Taking Initiative

(Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com)

The session is about conflict and learning their preferred styles and other styles.

The session ends with some group work and a case study.

The case study provides a scenario and context to apply what they just learned.

The scenario describes being partnered with a peer to organize and work on a project together. But, when they arrive at the meeting, the peer has already started the project and assigned work to other members of the team.

Participants are asked to describe what they would do.

The response to this scenario has ALWAYS been the same.

“I would confront this peer about moving forward without me.”

“I would address this peer’s behavior and establish some structure and boundaries so we are working together on this project.”

“I would talk to my boss about this peer and make sure our roles are clear.”

The response to this scenario has ALWAYS been the same.

The response to this scenario has ALWAYS been the same, until recently.

This group surprised me.

“I would thank the peer for taking initiative and ask them how I can help moving forward.”

“I would support this peer and see if they need me to take a more active role.”

They went on to explain their response.

“You see, I am super busy. And just because it didn’t work out perfectly, or not exactly what I had in mind, that is fine with me. I appreciate when someone takes initiative and gets things moving. I don’t always have to be in charge, sometimes I can play a support role for what is already in motion.”

Wow.

Let me say that again. Wow!

A much different response and view of someone else taking initiative.

A response that rewards action and doesn’t take things personally.

How many times do we see taking initiative as a threat?

How often does our ego get in the way of movement?

How often do we see negative things when there is something positive to be appreciated?

Maybe it is time for a new response to taking initiative.

Just because that project, that dinner, that event was not exactly what you had in mind, can we learn to appreciate those taking initiative instead?

Let me know if you struggle with others taking initiative and if you try taking this alternative view in your own world, workplace, household, or lives in the comments section.

Too Expensive, Too Costly

(Image Courtesy of Pixabay.com)

“They said I was too expensive.”

It happens.

In the world of consulting, coaching, helping, serving, and assisting others you are going to be rejected.

People reach out, they need help.

You carefully craft a plan, program, event, or system.

You send that thing you created into the world.

You may or may not hear from them right away.

Sometimes they say No.

Sometimes they blame the price.

“It was too expensive. It was too costly.”

The first temptation is to lower your cost. “Did I charge too much?”

But your time, your talents, your efforts are valuable.

There is some truth to what they said.

It was going to cost them.

The cost of being accountable.

The cost of stretching beyond their normal pattern or rut.

The cost of doing the hard work, over and over again until they get results.

The cost of making sacrifices to change their current situation.

Maybe they were not ready because the cost was too high.

Rejection can be hard.

Don’t give up.

Keep consulting, coaching, helping, serving, and assisting others.

Keep creating plans, programs, events, and systems.

Your tribe, your group, and your people know that the change they desire will be expensive and it will be costly. They also recognize the true cost is their sacrifice and hard work, and they are willing to pay that price.

Emotional Baggage Check

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(Image courtesy of Pixabay.com)

A few of us were talking about how to best prepare for an upcoming event.

You know the type of event: the one with lots of people getting together, both family and friends.

As fun as these events can be, stress and other pressures seem to also arrive whenever lot of people gather in one place.

Half joking, we developed a plan.

“What if we created an emotional baggage check. You know, when people arrive, we could have them check their emotional baggage at the door.”

We all laughed, but then it hit us. What if we really did this? What if this emotional baggage check worked?

How could it work?

  1. When you arrive at the event, you are given a card, and numbered envelope, and a pen.
  2. You write down on the card any difficult or hard emotions that you are carrying into the event.
  3. You place the card in the envelope and exchange it for a corresponding numbered ticket.
  4. You attend the event emotional baggage free.
  5. When the event ends, you have the choice of claiming your emotional baggage, or leaving it behind. (Any envelopes left behind are burned and buried.)
  6. Repeat steps one through three as many times as needed.

We are emotional creatures. Those emotions sometimes disrupt events and relationships, even when we try to keep these emotions to ourselves.

Instead of keeping those emotions bottled up, perhaps the physical act of writing down and checking the emotional baggage is enough to give us a needed break from those challenging or difficult emotions.

And who knows? Once we experience events without those emotional responses, it may feel good enough that we won’t pick them back up.

The Weeds

(Image courtesy of Pixabay.com)

“You’ve got to stay out of the weeds.”

Leaders are told all the time to stay out of the weeds.

The more senior the position the more we hear this advice, and these words about the weeds.

