Four Unintended Consequences of Togetherness Trainings

May 20, 2016

Last week, I had the good fortune to share a train ride from NYC to DC with my friend, fellow educator, and former colleague, Kathleen Porter-Magee. If you don’t know what Kathleen is up to in the world of Catholic education, read more here.

After a day of training in the Bronx and a 20-minute full out sprint through Midtown Manhattan with two laptops on my back, a rollerboard suitcase in one hand and my usual food stash in the other, this #togethertraveler was VERY happy to catch up over dinner and glass of wine once on board.

KPM, as she’s known, has always been known to ask tough questions, and on this ride she had a good one: “What are the unintended consequences of Togetherness Trainings?”

  1. Over-zest for rule makingThis can manifest itself in 10 pages of email norms and nitpicky rules about calendar invites. Though I always try to shoot for intentionality about which rules will work for your organization or school to get to the outcomes you want, sometimes people take this too far.

The antidote: Remember, no one ever consults a rulebook when making small, daily decisions. Keep it simple. Rather than specifics, try to communicate the spirit of what you’re after (e.g. greater respect for each other’s time). Perhaps just advocating for “clear email subject lines” will get you 80% of the way there.

  1. Misplaced definitions of success. A beloved school leader recently sent me a screenshot of his absolutely empty inbox. This can feel great and goodness knows my overflowing inbox can cause me some psychic stress. But the real goal is not zero emails. The real goal is to ensure you are focused on the RIGHT stuff. In fact, an empty inbox may mean you are procrastinating and not focusing on the real, harder, heavier lifting. Let’s be mindful that Togetherness is a means to a larger end: for most of you, that will be the core mission of your school, district, or nonprofit.

The antidote: Refocus on your intentions for Togetherness. If your goal was to be more reliable and responsive, perhaps achieving the occasional inbox zero is indeed helpful. But if your goal was focusing on priorities, you may need to adjust what you count as success.

  1. A sense of hopelessness. Because my trainings are designed to expose holes in personal, team and organizational Togetherness (in a no shame/no blame zone), a bright light may get shone on a last-minute manager, an unreliable vendor, or our own procrastination habits (#guilty). It may cause people to feel as if their particular team or organization can simply never get it Together. Or as they will simply never feel organized or above water.

    Dissatisfied business lady or student sitting at a busy desk.

The antidote: Model what you are doing for others. Explain the research behind being interrupted all the time or the impact of last-minute-could-have-been-predicted requests. Have tough conversations with supervisors, vendors or colleagues about how Togetherness could increase your team’s results or outcomes.

  1. Tool proliferation. Some people get hung up on finding the perfect app, notebook, or pen. This becomes a roadblock to actually getting started. In my experience, the tool is generally NOT the key to Togetherness; it’s the habit. Do you use the tool in a committed monogamous fashion? Do you review it regularly? Does the tool assist you in communicating with others?

The antidote: Pick SOMETHING and just get started. Once the habit is strong, shifting tools later on is not so bad.

So, while I’ll go on record saying my Together Trainings have many, many benefits, these four issues can linger for all of us. Which ones plague you? Are there others you’d add?