A “Roses are Red” Approach: How Poetry Improves Your Work Performance

When I say the word “poetry”, what comes to mind?

Maybe it’s the beautiful simplicity of Japanese haiku. Perhaps it’s more the stress of Chaucer, Dickinson, or Shakespeare. Or maybe it’s a sentimental card you received once; “roses are red, violets are blue….”

I’ve found that too many times, poetry is an instinctive shudder. Which is just to say – poetry is ruined for a lot of people in school and they never look back.

Well, my goal is to convince you to try poetry again because it’s worthwhile for your career and life, no matter who you are, right at this very moment.

We all have a creative side (even you!). The trouble is that most of us don’t cultivate it. Mostly, we’re just too busy.

But poetry fits a busy lifestyle better than most arts.

And the reason for adding poetry to your life isn’t just to cultivate your artistic side (which it will) – it’s also to improve your leadership, your communication, and your overall ability to relate to the world.

Poetry requires a cultivation of patience. It also demands self-reflection and exploration, both of which might not be on your daily to-do but are vital skills to hone. It’s my belief that practicing the art of poetry improves these two areas of our lives, which in turn, improves our ability to perform at work.

If I’ve piqued your interest, let’s start with how to write your first poem. With each step, we’ll see how it also relates to work performance. Like yoga, the benefits are in the practice of it… so don’t be shy to try!

1. Observe in Great Detail; Listen Carefully

In order to write poetry, you must be quiet and still. It’s the details that matter. Start by carefully observing your surroundings today. Have a minute between meetings? Put down the phone and look around. When the day ends, can you recall the details of what you saw?

To start your first poem, pick something near to you and describe it. Don’t worry about quality, just try to express the details of what you see.

  • When you start to become more observant, more careful of the details, do you think it will make a difference in how you approach your next project or job? (YES!)
  • When you listen more closely, will it improve your leadership abilities? (YES!)

2. Correlate to Larger Themes

I love how great poetry takes something simple and relates it to larger universal themes and emotions in surprising and delightful ways.

Take a look at your poem so far. What have you described? Is it just a set of characteristics or have you tried to capture its essence? Does this object stand for anything? How does it relate to the wider world? What personality does it have? What emotions do you have about it? What is its story or meaning to you?

  • When you are able to relate singular details or events to their larger importance, do you think it will help you communicate your value to customers and supervisors? (YES!)

3. Cut a Lot

My favorite part about poetry is its ability to communicate volumes in a few simple lines. In poetry, every single word matters –not one can be extraneous. In business writing, we often see jargon strung together in an effort to sound professional, but isn’t this the exact opposite of good communication?

Practicing poetry can help you improve your editing skills. Take a look at your poem now – what words are unnecessary? Be absolutely brutal, and eliminate anything that does not serve a purpose.

  • When you are able to communicate in such a precise way, do you think it will improve your daily emails, proposals, articles, etc.? (YES!)

4. Share

Poetry, like any art, is meant to be shared and enjoyed. From personal experience, I know this can be a terrifying prospect – like standing naked in front of a crowd. But when you share what you’ve created, you open yourself up to the world.

For your first poem, take it easy and share it with a close friend. Ask them what they think. Talk about the process, the possibilities, and the meaning.

  • When you’re able to open up, accept criticism, and share a specific story or viewpoint, do you think this will help you relate better to colleagues and customers? (YES!)

With every effort, you will find yourself improving – taking more risk, observing more closely, and sharing freer. Isn’t it exciting?! While some may disagree, I think within a few minutes, poetry can open a new world for us. We all read articles on becoming our best selves, and without being too hyperbolic, I think poetry can be an integral part of that journey. Remember, it’s what you learn in the practice that will make the biggest difference. I wish you the best – and send me your poems!

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