things, we all had in common.
If you were thrust into the remote working world, you suddenly began seeing other people’s kitchens, basements, and spare bedrooms, and they often looked a lot like yours! Even executives were not safe from their children walking into their Zoom business meetings and dangling toys on coat hangers in front of their faces. My favorites were the 4-year-olds whose heads slowly crept into the video screen from below the desk, eyes wide, smiles beaming.
Before, any of that would have been horribly embarrassing, but now everyone laughs empathetically, and an awkward moment is unexpectedly transformed into a humanizing and unifying one.
And now, our guard is completely down: We are seeing people’s dogs and cats in these remote meetings, and noticing that they talk to their pets just like we do!
I believe we are getting our sense of humor back about life’s imperfections, and that changes everything. With a healthier attitude about all of life’s imperfections, issues that once divided us are starting to look like details rather than chasms.
- Don’t bring old burdens to the new landscape.
The “thought leaders” in the new era will be the ones who are focusing on discovering the potential in their team members and not spending a moment on division that might have been present before the pandemic. They will be the ones who are getting curious and putting old rifts and assumptions behind.
And here’s why that’s so important: Once you realize what you have in common with someone, you can take things that once rubbed you the wrong way and see them as possible advantages for the team. Quirky temperaments and skills of others might be the perfect tools for the new toolbox you’ll need as an innovative, ingenious team of adventurers.
Now’s the perfect time to let go of some old habits that kept us from appreciating the diversity on our teams. Many of us could swap stories for hours on all that, and our hearts would soar from the realization that we have a kindred spirit in someone we once knew almost nothing about.
Maybe we should leave room for some of that storytelling in our business meetings for a while. And if not, how about putting down our phones at lunch and getting curious with others in the art of conversation.
- Exercise your curiosity impulses.
The thought leaders in the coming era will be the ones who know the wonders of being curious, but it can feel vulnerable at first. It can take some courage and practice.
If you need a little of that, try dropping into some articles at Ever Widening Circles that you don’t think you’ll be interested in at all, and I promise you will come away transformed. It is a good place to exercise that discovery mentalitybecause it’s one of the few places on the Internet where you can scroll without worry. You will find things there that feel like a transforming gift in the most unexpected places, and you will see things you have in common with the thought leaders already shaping our shared futures.
That’s just how it can work with your co-workers.
For a few months, what we have in common will seem so much more important than our differences, and after we build some new relationships by getting curious, we can turn our differences into assets!
Get curious, and you will discover hidden potential.
Dr. Lynda Ulrich is founder and CEO of Ever Widening Circles, as well as an author, motivational speaker, world traveler, and trauma survivor.