Thursday, March 9, 2017

Professional Development

A New Kind of Training – Get Your Black Belt in Affirmation Part 1: Intro

Okay, comrades. We are about to go really deep into a topic together. I mean really deep. So before we launch into things, let’s gird up and recenter real quick.

This blog series is intended to stoke our cultivation of relational skills through insight, challenge, and repeatedly maintaining vision that our relational skills have as much to do with our career’s flourishing as does our expertise in professional/technical skills. Therefore, relational skills deserve to be trained, refined and practiced just as much as our areas of professional expertise. In fact, our very first blog essentially confronted you with this question: Do you value and conceptualize relational skills as contributing to your career’s flourishing as much as you do your professional/technical skills?

With all that in mind, I want us to devote a few articles to focus on an extremely basic, foundational, almost banal, apparently-not-even-worth-focusing-on relational skill: affirmation. I bet a few of us have a sense that when it comes to studying and refining a technical skill like videography / cinematography, whoa! That rabbit hole goes deep! I mean, I could study it for years and still learn new things!

But I bet that for many of us, something so basic as affirming others would never strike us as something we could so deeply train, cultivate, practice, and get better at, (like videography / cinematography) all the while paying dividends for our career, company and job satisfaction. Well, if you’ll stick with us for the next few articles, then my guess is that we’ll start to feel the real magnitude and depth of this skill together.

So let’s train. To begin, we need to take inventory. Take a few minutes of your day and examine yourself and your impressions of others with these questions:

If you spend time with those questions and basically come to a sense of “eh, I’m not very interested. I think I’m fine with how I affirm people right now.” Then please consider coming back to prove yourself wrong, as I’m confident the ideas we will sort through in upcoming articles will challenge any reader’s status quo.

If, however, you are already onboard and ready to pursue this skill together, then consider striking up a conversation with coworkers or friends or family on the topic to really get some thoughts percolating. You can do that today! The second question on the list could easily be adapted to basic conversation with a coworker or friend. “Hey, I read an article today about affirming people at work and, while it was kinda touchy-feely, I did start thinking about how sometimes it feels awkward for me to affirm people. Do you ever feel awkward complimenting people or just telling folks they did a good job or anything like that?”

In future articles, we are going to examine three major components of skillful affirmation: repetition, craftsmanship and something I’ll call “occasion.” Master them and you will have your black belt in affirmation. Our next article, however, is going to offer a critical concept we are going to need before we go hard after those three components of skillful affirmation. Without it, the pursuit of skillful affirmation could easily go haywire and get very puzzling results. See you back here in two weeks!

Until then, train like your career depended on it!


Todd Steen
Kristie GraySmith
Jackson offices