When my boys were young, they loved Pokémon. They loved the cartoon, the toys, and the card game. The Pokémon card game is too hard for an elementary school child to figure out on his or her own, so I read the rules and taught them how to play.
We spent a lot of time together playing the Pokémon card game. I created my own kick-ass fire deck. We went to tournaments at libraries, where I played other parents while the boys played other children.
Once a month, we went to a mall to pick up comic books and buy Pokémon booster packs. We would all sit on a bench together and open our small pack of cards. We’d squeal over the holographic cards and compare our new cards to our old ones.
Now, if I did any of the activities now, on my own, at almost 60 years old, I’d be labeled a nutcase. No grown woman would collect Pokémon cards and hang out at tournaments gleefully trouncing the puffed-up dads who are pretty sure they are going to win. Okay, wait. That does sound kinda fun – but not the best use of my time nowadays.
It was a good investment of my time when my children were young because it was an investment in them and in our relationship. They loved Pokémon, so I learned about Pokémon so that we could have conversations that were interesting to them. I supported them in achieving their goal of learning to play the card game. I spent time with them doing something they enjoyed.
In order to create a positive relationship, we need to maintain a positivity ratio of at least 5:1. When parenting, we are doing a lot of correcting and disciplining. Finding five positive things to say for every one negative thing can be a challenge – if you are not interested in what they are interested in.
The same concept applies to other relationships. My friend, Bobbi, let me live with her for five months when I was in a life transition. She is 70-something years old, a ball of energy, and an artist. One of the things that she loves to do is create huge pictures on cardboard for her church’s vacation bible school. It’s a huge job, and she creates wonderful drawings of things like polar bears and pagodas.
Bobbi was worried about getting them all done on time, so I spent a day helping her paint. My job was basically to color between the lines. Now, painting isn’t my thing, but this task is important to Bobbi. She is a dear friend, so it’s important to me. We had a great day painting in her garage, chatting, and having a delicious lunch that she fixed. I learned about the best ways to stay in the lines with various brushes.
Positive relationships are also crucial for exceptional leadership. Just like in parenting, we are watching employees and correcting them when necessary, which means that we need to be looking for ways to have positive interactions.
One way to create more positive interactions is to learn about what is important to employees and peers at work. We don’t, however, need to help everyone at work with their pet projects. It’s as easy as listening and asking curious questions.
We don’t even have to do outside research! We can just ask. People love to talk about the things that they enjoy.
This part of asking curious questions is crucial: We must be genuinely curious. If we ask people questions and only half listen – or worse – pretend to listen and care, they will feel slighted. We can all tell when someone is faking interest. It feels very patronizing.
Exceptional leaders are learners. We must tap into our inner learner and look at each interaction as a chance to learn something we didn’t know before. If someone likes to fish on the weekends, he or she is a wealth of fishing information. There is so much to learn from a subject matter expert.
By asking people questions about what interests them, I’ve learned about knitting, drawing, orchid care, football, cooking techniques, technological gadgets, and tires – just to name a few topics. What people know is amazing!
The bottom line is that learning from people about what interests them is a great way to develop and enhance the positivity of our relationships with them. And it’s fun! Learning something new every day keeps our brains working and gives us a broader knowledge base. You never know when one of the tidbits that you’ve learned will come in handy!
If you ever need some large-scale coloring done or want to play a round of the Pokémon card game, I am the person to call!
For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.
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If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.