“This could have been better.” – I should have been better.
“It didn’t turnout the way I expected.” – I didn’t do a good enough job.
“I am disappointed in the results.” – I failed.
During a conversation with a friend I noticed a pattern. Whenever they talked about something they achieved, it was immediately followed by reasons why it didn’t either go as planned, or why it could have been better.
This pattern applied to all achievements, big or small.
Released something big and creative into the world? It was not the right time and it could have been better, and it wasn’t perfect, and it had “wrong notes.”
Connected with and helped someone else? It really didn’t go as planned and didn’t really provide any value, it perhaps even wasted their time.
It was as if every time they tried to build a small reminder of their achievement, something would come right behind them and start tearing it down.
They couldn’t take a moment to savor achieving anything, without experiencing a loss. As I spoke it out (despite sounding rhyming and goofy) it rang true.
“You don’t seem to be able to experience any achieving without experiencing a loss, almost like you are grieving at the same time of what could have been, or should have been.
Achieving and Grieving.
Patterns are so easy to recognize…in others.
As a reflected, I experience the same pattern. Trying to celebrate, only to be frustrated and sad when things do not turn out “good enough.”
Some of the grieving of what could have been is easy to shake off, other times it seems to linger in my mind. One particular example has stayed with me longer than I thought.
A little more than a year ago, I got to run a race with one of my kids. I trained hard and was ready. We started off and everything felt good. We joked and chatted. Shortly after the halfway mark, I stared to slow my pace. Something was wrong. During the last few miles I couldn’t keep going and had to walk.
They were totally patient with me and we did a run/walk combination to finally finish. We got our medals and went to the celebration party afterwards.
As I look back, the grieving completely took over any chance of being able to celebrate the achieving. This grieving would find its way into my mind during other runs, and I found myself walking again. The grieving from a prior event kept invading the present.
Unfortunately, the Achieving and Grieving pattern is not exclusive to running.
That presentation that didn’t seem to connect with everyone.
That proposal that was only partially accepted.
The [insert your achievement here] that [insert your grieving here].
Realizing my own Achieving and Grieving pattern was a great first step. Often I failed to celebrate the achievements along this journey because they are viewed through this cloudy lens of grief.
It is time to clean this lens.
It won’t be easy but I am practicing a new pattern.
I am working to separate the Achieving from the Grieving.
When I achieve something, no matter how small, I pause to recognize it.
And since my mind seems to want a second step, I am replacing the Grieving with Appreciating.
Appreciating the work involved in the project.
Appreciating the creativity in that new idea.
Appreciating writing (this blog) again.
Appreciating these 50 year old legs that will still carry me for miles.
Let’s experiment together.
For the next 30 days, let’s try this new pattern: Achieving and Appreciating.
He was the second tow truck driver that day. (We learned about turnpike authority, State Police and tow truck jurisdiction that day, but that is another story.)
We talked and asked him a few questions. Questions about the job, what he likes, what he doesn’t like.
We learned that most people are so upset when their cars break down, that they are mean and rude to the tow truck driver (the very person there to come to the rescue). We learned that the work is long (12 hour shifts) and is a little boring. We learned which cars get towed a lot, and which ones never get towed – except for accidents.
But then things shifted.
Chris began to ask us questions.
Where were we going? What did we do? What type of program were we presenting? Will we still be able to make it there in time?
Chris, and his questions continued.
How did we get into this line of work? What was it like getting started? Did it take a lot of money, effort, or time? How did we create content?
His questions showed he was listening. He would reflect on our responses, wait for each of us to speak, then follow up with additional questions. Sometimes going back to one of our original answers and asking a follow up or asking how it connected to the new idea or response.
He asked about our clients, how we find them (or how they find us) and how we market ourselves, and our competition.
He was more interested and attentive than many people in our own circles. As consultants and coaches, we are used to asking the questions, we are used to teaching people how to coach and listen and ask questions. We are not used to this type of attentive behavior.
It was amazing.
Being listened to and heard is something that feels special when it happens. There are so many ways to be distracted today, especially during a conversation. We half listen while doing other things, and often we “keep it light” and never really talk to people about the deeper things.
Ironically we were on our way to teach about Coaching and how to listen and ask questions as a coach.
Thanks to Chris, we now have a new standard as coaches on how to listen and ask questions.
We want to strive to be Tow Truck Driver Attentive.
Tow Truck Driver Attentive: to become the kind of coaches (and people) who listen well, ask questions and display genuine curiosity and interest in those around you.
For the next week, try to be Tow Truck Driver Attentive to those around you. In your various circles, listen and ask questions. Follow up and be curious. You may find or learn something new and make those around feel important and special.
Thanks for the example Chris.
You showed us a little magic on an otherwise stressful and tough day.
On this particular job site, each member of the team has a job to do. Each morning assignments are given. As each task is completed, the next task is assigned. The leader of this team must plan out each day, and give out the next part of the plan as every individual task is completed.
This approach has been in place for a while. Let’s call it the “wait until you complete this task before you get the next one approach” for lack of a better, more concise term.
To makes things even more interesting, certain members of the team became better at particular tasks. As the assignments were issued, those who were better at certain tasks were always assigned those tasks.
This system has revealed a few issues.
Members of the team have developed skills, but a very narrow set of skills. They can do certain parts of the work, but not all of it. When someone is out or busy, work can come to a halt.
Projects have become more complex. The work accomplished on day one has to connect to someone else’s work the next day, and it wasn’t matching up. There was a lot of doing work, then going back to fix it the next day.
Once identified, the leader came up with a better plan.
“Streams. That is what we need.”
I paused to wait for the explanation.
“Streams. A continual flow from the start to the finish on these various projects. I realize that by just assigning tasks, individual parts were completed, but there was no connection into the larger project as a whole. No real understanding of how these part fit together. No ownership of the whole.”
I paused again.
“Streams. I could map out the beginning and the end, and let them flow through the entire part or project. I bet they would be happier. I recently heard some grumbling because when parts don’t fit together they have to redo work. I bet this will help them develop more well rounded skills . I have to go create these Streams.
Where have you assigned tasks instead of Streams? How could creating a flow of work from the start to finish increase satisfaction, performance, and connection to the whole?
Let’s try giving members of the team Streams instead of tasks and watch them develop and flow from the beginning to the end.
There are obstacles getting in the way of projects and progress. Obstacles on the job site. Obstacles in our offices, and workplace. Obstacles are those things (old processes, equipment, software, procedures, routines, traditions) that will delay and disrupt the workflow. Obstacles waste time, energy, and resources.
But obstacles are interesting beasts. They like to remain unspoken, unidentified, or undisturbed.
Obstacles like to mask themselves as something else.
Obstacles like to pretend they are just petty offensives.
Obstacles like to create divisions between us.
Obstacles will do almost anything to remain in place instead of being addressed and removed.
What if we took a different approach?
We could become Obstacle Hunters.
A collective agreement to stand together (side by side) to notice, track down, and find obstacles. A collective agreement with the freedom to bring up any obstacles that may disrupt or delay your daily progress. A collective agreement that each member of the team should be an Obstacle Hunter (even if the obstacle was created by leadership). A collective agreement that obstacles are hurting our progress and ability to deliver and there is no fear, offense, or worry when we bring obstacles forward.
What are you waiting for? You and your team face these obstacles every day. These obstacles will want to remain hidden from view and out of focus. It is time to start hunting these obstacles down and get them out of the way of your progress and team satisfaction.
Let’s go hunting today. Watch out obstacles, we are coming for you.