June 16, 2021

Tickle Your Team

Josh Gentine

If you’ve read my previous newsletters, you know I draw a lot of inspiration from my kids, Henry (4) and Juliette (2). They are a never-ending source of insight without even knowing it. Little sayings. Small gestures. Unassuming humor. Being with kids can provide a window into the perspectives we often need the most. The more time I spend with my kids, the more I realize that their simplicity can unlock amazing lessons we (adults) often forget.

Case in point. This morning Henry was in a bad mood as he desperately wanted the mailman to deliver his planet kit (i.e. a set of inflatable balls that look like planets). It’s a reasonable frustration; it’s coming from China, how could it not be there in under 24 hours!? He was completely frustrated and despite our repeated efforts, my wife and I could not cheer him up. Henry’s attitude was straight out of the book Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And then…I tickled him.

Despite Henry’s best attempts, he couldn’t help but smile. I’ll admit, he put up a good fight, but in the end, he couldn’t help but giggle and smile. After a good tussle and some deep breaths, Henry looked at me and said, “Dad, thanks for tickling me…I feel better now.”

What does this have to do with your colleagues and team? First, do not go around tickling your office mates. Despite your best intentions to cheer up others, this will definitely get you fired. Like it or not, no one likes the office tickler. The real point in conveying this story is that despite Henry’s attitude, he appreciated someone engaging him and helping him pull out of a bad place. For most people, when faced with someone in a bad mood, we stay away. Why? We don’t want to feel rejected. Think about it, we are afraid that if we try to help someone in need, we’ll get shot down. While it is the other person who is feeling rotten, we crawl into our own selfish-den and worry about our own feelings more than those of the other person. How ridiculous. Sure, some people will tell you to get lost, but the reality is, when most people are feeling down, they just need to feel acknowledged, and while they may not open up at that time, the gesture is often enough to change their whole perspective.

Offices can be lonely places – especially if those offices are still back bedrooms isolated from others – and it might be hard to tell if someone is feeling off, however, if you sense your teammate is not in a good place, ask if they need a little “tickle.” Let them know you’re there for them even if they don’t want to talk. I would encourage you to get out of your selfish-den and change someone’s day. And given all we’ve been through over the past 15 months, a little tickle might just do the trick.

If you, or someone on your team, needs a bit more than a tickle to adjust their mindset or change their perspective, please do not hesitate to reach out.

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