Getting to Know You

by Sandy Nelson on January 4, 2013

I mentioned in a recent post that our five year old, Gabriella Grace, has become obsessed with winning. She turns virtually any activity into some version of “The Winning Game.”

For instance, the first person on the porch after a walk with the dogs wins, the first person to the car, or on those rare occasions when she realizes that she will not be the first, “the last person to finish dinner wins”.

Over the holiday break, Gabriella extended her fascination with winning to include the notion of winning trophies. Where she learned about trophies, I have no idea.

But, there it was. “Daddy, I want to win a trophy for playing the piano!”

Aha, I thought. What better opportunity to introduce the idea of practice and link it to success. So, I replied, “G, if you want to win a trophy, you will have to practice the piano every day. We become good enough to win through regular, disciplined, practice.”

“But Daddy, I don’t want to practice!”

“OK. Fine. No need to. Just don’t plan to win any trophies if you choose not to practice.”

“But, I want a trophy!”

As you might imagine, variations of this exchange continued through the holiday season. Fortunately, I did notice along the way that piano practice suddenly seemed to be a much higher priority that it had been before.


Fast forward to January 1. The time has come to take down the Christmas tree, place ornaments and decorations in their seasonally appropriate red and green bins and take all to the attic until needed again.

Like so many, we have one of those ceiling mounted, folding ladders that provides access to our attic. Suffice it to say that climbing the ladder is a cherished distraction for Gabriella. So, up she goes on the heels of her Mom to receive from me the collection of bins that I hand up to be re-situated in their designated location until December 2013 rolls around.

Once all bins have been lifted up, I climb the stairs to witness the annual ritual of bringing closure to the season. This is where trophies re-enter the picture.

I hear Gabriella’s Mom say to her, “Oh, Gabriella, I promised to show you some of the trophies I won as an athlete and here are the boxes I believe that they are stored in. Let’s take a look and see what’s here.”

Some twenty trophies and a couple of dozen metals later, the three of us are sitting among a treasure chest of rewards for athletic excellence that include three Junior Olympic Medals, multiple athlete of the year awards, etc.

As I began to wonder out loud how Jo Anne had won such a large quantity of awards without my knowing it, she mused, almost absentmindedly, “I wonder where the rest of my trophies are?”

Now, mind you, I am and always have been aware that I married a woman with a past as an elite athlete. I knew that she had gone to undergraduate school on a full scholarship and competed in the Junior Olympics as a teenager. What I did not know was the actual scope and level of her athletic accomplishments.

Twenty years of being together, and there I was, learning something essential about my bride for the first time. How is it that two decades have passed without my knowing that in a nondescript box that has traveled with us from pillar to post, lay so many artifacts of a history of competitive excellence.

Who is this person I married? How is it that I have not seen these before? Why did I not think to ask, etc. Had I asked and known, would anything have changed? Why is it that Jo Anne has kept this aspect of her history so compartmentalized for so many years?

Awash in thoughts of this nature, I began an ongoing conversation of discovery with Jo Anne that, I sense, has only begun to scratch the surface of getting to know my bride in a different way and at a deeper level.


How about you? How much do you know about those you live and work with every day? What would be different if you knew more?


In our work, we often have the privilege of extended engagements with executives and their key performance teams. It is not uncommon for these engagements to encompass a year of interaction and collaboration. In many cases, one engagement leads to another and, before we know it, years have passed.

Inevitably, we begin each engagement with a series of exercises designed to help peers and collaborators get to know each other better. As engagements draw to a close, we ask a set of questions intended to help team members and us reflect on our time together, assess progress made and value added. Almost without exception, one of the first things we ask is, “Of all the things that we have done together, which have had the greatest impact for you?”

The most typical response?

“Getting to know the people I work with better has had dramatic affect on how I see and approach my work, go about doing business and on the success we collectively enjoy. When we came into the room together for our first work session, even though I had worked with some of the people on my team for years, I really didn’t know them very well at all. Now, there is almost nothing I wouldn’t do to help anyone in this room succeed at the highest level. I am totally committed to my team member’s success!”

A decade and half after beginning the work that we do helping highly accomplished executives and teams achieve and sustain peak performance, I can categorically assert that getting to know the people we choose to collaborate with day-in and day-out is one of the most important steps any of us can take toward accelerating success. Parenthetically, it is equally as important to generating lives and careers of accomplishment, meaningful contribution, measurable reward, social and spiritual fulfillment.

As we begin this New Year, 2013, take a few moments to turn to those around you and ask a few simple questions:

“What matters to you?”

“Tell me about your passions and dreams.”

“How can I better support you in achieving your vision and aspirations?”

“What are we doing well together?”

“What can we do better?”

You will be surprised at the benefits that will accrue.


Sandy Nelson

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