OK, this is another totally non-mountain-biking-related post. But in a way, it is about mountain biking. Most of us go out riding with other people (75% of you do, according to my poll), and often there are decisions to be made as a group: where to ride, how long, when to stop, who goes in front, etc...
I'm reading The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, and just finished a chapter entitled Start by Sitting Together. It's about how to work well with others in groups. A lot of the work I do, especially with my non-profit organization Bikes Without Borders, involves working in groups. It's a tricky feat, and it's not easy to manage multiple people and multiple personalities. There's always opportunities and situations for conflict. But the following tips, from Randy Pausch, will help in any group situation:
1. Meet People Properly. It all starts with the introduction. Exchange contact information. Make sure you can pronounce everyone's names.
2. Find things you have in common. You can almost always find someting in common with another person, and from there, it's much easier to address issues where you have differences. Sports cut across boundaries of race and wealth. And if nothing else, we have the weather in common.
3. Try for optimal meeting conditions. Make sure no one is hungry, cold or tired. Meet over a meal if you can; food softens a meeting. That's why they "do lunch" in Hollywood.
4. Let everyone talk. Don't finish someone's sentences. And talking louder or faster doesn't make your idea any better.
5. Check egos at the door. When you discuss ideas, label them and write them down. The label should be non-descriptive of the idea, not the originator: "the bridge story" not "Jane's story."
6. Praise each other. Find something nice to say, even if it's a stretch. The worst ideas can have silver linings if you look hard enough.
7. Phrase alternatives as questions. Instead of "I think we should do A not B," try "What if we did A, instead of B?" That allows people to offer comments rather than defend one choice.
I'd like to, humbly, add a couple of my own tidbits to his list:
8. Show up on time. Nothing shows disrespect for others' time and disrupts a meeting like not bothering to show up on time and forcing people to repeat themselves. Plan to arrive 10 minutes early, and if you do, then spend your time preparing for the meeting. If you run late, you'll have a 10-minute cushion.
9. Listen for Common Purpose. This is somewhat related to #2, but relates to common purpose rather than things. From the wonderful spiritual teacher Nithya Shanti: "If respect can be developed between people working at odds, then a foundation will exist for exploring and/or re-establishing common purpose. Differences may still exist, but the possibility for coming to agreement is significantly enhanced if mutual respect and common purpose are identified and set solidly in place." The converse to this statement is paying to attention to situations where you are at cross-purposes.
I hope these tips will help you when you are working with others. I'd love to hear your comments and stories about working with other people: what worked, what didn't, how did you overcome obstacles, etc...