Exploring people potential

This month our resident adventurer, Sue Stockdale talks about learning opportunities on holiday

It’s getting into holiday season when we have an opportunity to switch off from the stresses of day-to-day work, relax and have a change of scene. It gives us a chance to slow down which gives the brain a well-earned rest. And when we are relaxed, with no work problems to consider, the brain can make connections that we were not aware of before and give us an opportunity be creative and learn new things which can also translate back into relevance in the workplace.

Why not experiment with new flavours and tastes. When you are dining with your family or a group of friends, ask someone else to order your meal for you, and vice versa. Make it fun and be prepared to try something new. It can be a great way to step out of your comfort zone and teaches us two valuable lessons. To trust and empower others, showing you don’t need to control everything.  And secondly, learning to be vulnerable, and being happy to try new things. You may discover you like mussels, granita, or brown bread ice cream!

There is a well-known improvisation technique used by stand-up comedians, known as yes..and which was popularised in the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? Wake up one morning on your holidays and consciously decide to use this approach for the day. Experience the hours ahead in a completely unexpected and enjoyable way, and when you return to work, this approach can help you there too.  Using yes..and rather than yes…but provides a way to build upon what’s said in a conversation, opening up space for more creativity and new ideas.

Storytelling comes to the fore on holiday. These ‘campfire stories’ might be sharing a ‘when I’ anecdote with a fellow traveller to proudly talk about a favourite bar or golf course you have visited or regaling your experience of airport delays. Storytelling can also be used to practice the yes..and approach described above. Choose a memorable situation that all the team members have been involved in, such as a team building event.  And then the first person begins with once upon a time there was…..The next person and subsequent participants all add in a part of the story beginning yes…and. which can lead to some amusing tales being retold. It’s a subtle way to be reminded that people can all experience the same situation yet describe it quite differently later.

Try a different approach to decision making. At work, leaders often make decisions with their heads based on logic, so why not try out using your heart (listen to your emotions) or gut feel (intuition). For example, as you stroll down the vibrant thoroughfare in that Greek village with your family gazing at the myriad of tavernas and eateries to choose from for your evening meal, rather than deciding which one to eat at based on price, go with one that appeals to your senses. Maybe it has crisp white tablecloths and smartly dressed waiting staff who are smiling at you, or the one that is playing relaxing music which you are drawn to. Trust your judgement by using your senses.

Make a conscious effort to smile at everyone you meet during the day.  The postal worker delivering your mail, your next-door neighbour, the bus driver, or the person in the queue behind you at the airport. It takes little effort and yet can yield some positive results. In Ron Gutman’s TED talk on the hidden power of smiles, he quotes some research that demonstrated one smile can provide the equivalent level of brain stimulation as 2.000 chocolate bars. Gutman also explains that a Wayne State University research project looked at pre-1950s baseball cards of Major League players and the researchers discovered that players who didn’t smile in the photos lived an average of 72.9 years, compared to those who did so, they lived an average of almost 80 years.

Whatever approach you decide to experiment with during the holiday time, remember it’s an opportunity to have fun, enjoy the experience, and to learn something new.

Sue Stockdale is an executive coach and polar explorer www.suestockdale.com

Sue Stockdale

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