We are big believers that good food, good drinks, and good conversations go hand-in-hand.
Imagine a gathering of friends without snacks or a decadent dessert. Picture the family gathering at Thanksgiving or Christmas without turkey, lefse or a fine wine and egg nog.
Can’t do it, can you?
Neither can we.
This is why a year ago we decided to be more intentional about having in-person conversations with prospective and current partners. We also wanted to insert some creativity into those connections.
Networking lunches and meetings are valuable, but we wanted to do more than meet people. We wanted to build relationships.
And so we began CCC – Coffee, Cheese Plates, and Cocktails.
The concept is straight forward. Every week we set aside time to connect with people – in person. Sometimes that means scheduling a coffee meeting during traditional working hours. Other times it may mean initiating an after-work gathering over a cheese plate and cocktails.
To be clear, we’re not against enjoying other beverages or appetizers (Note: Anita doesn’t even LIKE coffee), but CCC gives us a framework. An excuse to gather, if you will.
One of the great pleasures of doing project management work is that we get caught up in the excitement (and share in the apprehension) of our partners’ ventures. We are energized by the collaboration and connections that happen naturally when you work toward a common goal.
We believe in carrying those connections beyond project management work.
Conversations over coffee, cheese plates, or cocktails give us an opportunity to learn and empathize in a stress-free, safe setting. Relationships can develop and deepen over several coffee connections (and maybe a couple of cheese plates). Time spent together builds trust and true partnerships – those values that are important to us at Reach Partners.
In our world, a cup of coffee is more than a vessel for caffeine. It’s an invitation to get to know each other, and that is something valuable indeed.
So, get to know us. Schedule a get-together with one of us by clicking below. This will take you to our calendar where you can choose a time to meet us for coffee, cheese plates, or cocktails. We look forward to it!
Schedule a CCC with Anita: calendly.com/ahoffarth
Schedule a CCC with Rachel: calendly.com/rasleson
Communication is key to the success of every project we manage. From brainstorming to delivering the final product, we work hard at making sure everybody is heading toward the same goal. We then ensure our stakeholders know what’s happening and when.
To get to that point, we participate in and facilitate numerous conversations. Some are easy and straight forward; some are challenging and uncomfortable.
This is why I looked forward to reading Susan Scott’s Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and Life, One Conversation at a Time with my Mastermind group recently.
Scott believes that interpersonal difficulties, at both work and home, are often a direct result of our inability to communicate well. She encourages us to use conversations to connect deeper with colleagues, partners and family members, and suggests ways to handle strong emotions – those icky outbursts that can pop up when difficult conversations take place.
Fierce Conversation has a different feel to it than some of my other Mastermind favorites: Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose and Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. Still, I took away four key messages from Scott and am working hard to incorporate these tips.
1. Remove the word “but” from your vocabulary and replace it with “and.”
I use “but” a lot when I talk and write, so I need to be intentional about swapping these short connecting words. Scott suggests that “but” stops a conversation while “and” continues it.
For example, if somebody needs my assistance and I am busy, I may be tempted to say: “I want to help, but I am in the middle of something right now.” The listener doesn’t hear me say that I want to help; she hears that I’m busy. If I replace “but” with “and,” I can continue the conversation with more details about when I can help.
Of course, this suggestion isn’t always perfect.
Recently I caused considerable confusion when I responded to a group text invite with: “Gathering sounds lovely and I already have a full weekend with family and activities.” The friend who issued the invitation had no clue whether I was coming or not, and I spent the next few minutes trying to explain my new philosophy. Oops!
2. Have fierce conversations with myself.
I always thought that having a conversation meant having it with others. Scott suggests that we use the same model and tools we use to communicate with others to communicate with ourselves. Begin by asking yourself, “What fierce conversations am I not having with myself that need to happen?”
Do you need to ask yourself why a relationship is strained? Or why work isn’t as fulfilling as it was three years ago? Granted the conversation might not happen out loud in a coffee shop. Try journaling instead. Sometimes the best energy we can give is to ourselves.
3. Accept that fierce conversations cannot be dependent on how others respond.
We’ve all been there: there are conversations we avoid because we know the other person will be upset, angry, defensive.
Scott says that if I know something must be changed, I am the one who needs to change it. Or as Tolle puts it, I need to not be attached to the outcome of a conversation. Gulp.
To help, Scott clearly lays out how to have tough conversations like The Confrontation (and these references are clearly labeled in the appendix. Score!).
She recommends using an opening statement that is either written down or practiced out loud. This statement includes naming the issue, an example that illustrates the situation you want to change, your emotions about the issue, clarification on what is at stake, your contribution to the problem, your wish to resolve the issue, and an invitation for the other person to respond.
And she says that this statement should last 60 seconds or less.
Let me repeat: 60 seconds or less.
I have yet to use this tip, and I appreciate that Scott includes in the book numerous examples of how this model has worked.
4. Believe that a careful conversation is a failed conversation.
What?! As a person from the upper Midwest, I thrive on gentle, careful conversations. (I bet you do, too.) Scott isn’t advocating that we move away from being kind and respectful. She does challenge us to ask questions when we don’t understand something. She advocates for being curious about others’ ideas and really digging deep into them.
When we’re careful, we’re not vulnerable, she says.
Vulnerability is something I’ve explored by reading Brown, who has researched and lectured on the topic extensively. Brown sees vulnerability as the birthplace of connection and the path to feelings of worthiness.
If we’re not willing to be vulnerable, we deprive ourselves (and others, frankly) of growth. If we’re not willing to be vulnerable, we’ll have lots of careful conversations that lead to frustration, if anywhere.
Fierce Conversations came with suggested assignments, which felt more like practice than homework. Thanks to that, these concepts feel applicable and like something I’d use the next time I need to have a difficult conversation.
What great books have you read lately?
We have some thrilling news to share: we’re growing!
A couple of weeks ago, we asked Sean Kelly to join our team as a project manager focused on business development and new client relationships.
To our great delight, he agreed.
He now becomes our third employee, joining co-owners Rachel and Anita.
Sean is a perfect addition to our team. He has a strong technical background and knows how to successfully work with clients.
Here are a few reasons we’re excited about Sean joining us:
We could go on and on, but we’re super excited about this move because Sean shares our values and will support our mission to do what is right for our clients and our community. We know this because we’ve worked with him on several projects over the years. Every single time he kept our best interests in mind and built the trust that we expect from those we work with.
It’s no exaggeration: we’ve enjoyed every minute that we’ve partnered with Sean in the past, and now we get to do it every day.
In case you’re wondering, Sean lives in Moorhead with his wife, Amy; their two daughters, Olivia and Audrey; and the family dog, Comet.
Please join us in welcoming Sean to Reach Partners. Drop him a note at email@example.com or you can find him on Twitter at @ReachSeanK.
Your partners in leadership.