TeamBuild March 2019: Remember to be surprised

In a graduate school course I taught this fall (strategic planning for nonprofits), I ended each class by having my students list a facilitation technique used in class and then writing it up. A few of my students gave a name to something that I did – “Remember to be surprised” – and I thought you might appreciate it.

“Remember to be surprised” refers to the fact that I called out achievements by two different students in two different instances, that I hadn’t expected. As I said to the class, it was an important reminder to me to be open to what people can achieve, a basic principle I try to keep alive in the teams that I work in and run.

One of the students who surprised me was a shy student who often spoke with her face looking down and her hand in front of her face. She volunteered for a particularly challenging part of a public speaking exercise we did where the volunteer has to sing a personal purpose statement without reverting to a known tune and singing in vowels and no words. To everyone’s surprise, she sang with strength, captured the class, and made the point about presence in public speaking with aplomb.

The other student that surprised me was one that turned in a first draft of a semester-long writing project, a strategic planning handbook, that was rife with errors, had poor structure and writing, and appeared to demonstrate a lack of understanding of key concepts. She came to me for feedback, turned in multiple drafts for more feedback, and ended up writing a final draft that was so strong that I sent a copy of it to the Dean of the school.

Remember to be surprised. Remember that individuals aren’t always what they seem at first. Remember to have hope and expectation and be open to what is possible.

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