Every one of us has an island that is uniquely our own. On that island are all our preferences, skills, communication styles, and more.
And everyone you know has an island that is uniquely theirs. And on that island are, again. All the things that belong to the way they interact with and understand the world.
When it comes to creating powerful partnerships, two people must work to create a shared island where they can both feel valued and thrive.
Your Island is Perfect…For You
Our islands are made up of our preferences, skills, habits, pet peeves, lived experiences, and values. Your island makes perfect sense to you and that’s ok. The problem isn’t that we have our own islands, it’s that we want to force other people onto it instead of appreciating that they have their own perfect islands too.
Think about your island. What makes your island feel just right for you? Consider your preferences, skills, habits, pet peeves, lived experiences, and values. One common issue we find is that people haven’t thought enough about their own islands, which is the first critical step in creating one with another person. Be sure you think about what is true for you and not what you think you’re supposed to include.
Powerful Partnerships Create New Possibilities
When we create an island together, we navigate our shared preferences and honor non-negotiables. We find common ground where we can both have our needs met and continue to learn and evolve, which creates new possibilities.
Ask others about their islands. Listen with the intention of learning about the other person and not making judgments or comparisons. This concept may be new for them as well, so make sure you provide them with time to process before engaging in a conversation if needed.
An easy exercise when you’re learning about others and their islands is to ask the following statements and allow others to finish the sentence:
- “You get my best when…”
- “I feel stuck when…”
- “What’s important to me is…”, and
- “Something you don’t know about me is…”
Create your island together. Another way we can think about this is to create collective commitments. How will we work together? How will we celebrate our work? How will we navigate the sticky situations that are going to come up? What will we do when we don’t show up at our best?
Islands need maintenance, so revisit them periodically.
As people continue to be shaped by new experiences, you’ll need to check in about the status of your shared islands. It’s very natural to have these conversations at the start of a new calendar or fiscal year, after a new team member joins or someone leaves the team, or after positions change.
When you make it a regular practice to have these types of conversations, then the big scary conversations that feel like confrontations are less likely to occur because we’ve done the vulnerable work of understanding each other.