Why this blog?
Welcome to the inaugural edition of The OD Pro blog! I am so excited about this journey and even more excited that you are coming along for the ride. And what a ride it is sure to be.
Organization development (OD) is a field of research, theory and practice dedicated to expanding the knowledge and effectiveness of people to accomplish more successful organizational change and performance. OD emerged out of human relations studies in the 1930s, during which psychologists realized that organizational structures and processes influence worker behavior and motivation. But I believe the reverse is also true. Worker behavior and motivation can influence organizational structure and processes. That is where I come in.
As an organizational development coach specializing in interpersonal skills, my blog will be all about people – and all the crazy things we do in in the name of building relationships with others. While the focus will be on professional relationships, most of the skills, strategies and secrets I am going to share will work well in your personal life as well. Because let’s face it, sometimes there is crossover between professional relationships and personal friendships.
I love learning about people. How we get along with ourselves. How we get along with others. Why do we work well with some people but not with others? Why do we like one way of communicating better than another? Why are some of us team players while others of us are team spectators? And why do some of us not even show up for the game? The ability to build positive relationships with other people is one of the foundations of leadership. So, if you want to reach your leaderships potential, you need to have great interpersonal skills.
I can think of two distinct memories that started my fascination with people and relationships.
Turning point #1.
The first was an amazing opportunity I had in high school to spend a few weeks on a cultural exchange. While going from the United States to Europe might not be that big of a cultural leap, when you are fifteen and don’t speak the language of your host country, it can be transformative. This was before cell phones and apps, so all I had to rely on was my power of observation and a paperback translation dictionary.
Not speaking the language and staying with a host family where most of the family members did not speak English, was both my biggest challenge and my biggest reward. For the first time in my life I had to really pay attention to the people around me. By this I mean that I had to watch expressions and gestures and vocal tones and look for contextual clues rather than just listen for words. I had to pay attention to the whole person, as they spoke and as they listened. I had to pay attention to the situation. I had to pay attention to how others were responding and interacting. I had to pay attention to others. And for any teenager to shift their focus from themselves to someone else, it was an eye-opener.
At first it was a blur, but then I learned how to stop concentrating on the words I didn’t understand and concentrate on everything else. It was a bit like watching a movie with the volume turned down. I discovered that there is a lot you can still learn by watching how people are acting. I started to see the small gestures people make and the subtle signs that reveal as much about what they are thinking as any words they might be saying. I become interested in figuring out all the ways that we communicate aside from verbal and written language. I was surprised to find out how many other things contributed to communication.
Turning point #2.
The second time that my interest in people and relationships came to light was during a job interview when I was in my early twenties. The job was in the mental health field. I was asked several questions about my preconceived notions and prejudices concerning people with mental illness. I was asked to assess my ability to accept people for where they were at and work with them in a positive and nurturing manner.
That interview got me to really think about how I tend to interact with people on an everyday basis. Is my normal approach accepting of others? What are my prejudices of people who might not be like me? Or who might think differently than me and have opposing opinions? How do I judge people? (Because we all do it.) What are the criteria I am using to make those judgements?
These thought-provoking questions still haunt me sometimes. In my twenties I thought I had all the answers. I didn’t. Now as each year goes by, I realize that these answers have changed over time as my experiences grow. And I hope that as I continue to meet new people and have new experiences that I will remain open to being flexible in my interactions with others.
My people fascination journey
These two turning point experiences created a desire to understand more about people. The cultural exchange opened me up to wanting to learn more about people and how we interact with each other – aka inter-personal skills. The interview made me realize that we couldn’t truly understand others if we were not first aware of ourselves – aka intra-personal skills. Human dynamics are fickle. We are always changing and always evolving. Every experience we have shapes the next, and we all experience things a bit differently. These differences in past experiences cause us to react to new experiences in our own slightly unique way. The differences may be subtle or obvious, but they are there.
This is why as much as we can have standards and expectations, no two people will react exactly the same way. As managers and leaders, we can strive to treat everyone the same, but everyone is not the same. The better we can understand the differences among people, the better adept we are in establishing equitable relationships that create an environment where everyone can thrive. Because people are all different, figuring out which communication and relationship strategies work best for each individual can be a puzzle. These are the puzzles that I love to figure out and solve!
What my blog is about
My blog articles will explore the various puzzle pieces that influence the ways in which we interact with others. I will both share my personal experiences and proven strategies on how to build successful interpersonal relationships. Some of my experiences show how these strategies work while others will demonstrate all that can go wrong when you don’t take the right approach. I am not perfect, but I have learned from my mistakes. I hope that by sharing some of my bumps in the road, you will have a smoother path.
Just a few of the topics we’ll cover are:
- group process,
- meeting management,
- group problem solving,
- group planning,
- decision making,
- demonstrating responsibility,
- importance of feedback,
- conflict management,
- positive attitude,
- cultural understanding,
- generational understanding,
- etc. etc. etc.
How will my blog benefit you?
Despite knowing what they say about the danger of making assumptions, I am going to make some assumptions about you. I assume that you want to be successful. Whether you are directing teams, serving as a team leader, or are a member of team, you want the team to be a success. Teams typically involve people. Therefore, the success of a team is dependent upon the people involved. By providing you with a better understanding of the individuals on the team and insights on how they can strengthen their relationships with you and with each other, the team will be poised for success.
Great teams are more than the sum of their parts. That means that you need more than just great individuals. These individuals must be able to interact with each other in a way that amplifies their individual contributions into something greater. That is what inter-personal skills are all about. And that is what my articles will focus on.
My point is…
Each of these articles will leave you with a new understanding or insight into your interpersonal skills. My goal is to help you examine the interactions you have with others and develop the processes and skills that facilitate those interactions. I will provide you with trusted, actionable advice to help you improve your professional relationships.
I will share stories and secrets that will allow you to take your leadership to new heights by creating genuine, meaningful relationships for a strong and collaborative working environment. Nothing in business happens in a vacuum. Everything involves other people on some level and in some form; the better your people skills the more effective you are at business.
As much as I love learning about people and how we interact, I also love sharing that information with others. I am so glad that you are letting me share with you. I know your time is valuable. I appreciate your spending some of that time with me so we can take this journey to better relationships together.