Archives for posts with tag: respect

What better time of year to focus on the goodwill that makes for human closeness and connection?  Valuing individuals and interactions as we Agilists do, it’s the stuff we work to create.

I spent a day at my cowork space last week.  Not even a whole day, just stopped in to punctuate a stretch of meetings and deadlines.  It was enough to bring home the mystery of the season and the beauty of a coworking environment.


Picture receiving four hugs in the space of an hour and a half.  Real hugs, not those wimpy one-arm backpats.  All were for different reasons.

The first was from a coworker who had recommended me on LinkedIn.  He was energized to move that task into the “Done” column.  By his action and commitment I felt cared about and respected.  So, when we saw each other we hugged.

The second was in solidarity with a coworker overwhelmed by life and its multilayered demands.  We speak frequently and seem to take turns, as luck would have it, with our ups and downs.

That day his body language – the set of his shoulders and the tension in his jaw – spoke volumes.  We all want to give it up sometimes and go do something easier than this whole entrepreneurial shebang.

The kind of encouragement I wanted to give has no words.  No pep talk can motivate like a strong, caring hug.

The third involved a colleague visiting from another community to attend a workshop.  We are mostly facebook friends, so standing actual face to actual face was an unexpected pleasure.   After a split-second of decision-making in that awkward moment where you’re not sure if you’re going to hug or shake hands, we hugged.

The fourth was a welcome home.  I was standing near the reception area when a coworker I hadn’t seen in a while entered.  She and I have been open about personal challenges, heartaches and absurdities over lunch or coffee.  A lot had transpired in the interim, and we needed to catch up.   A long, friendly hug was the best place to start.

Like the holidays and the complex process of community-building, when it comes to hugs, receiving is also giving.  I am happy to be part of a workspace – as well as a global movement to improve the world of work – where such chance affection is not only allowed but commonplace.

For an international directory of cowork spaces, see .

Conflict based on personalities is a time drain, wasteful on many levels.  Conflict rooted in differing convictions can be constructive and add value if handled correctly.  Yet doing so takes courage, and that means facing our fears.

company cypher

Openly invite conflict.   People are afraid of disagreement because, in hierarchies, the outcome can be loss of social status.  Invite people to share a multitude of ideas in open forums.  There will be less risk associated with offering the “wrong” opinions, and  communal trust will increase. [1]

Kill the experts.  Any organization that presumes to bring in “experts” is operating in a hierarchical manner.  Call them something else, like “instigators.”  It changes the energy.

Critique ideas, not people.  In the 12-step circles I’ve been fortunate to frequent as a participant-observer, this is known as “putting principles before personalities.”  In a training session on giving feedback, one company I worked with decided to embrace the model of the art critique.  This makes the process of observing what works and what doesn’t fun and engaging rather than scary and full of rejection. [2]

Strictly enforce timeboxes.  When deadlines loom, posturing and jockeying for position simply makes no sense.  [3] Study how theater ensembles manage deadlines: the date for opening night gets published and the public is invited in.  Everyone in the ensemble has a personal, public stake in meeting the deadline [4]

Reinforce goodwill.   Consistent, sustainable quality cannot occur when people treat each other badly.   One company I worked for spelled out its expectation that we would show “respect and candor in all communications.”  Too much candor can descend into brutality.  Overly respectful deference, on the other hand, can put the freeze on important conversations.  So say it, but say it in a nice way.  That’s goodwill.

Be #Flawsome. Show your imperfections and people will automatically feel safer around you.  A group of people doing this will be more united than a team of perfectionists.   Do you believe that awesome imperfection is sufficient to muddle through challenges?  Try it on a small project and see how much anxiety and energy get released for finding creative solutions.

Play with options.  Forum Theater is a way to stop action in a tense or conflicted setting and reinvent new futures.   [5]  The following questions can be posed in writing (to encourage introverts) or in dialogue, or acted out in skits.

  • What would I do if I were brave..?
  • What would I do if I were all-powerful?
  • What would I do if I were in charge?

The Traditions of one worldwide self-organizing group state “So long as the ties that bind us together are stronger than those that would tear us apart, all will be well.”   Here’s hoping that all is well and continues to improve with you and your teams.


[1] Brindusa Axon, “The Power of Productive Conflict”

[2] Narcotics Anonymous, “Why It Works: The Twelve Traditions of NA”

[3] Tom Wujec & Peter Skillman, “The Marshmallow Challenge”

[4] Lee Devin, “Artful Making” and “The Soul of Design”

[5] Sarita Covington, energizing the use of Forum Theater to help organizations and ecosystems


Arthur Fink, for sparking this essay and providing feedback and

Michael Romano, for being a trusted and reliable editor

Pictured: Company Cypher, founded by Sarita Covington with another fellow Yale grad.  Coming soon to The Agile Gym (all rights reserved) 

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