We’re really good at suffering. It makes us feel productive and capable. I’m not talking about the heart-wrenching type of suffering that everyone can recognise. I’m talking about the daily suffering that we volunteer for because it makes us feel like we’re achieving something when we solve it – that allows us to feel intelligent when we make a plan.
The little things about our work or routine that we roll our eyes at because, every time a coconut, the same issue comes up. The ways we’ve been asked to produce work by someone else that is not only taking up considerably more time than it should, but that we’re pretty sure could be simpler. The new programs we’ve been asked to use for certain projects that slow us down and snag us up, and that we’d really rather not deal with. That report we write every month that no one ever returns a read-receipt on and we’re pretty sure no one needs, but it’s part of our job description.
And then there are the things that frustrate us about how other people do their work, especially in conjunction with ours. They take the information we deliver and rehash it. They deliver us information half-formed, or in the wrong order, causing us to spend time on unnecessary processes that could be saved if they’d just do it differently. There are those issues that continue to rear their heads that seem important to someone, but no one else. Excuses that are used time and time again when expectations aren’t met that point fingers at inconsistencies in processes, and in the way other people deliver themselves as teammates.
Which of us has energy for these things at the moment, when energy itself is depleted and scarce?
The answer is that none of us do.
None of us is doing ourselves any favours at any stage by allowing this kind of suffering to continue. Least of all now, a year into a global pandemic, when we really need every ounce of our energy to deal with the constant reconfigurations of what-comes-next.
I mentioned in the first place that we volunteer for this kind of suffering and energy expense. We do so predominantly because we don’t have the conversations we should be having. We’d rather struggle through a new process than ask for help from someone who’s mastered it. We’d rather roll our eyes at what’s required than involve ourselves in a conversation that seeks deeper understanding and allows us to volunteer our own insight. It’s easier to feel self-assertive about struggling as opposed to asking for help or broadening our understanding. Ironically, it makes many of us feel more intelligent to struggle through and figure it out slowly than ask someone else to point us in a straight line.
The problem is that when we start to wear thin as many are doing at this stage of the game; as our energy starts to become depleted in ways we’re struggling (again) to resolve, we default to our most human setting which is…..to try harder. Or worse, to sit in frustration and irritability without gaining full understanding.
Steven Covey, author of “7 Habits of Highly Successful People” described our individual perspectives (the way we each see the world) as paradigms, or maps in our heads that we navigate the world by. He pointed out that, if you were trying to reach a certain place in central Chicago, but you’d mistakenly been given a map of Detroit, that it wouldn’t matter how hard you tried to get there, you’d never arrive at your destination. You could study that map until you were blue in the face and apply all the effort you liked, but you’d never achieve your goal.
Often, many of the processes, routines, habits and ways of delivering information that we’ve held for many years are now out-dated or flawed in some way. Sometimes these affect the speed and effectiveness of our work. Sometimes these out-dated perspectives affect the speed and effectiveness of our relationships.
Right now, we’re being handed a unique gift because of the energy drain that’s happened for each of us over the past year. Firstly, we’ve been given a good close look at what’s important to us, and the opportunity to choose what we will and won’t create space for in our lives. Secondly, the things that aren’t currently working for us are that much more obvious than they would normally be because our fuses are a little shorter.
The only way that any of us improve our perspective when something isn’t working for us is to discuss a greater perspective with the other people involved or around us. What do I mean by that?
Each of us has a unique perspective formed by our upbringing, life experiences, viewpoints, beliefs, and all the intricacies we notice and know about what it is we personally do. That’s what makes each of our perspectives uniquely valuable to a team…. Our perspective is only valuable if we share it though, and we can also only check and grow that perspective by listening to others share their own and noticing how it differs from ours.
Often, when we’re struggling with something during our day, it may be that we’re holding the wrong map in our hands like Covey’s example. No matter how hard we try, it would be simpler to ask someone familiar with the surroundings for directions. Any time you’re part of a team, be that at home, within your community, or at work – you have the benefit of being surrounded by others whose perspectives are slightly different to yours. These perspectives, when combined, can form a fuller picture of any scenario and help everyone involved to draw a clearer and more concise map with which to move forward.
None of us have the energy right now for going round in square circles. For struggling through things that someone else knows an easier way to do. We don’t have the energy for duplicating work, or for incomplete information. So many of our solutions and broader understanding are only one conversation away, if we’re prepared to ask others to weigh in on what a fuller picture might look like. Often, a simpler solution is only a few questions away and all we had to do was discuss it or ask for it.
Now is the time for honing processes. For re-examining what isn’t working as smoothly as it should be. Now is the time to ask for clarity and find ways to ensure that clarity is maintained so that we can back each other’s need for minimising complications. Now is the time for simplifying so that we’re using the least amount of energy towards the greatest result possible. Simplifying means asking for more. More input. More viewpoints. A greater understanding of the full picture and how all the moving parts work together. More clarity. More definition. So that we can ensure we identify and plug the energy leaks that snag us up and take us time.
When we ask for more of these things, we can help each other clear away the unnecessary, and refine our routines, actions, processes, information exchange etc down to a much finer art. When we do away with unwanted energy leaks in this way, we can all go faster and in a straighter line.
Self-management doesn’t need to struggle to feel productive. Self-management requires that we ask for help and ask for fuller perspective so that we can find the simplest way forward for ourselves and for the others we influence and who influence us.
Where could you use some help to become more proficient? What part of your process isn’t working for you? Is there work that you or someone else is duplicating, or that contains information that isn’t useful to anyone which could be replaced with other information? Where are your frustration buttons being pushed at the moment, and what conversation can you have to find a better way, or understand more fully? Which process could be simplified by sitting down with someone from each part of the team to discuss their needs? Where can you be more effective than busy?
by Christen Killick
February 22nd, 2021