Make the Mundane Exciting Again

Recently, I spent a day facilitating a retreat for the leaders of a small company with a grand vision about changing the way healthcare is delivered in the United States. Ten leaders spent the day locked away in a room learning about the five stages of organizational culture, examining their default and invented futures, and then learning new practices to elevate their leadership and the leadership of their teams. 

The group had great passion, they enjoy working together, and their energy was infectious. It was a blast to spend time with them and I’m looking forward to an invitation to return in a few months.

At about halfway through the afternoon, one of the leaders shared what had become a relatively mundane fact about the tremendous number of positive calls they were receiving from a lead constituent group. Members of this group called so frequently that it no longer seemed remarkable – just a fact of life.  It was a good fact; just not tremendously exciting. 

When the other leaders in the room learned what had been happening, they were overjoyed. Here was a key to unlocking one of their large goals, a goal they thought was going to be much more difficult to achieve. As they dug more deeply into what they were learning, they discovered that it wasn’t just one goal that was positively impacted, it was several.

What had become commonplace became exciting again, in a single moment.

The next morning, I boarded a 6:30 am flight back to Chicago. As I sat looking out the window during what was a very comfortable and uneventful flight, I reflected on just how boring air travel is these days. That sense of boredom made it less likely that I’d get any real work done on the three hour flight. That’s a damnable loss of time.

There’s the problem with the mundane: it zaps the energy from our tribes. It also prevents innovation, it leads to the best people leaving our organizations, and worse that this, it creates zombies on our teams.

What can you do to drum out the humdrum? Two things:

First, sometimes it’s as simple as looking through the eyes of another experiencing what has become mundane to you. I’ve become a fan of An and Ria’s #First Flight. Next week when I’m on an upcoming flight, I’m going to bring some of their wonder and enthusiasm with me. I’ll use it to energize my flight. I suspect I’ll get more work done while on the plane, and maybe even make an interesting connection or two.

Second, it’s as simple as telling stories. In your organizations, teams, and tribes it means getting out of your silos and sharing until the gold emerges. The challenge is that we don’t often know what will be gold to the person listening to our stories. That means you need to get out of your office and silos more often so that you can tell, and listen to, more stories.

How can you make your story telling more effective? Here are three steps:

  1. Begin by listening: what is it that your audience is most passionate about? What are the pain points they are experiencing? Where do they need the most support?
  2. Tell a story about the work you’re doing that forms a natural bridge to their passion, their pain point, and/or their need for support.
  3. Finish your story by asking your audience to connect their need to the story you told.

At CultureSync, we’re passionate about starting cultural change with these one-day and two-day leadership retreats for organizations, teams, and even municipalities. Delivering quality content is one part of the process, but what really kills the mundane is providing the environment in which sharing stories, learning from one another, and creating new partnerships flourish.

I’ll never have a first flight again, well, until I set aside a cool $250K for my first Virgin Galactic flight. Yet that doesn’t mean I have to settle for the mundane. You don’t either, not in the air, and most importantly, not in your tribes.

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