How can we have more passion and fulfillment for our work and in our life?
My colleague Sara and I recently traveled to a beautiful old monastery outside Munich, which provided a scenic background to our training session. I had last visited Germany as a much younger man when I saw the world through very idealistic eyes. While I still pride myself on embracing a positive view of life (i.e., finding meaning in my work and seeking out the good in others), I felt my younger self-urging the older me to do more. This was thanks to the wonderful people of Germany who helped me reset. They helped me “pause”, to reflect on my passion for learning and teaching.
From this experience, I drew four lessons that we in the American workforce should reflect upon when it comes to improving how we work:
Time to reflect is equally as important as time to act. Delivering a three-day training class is something I have done hundreds of times. Just as in America, our European client was expecting days full of customized training, content-rich and intense. The executive sponsors wanted real learning–challenging concepts with engaging team exercises. But a refreshing request from this client was that it be balanced with reflection time for the individual participants.
How often do we get away from the office–from email, from the project, from other people–to just “be”? When you are engaged with learning new concepts, do you go straight to “what do I need to know or do”? Or are you given time to let the ideas soak in, through quiet moments by yourself? For their leaders, this was a necessity. For example, the leaders supported this intent by having the participants all stay off-site in an idyllic location, a great example of Leaders’ Intent.
The place is as important as the event. The class was taught at an old monastery on a beautiful lake. The location inspired reflection through its beautiful grounds. Class exercises were often conducted outside, along with long walks after lunch. This helped foster new interactions and dialogues. It enrichened the experience for us all, and went far beyond the basic classroom and learning.
Time matters. The location served all its meals family-style (as is common in Bavaria) which meant we all ate together for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mealtime was valued—it wasn’t used as a way to get more content in, but rather to share experiences, cultures, and ideas. We talked with one another about the places everyone had traveled, American versus European politics, and child-rearing helped deepen the relationships. We quickly realized that we had so much more in common than we may have thought we did.
How do you place a value on that experience? As an instructor, I watched the class become a true “team”. We delivered the training in a way that gave them more time in their team exercises, discussions, and “walks”. The content was still there, but it was balanced with time to think.
Pace Matters. Teaching to a class of non-native English speakers can pose challenges. We have phrases, idioms, and words that can get lost in translation. To help prevent this, I consciously slowed down my delivery and my speech. In slowing down myself, I recognized some ways I could improve my presentations. Even as a seasoned speaker and trainer, there were lessons for me, which I learned simply by slowing down.
“We should all be grateful for the opportunity
to share such an experience.”
Other cultures view Americans as optimistic, enthusiastic, and adaptable. Yet, they also sometimes see us as over-worked, stressed out, and inefficient with our time. There is truth there. We love our to-do lists, our commitments and obligations. We love to say, “I’m so busy!” I know those things are all waiting for me at home and at the office. Many are self-inflicted. But, for that one week, I reset myself in my thinking, my interactions, and my reflections. I am fortunate because I love my work. But oftentimes the stress impedes the joy. Adding more joy, instead of adding more stress to life should be the requirement. As one of my new German friends said at the start of the class, “We should all be grateful for the opportunity to share such an experience.”