“Let’s stay up at a 30,000 or 40,000 foot view on this issue.”

Then the advice switches to altitude and taking a big picture view.

Simple advice: stay out of the details and keep your distance.

This weed/altitude advice attempts to keep us from micromanaging the operation.

But over time, this weed/altitude advice keep removes us from the action.

Ironically, when we stay “out of the weeds” too long, weeds start to sprout, root, and take hold in our organizations.

Weeds of poor customer service.

Weeds of missed deadlines.

Weeds of a culture not focused on deliverables.

Weeds of excuses and justifying the lack of results.

We may need more balanced advice.

Sometimes get in the weeds and stay close to the action.

Sometimes you need to get your hands dirty. You need to get in the dirt and pluck weeds.

When should you get in the weeds?

When a pattern of customer complaints emerges?

When deadlines are missed?

When more time is spent justifying than solving?

Maybe regularly enough before patterns of complaints and lack of results can take root.

Gardens need regular weeding. Our organizations need regular weeding too.

If you don’t spend time in the weeds, those weeds may be the thing that chokes out your organization. Weeds make us vulnerable to losing market share, customers, and good employees.

Balancing time in the weeds and big picture thinking time will have to be a topic for another day. But for now, if you have been up at 30,000 or 40,000 feet and removed from the action; walk around, get close, and look for weeds. And when you find weeds, get rid of them.

The Autopilot Problem

(Image courtesy of pixabay.com)

Autopilot can be great. As this Wired Article explains, Autopilot and the Flight Management Systems (FMS) are trying to help remove human error and allow for savings (two cockpit crew members instead of three). Autopilot also seems to help with the monotony of flying and helps calculate the most efficient route.

But there is an Autopilot Problem. The more pilots rely on Autopilot, the less they are actually flying. The essential skills needed to react to an emergency may have atrophied when those skills are needed most. Less time spent flying is less time honing and retaining essential skills.

But the Autopilot Problem is not exclusive to flying.

We have lots of things in our lives that run on Autopilot:

Jobs, Relationships, Various Roles, Parenting, Families, and Friendships.

Many parts of our lives, including our roles and interactions with others may be on Autopilot.

Sort of a Life Autopilot.

Sometimes this Life Autopilot is the result of past success or accomplishment and gives us a chance to rest and enjoy our achievements. This Life Autopilot is great when there are clear skies and perfect conditions.

We cannot use Life Autopilot all the time.

By relying on Life Autopilot, we may have lost some of the essential skills needed to survive the next storm.

Have we lost some of our skills in our jobs, relationships, and roles? Has Life Autopilot been on for too long?

Are we still good at being a leader, boss, employee, manager, partner, parent, or friend? Is the workday, the job, our connections and relationships, or our world just moving along without our active and deliberate input? Are our skills, and relationships as sharp as they once were?

Maybe it is time to switch off the Life Autopilot periodically to ensure we can still fly (preferably before the next storm hits).

 

Why I Don’t Like Working With Me (and how it explains why others don’t either)

I notice patterns.

Good patterns, and bad ones.

Recently I noticed a pattern of how often I can frustrate others when we work together.

I noticed a pattern of people around me defaulting to doing things my way, or pausing before taking action to see how I want it done.

I also noticed a pattern of how often I interject how I want things done a certain way when they start to take action.

And there is another pattern.

I noticed a pattern in my solitary projects.

I noticed a pattern of demanding perfection in my own work.

I noticed a pattern of self-criticism for any mistakes.

The other day while running with a close friend we talked about these patterns.

“I’m not trying to create such a high standard for those around me. I want them to be able to do things their way.”

The run continued. The next question exposed the underlying pattern.

“What is it like for You to work with You?”

A brutal pattern.

A pattern of unrealistic demand for perfection with no grace.

I had never considered what it was like for Me to work with Me.

My mind scanned the various projects over the years.

I still see the flaws, the imperfections, and the issues.

I also saw the list of unfinished projects, and those projects never started.

Working with me was so daunting that I stopped various projects and there were others that I could not bring myself to start.

“Maybe you need to learn to be kind to yourself first.”

The last pattern.

The pattern of fooling myself.

The pattern of fooling myself into believing that I could hold myself to a standard of perfections, but I could show kindness, grace, and flexibility to others.

But they saw the pattern.

They saw how I treated myself.

They knew they would be treated the same way.

It was time to be honest.

I don’t like working with me.

