Sunday, June 26, 2011
...is a wet baby.' Unk.
Recently, I had occasion to talk about change as our organization prepares to experience a major change in many important processes. The reality is that even people who handle change well have something they don’t want anyone to mess with! It’s true in our organizations, but it’s just as true in our daily lives. And it is a rare person who goes through life able to stay flexible enough to keep trying new things as they go.
In a few days I turn 55 and the list of things I’ll never do does grow. I’ll never play a professional sport – not that such a goal was ever in my future, but it’s certainly not now. I’ll never get to ride on a supersonic jet that crosses the Atlantic Ocean and lands before it left. I don’t expect to reach the top of Mt. Everest. On the other hand, I have another list – the practice of yoga, teaching yoga, competing in national ballroom dance competitions, writing for people to read (this blog and my office’s bi-weekly newsletter to name two examples) – all things I’ve begun since I turned 40. None of these are really surprising as most flow from activities or kinds of activities I’ve done before and there wasn’t much resistance to overcome.
On the other hand, I’ve been sure for most of my life (54 years or so) that I’m not any more able to draw than, at 5”4’, I’m able to slam dunk a basketball. It didn’t matter that my husband, who can draw wonderfully has told me many times that if I would just take a class I could learn to draw. I knew better. Of course, you know the moral of the story. The picture at the top of this is something I’ve drawn. Now, I haven’t turned out to be an amazing prodigy, but who cares, I’m able to draw and I’m enjoying drawing.
There are so many ways our ideas about what we can and can’t do limit our ability to do those activities and many other things besides. One of the ways we can learn to handle change is to practice changing. One of the ways we can practice changing is to try new activities, stretch our ideas about what we can and can’t do, and in doing so, find out we can survive changes.
So what’s on your list of things you can’t do? Some may be realistic – no Olympic bobsledding for me. But some activities on the list may be there because you’re afraid of trying something new, or are unwilling to do something badly, or any other of the many reasons we’re sure that We. Can’t. Do It!
I suggest you actually write down your list of things you’ll never do and look at the list thoughtfully. You may have to admit that serving on the space shuttle may not be in your future. But you may also have to admit that there are items on the list that you just never tried. Try it – maybe you won’t be any good at it and you can say you were right. But maybe, just maybe, the worst will happen and you’ll have to admit your ideas were the only thing stopping you and you’ll actually learn a new skill!
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
There are solutions, but one-size does not fit all circumstances. Each case is individual to the organization, the boss and the person asking the question. Thinking about it brings me back to the portion of the Leadership Dance workshop where I remind people that taking a job or joining and organization does not mean you give up all of your rights and responsibilities. In the Leadership Dance, I remind people that on the dance floor, if a leader isn't paying attention and tries to lead the follower into a move that is too difficult or potentially harmful to anyone on the dance floor, the follower is under no obligation to follow. The same is true in an organization.
Yes, every job I've ever known of has parts that we'd rather not do and rules we have to follow that seemed specifically designed to stop our creative impulses. In every job I've ever had, there have been moments when I was asked to do something I thought was headed in the wrong direction. But I've also understood that when people 'sit' in a different part of the organizational chart than I do, they often have a different picture of what the best solution might be, they are often more aware of important issues than I am, and much as I've hated to admit it at times, they have often made better decisions than I would have. And yet, there are lines that have to be drawn. We don't give up our own responsibility for our health, safety, values and ethics when we go to work for someone. Sometimes that refusal may mean we have to leave the organization. The more we have invested in an organization or the bigger our personal obligations, the harder it is refuse to follow the lead, but that doesn't relieve us of our responsibilities for ethical action.
Thus the answer to that difficult question is that each of us has to make a personal determination about the benefits and challenges of our individual work situation. What can we change? What conversations can we have with our supervisor? What do we love about the job that outweighs the challenges? When it is so bad that it is time to look for another position, as difficult as that may be? Questions in answer to a question - frustrating I know. While a friend or mentor or colleague may be able to help us analyze the situation, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, there is only one person who can give the ultimate answer to the question - the person who asked it has the answer all along.