Friday, June 17, 2011

You Have To Admit when You're Awful on the Way To Being Great

My niece Caitlin once told me, "If we can't laugh at ourselves, we're going to miss a lot of laughs in life."

I love that quote.

To that end, our company Business Manager and I were talking through a long list of "to do's" to help our company grow.  As I droned on describing task after task I wanted to accomplish, Jen melted slowly into her chair.  At some point, she stopped taking notes and started simply nodding after I finished relaying a goal and due date.  When I completed the list, I asked, "Where do you want to start?"

Jen said, "Let's talk about the easy stuff."

I replied, "What easy stuff?"

Jen said, "I don't know. What about getting the printer working at your house?"

I asked, "Are you overwhelmed?"

She said, "Kind of."

I burst out laughing (probably to keep from crying). Then I said, "I guess we need to spend some time acting on some of the advice we give." 

She smiled and laughed as well.  We both know you have to be able to walk the talk to help others.

So we both admitted our resolve to achieve greatness was lacking that morning. In fact,  it was more than lacking. Our resolve was downright weak.  We had a bad morning for the company but had a few laughs in the afternoon.  Luckily, neither one of us will allow bad mornings to stretch into bad days.  Our relationship and commitment to our purpose is strong enough to make difficult corrections quickly and laugh at ourselves as well.  So the lessons I observed again are:

1)  When overwhelmed, people tend to gravitate to what is easy, not necessarily what is critical.  This is a coping mechanism that allows people to do work, accomplish tasks, and make them feel good about themselves.  Leaders and Managers need to align the team about priorities to ensure constant progress.

2)  You need to have great relationships to recover from normal reactions to have a great team.  No one wants to admit they are overwhelmed - most people get very defensive if their fears and doubts are brought into the open by a question like "what's wrong?".  You need strong relationships to have honest conversations.  You need honest conversations to get rapid progress.

3) It's easy to feel good about being average.  If you're busy it feels like progress.  Being busy and being effective can be very different.

4)  Sometimes you have to say, we were awful this morning, then laugh and enjoy being human, in order to correct the situation in the afternoon.

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