I’m too harsh, too demanding, too intolerant of mistakes.

I’m the reason why others are frustrated, defaulting to my way, or not taking action.

Where do I go from here?

I need a new pattern.

A new pattern of being kind to myself.

A new pattern of allowing reasonable standards, grace for mistakes, and progress over perfection.

Isn’t it funny how often we assume the pattern is outside of us?

What is it like for You to work with You?

How could a little self-kindness change your patterns?

P.S. Thanks for your patience in this long blog post drought. I’m working on a new website, but working with me as been rough and getting in the way of making progress. More details soon, but thank you again for reading and sharing these posts.

 

 

Comparison, tribes, and the right standard

We are born into small tribes. Each tribe has its own rules, and its own standards. These standards shape the tribe, and set expectations of the members. These standards aren’t usually written down, but they shape who we are and who we become.

Tribes like it when we follow the standards. When we don’t follow, we are compared to those standards and found lacking. When we try to follow new, different, or better standards, the tribe reacts harshly by enforcing the old standards. The comparison continues, we feel “less than” and out-of-place.

But our original tribe is not the only tribe we have. We find and join other tribes as we progress through life and we develop relationships along the way. But these new tribes have standards as well.

The tribe comparison continues and there are more and more standards to be measured against.

But many times we are different. We don’t seem to fit exactly within the tribes, both the original one, and the new ones. We used to fit in the tribe, but something happens when we start to grow, make progress or improve. We start to move beyond the standards of the old tribe, and many tribes feel progress as a threat and they enforce the old standard.

Sometimes the standard enforcement comes as questions. But they are not really questions, they are an attempt to enforce the standards of the Tribe.

“Why are you different?”

“Who do you think you are?”

“Do you think you are better than us?”

“Why are you eating (or not eating) that?”

“Why are you not drinking?”

“Why are you considering college?”

“Why are you asking so many questions?”

“Why are you setting those goals?”

“Why aren’t you just happy with what you have?”

“Why would you go back to school?”

Your improvement can be seen a judgement or enforcing a standard on them, and that makes the tribe very insecure.

These tribes and standards also develop in our workplaces. There are standards to meet, and new-comers are expected to keep their head down, and follow along. Any lack of conformity is met with the standard tribe messaging.

“This is the way we have always done it.”

“We have tried that before.”

“Those new ideas won’t go anywhere.”

“Don’t make waves.”

But in our workplaces, we still want to achieve, to grow, and develop so we try new and creative approaches. That is when the tribe may go on the offensive to shut us down. Again our efforts invoke tribe insecurity.

“He is always changing things, it wastes our time.”

“She spends so much time on how it looks, it makes our stuff look bad.”

“He should just focus on his job, and stay in his lane.”

“She is an annoying perfectionist overachiever.”*

*Note: This was actually said yesterday in a meeting. Tribe insecurity and enforcement of standards is real and can be raw in its application and cause ripple effects in our organizations and cause harm to our most talented people. If you listen, you can hear the tribe standards being applied in meetings and conversations designed to shame and quell initiative and achievement.

(Take a minute and let that last one sink in. Imagine that you were in a group meeting in your organization, and just before you shared with the group, those words were used against you. How do you feel? How is your motivation? How is your creativity? How is your connection to the organization?)

It makes sense that the original tribe might act this way, but even these new tribes don’t like rebels. So the tribes begin to compare us to the standard, and we compare ourselves to that standard.

When we compare ourselves or others compare us to some standard that we are not meeting, we may assume there is something wrong with us, and we try harder to fit in.

But what if the tribe standard is wrong?

Tribes do not like it when you question the standard.

So the comparison against the tribe’s standard continues.

We feel like we are wrong-sized, that we don’t fit, and maybe there is something wrong with us.

But maybe the tribe we were born into, or the tribes we find ourselves in as just simply the wrong tribes for us. Maybe we are not the problem.

We need to find the tribes, filled with people who are more consistent with where we are and where we are going.

Too healthy? Not for the healthy tribes.

Too intellectual? Not for the intellectual tribes.

Too strong? Not for the strong tribes.

Too creative? Not for the creative tribes.

Too driven? Not for the driven tribes.

Too emotional? Not for the emotional tribes.

Maybe comparing ourselves to lessor things, lessor tribe standards, is what makes us feel inadequate or wrong-sized.

Maybe we are not wrong.

Maybe when we find the right tribes, we find the right standards and we can just be ourselves.