Why some work-friends just stick
The first time I met my friend, Ashley, we met twice in one day.
The first time-first time was when she came into our new, lululemon showroom; she was there to buy headbands, and express interest in working at the showroom. As I remember it now, she was finishing grad school in the Northeast, and then going to Africa.
Then, I met her again later that very, same day when we both showed up to the same Introduction Class at a local CrossFit gym; it was a hot, early evening class in the middle of summer, and I walked in already sweating and anxious for what was about to happen in this workout. I found the Introduction Class, and there was Ashley. I remember thinking, ‘Ah, a friend’ even though I had just met her earlier that day.
Ashley went on to finish grad school and go to Africa and then move to Charlotte and she started working for lululemon. We worked together for a little over a year; long enough to have a handful of inside jokes and enough mutual contacts whom we still gossip about.
That was seven years ago.
Neither of us works for lululemon anymore. We don’t work together at all anymore. We’ve shared coffee and breakfasts and double dates all over Charlotte. There have been good times, tough times, laughs, tears. She’s been interested in and supportive of the evolution of my business from day one. I cried at her wedding last April because she was just so damn happy to marry John.
She and I talked about it just this morning – we are better friends now than I think we’ve ever been.
Our friendship sticks after all these years because we’ve grown with each other.
Becoming friends with the people we work with is cool, cool as in trendy. We all do it. Culturally, it’s almost weird if you don’t, which is entirely different conversation. It’s so natural because we see them every day, we email, and text, and grab dinner or drinks after work. We see the same crazy. We bitch about the same things or celebrate the same things. These people become part of how we operate on a daily basis, sometimes even an hourly basis. It works because it’s convenient; it’s easy.
Then, we move on. We change roles or jobs or companies or cities. We lose touch, and what was a friendship is now just an acquaintance. And that’s okay. Seriously. It’s okay.
The friendships that stick are founded on something else – not that place of work. They’re founded on a core value you can’t see. It’s the core value alignment that allows us to grow together as friends – and not just work-friends.
I say this because I’ve become aware of this with clients, too. About a year ago, I started to get frustrated with a couple of clients; many of which I’ve come to understand I didn’t really share any core values with; we didn’t share anything we couldn’t see, if that makes sense. If there was nothing that connected us outside of the work itself – if we didn’t share a core value one way or another – we finished up this project, and moved on. That became even clearer to me when I partnered with Evolve Leadership Consulting just a couple of weeks ago to brainstorm and write a list of toth shop’s core values. Yes, I embarked on the process to support toth shop’s growth, but also – and more so – to get really clear on what meant the most to me. As it turns out, each of those core values are things I cannot see – but that I feel.
Lesson: Align with partners, clients, vendors, friends who align on the things you cannot see – but that you feel.
Ashley and I had breakfast together this morning; she starts grad school tomorrow which is a professional adventure she’s been working towards and going for the last couple of years. As we parted ways in the parking lot, we were both trying to remember when we started talking about her grad school application process, and we both thought it was over bagels two years ago. It’s been such a joy to see it come full circle for her; I’m so damn happy for her.
I was thinking about it afterwards, and I think a lot of our friendship today isn’t all that different from that CrossFit experience. We were both trying something new; neither of us had any idea what we were doing; and we were both totally willing to look like fools. And that spirit of adventure is why we’re friends. Which is not all that different from today’s conversation about grad school and work and friends and relationships. Again, something you cannot see – but that you feel.
Which is ironically one of the core values that anchors a lot of what I do professionally – possibility in everything, everywhere.