Civility is the Secret Sauce


Motivational Monday #3

I started bracing myself on the way to get the moving van.  Boston is infamous for rude drivers.   They ride your bumper, stop signs are barely yellow lights, and many park by ear.  Plus September 1 is the biggest moving day of the year, and since apartment leases all begin then in this huge international college town.  I live in Northampton, a city in a more rural part of Massachusetts, where I can do a three point turn on a modestly busy street, and the woman who had to wait smiled and waved as we passed.

On the way to the apartment, I suddenly realized that Storrow Drive did not allow trucks.  I was not going to be that go with my Penske truck stuck under a bridge!  So I ventured into the great unknown of narrow streets without the benefit of my GPS, which kept politely re-routing me back to Storrow Drive, no matter how much I argued with iPhone Lady.

Down a narrow street, I came face-to-face with a trash collector truck and we could not get past each other.  People behind me started honking.  But no one could back up in the traffic.  Just B-E-A-utiful!  Some worker saved the day by pushing in all our flexible mirrors and guided us both through, with barely an inch to spare.  Nice!  And he even followed me down the street and pulled my mirrors back out so I wasn’t blind to the rear.  Not bad for Boston.

Traffic nightmare #2 was a @#%&#* situation at our daughters new apartment.  Three moving vans were parked out front, one in her pre-paid spot and two already double-parked.  Another UHaul pulled in behind us while tense negotiations ensued.  After everyone realized we all had to get into the same building, and would have to live with each other during the next year, we did some Rubic’s cube juggling of cars and vans and worked it all out.  We negotiated the one tight stairwell with a Russian family and an Israeli family moving in students, with moving workers from Puerto Rico and Jamaica.  Everyone encouraged each other for the next few hours a we lugged in a shocking amount of IKEA furniture.  “We need some of this cooperation back in the Middle East!” quipped the Israeli father.

Now I sit sore and stiff the day after, reflecting on the day, I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of civility and cooperation that makes the world work, even in a city infamous for rudeness.  Our brains easily focus on the few negative interactions, and forget the many small gestures of kindness, help and support that keeps everything moving.

Every organization needs a culture of civility that makes it all work.  Research even shows that co-workers who listen to each other are more productive.  Nancy Kline reports in her book, “Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind” that productivity increased by 62% after a strictures experiment where everyone had an experience of real listening.  So when people ask me what makes some leaders successful, where other innovative, smart dedicated people fail?  Civility is the secret sauce.  Take time to listen, support, and collaborate



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