Stop. Just Stop. Be Still… Listen.
During my coaching with clients, I’ve been hearing about situations where bosses/leaders are installing software to monitor people’s work hours, or where leadership is pressing for more and more work. I write about this tonight, not from a place of criticism if you are one of those leaders, but to share another perspective that you might consider. Consider what is happening for you when you take a measure to control another’s action. If you stop, what is the emotion you are working with? Let’s say it is anxiety. When you feel this anxiety, you want to get rid of it. It’s uncomfortable. So, you ‘react’ and do something to get rid of it. In this case, you force people to log in to show they are working. Or, maybe you call them into a lot of meetings, and ask for a lot of reports. For just a while, the anxiety lessens, because you feel better now that you can “know” what people are doing. And then what happens? Here are some possible scenarios.
• You hear people are not happy about this software, they are in fact angry.
• People are shutting down in meetings.
• People are lashing out in meetings, criticizing one another, or in some other form of relationship toxin such as defensiveness, contempt, stonewalling etc.
• Your meetings aren’t producing ideas or results.
• Your productivity actually goes down.
• There is a lack of creativity.
• People get sick and cannot work. They are burned out.
• People cannot focus. There is so much reactivity and so much work in progress that nothing is actually getting accomplished.
• People are rushing through things and quality goes down.
You get the point. The real point here is that you believed you could solve your fear of the company failing by forcing people to prove they are working, and in the end, you actually created the result you most feared. The cycle is vicious. It’s status-quo and it will never produce sustainable change, creativity, innovation or new results. So, what can you do then, am I saying you should just ‘let people work whenever they want to, if they feel like it’?
Let’s go back to the feeling of anxiety. I am going to tell this like a story, making up possible scenarios and reactions. They may or may not be how you deal with your anxiety, but likely there is a similar pattern. Picture you have just heard that you will have to work remotely because of Covid-19. You’ve been watching the news 24/7, the reports of more and more cases, in more and more locations throughout the world, with more and more deaths. The news is getting worse by the day, by the hour and you are beginning to get panicked. A few clients begin to cancel their work with you, others are asking you lots of questions about how they will be impacted. The anxiety has built up to the point of feeling like you are losing control. But you haven’t really stopped and noticed that, most likely. Most likely, you have kept watching the news, maybe you have made many phone calls to other leaders in the company, maybe you have spent days dwelling on the idea that your company is going to go under if you don’t do something. But you didn’t really stop to notice your emotions. They were there.
Stop. Just Stop. Be Still… Listen. Listen to the emotion.
• How do you feel?
• “I feel anxious”.
• Great, now we can unpack this feeling of anxiety and what’s underneath it. Under every emotion is a request, a need, something you want. What is it that you want now?
• “I want people to give their best each day, recognizing the need to bring creative solutions to the table so we can remain a viable company.”
• Okay, great! So, if people brought their best to the company, your anxiety would lessen?
• “Yes, I think I could breathe a little better knowing people really care and will work toward positive outcomes.”
• Beautiful. So, what if you assume people want to give their best, that this is true? What would you do?
The work here is to pay attention to your emotion, to what is happening for you in a moment of a challenge where you begin to react. Burying emotions, hiding emotions or lashing out from emotion is the way to stay stuck in your cycle. Being with the discomfort of the emotion and working with it in a positive way, to get the need or request under it met, is what creates a desired result. It is HOW WE GO THROUGH THE PROCESS OF CHANGE that actually determines our results. You may get a specific ‘result’ in the short term from a reactive place, but it will have other costs and consequences associated with it – and you will not have lasting change. In this situation, you could potentially get the ‘work out of the people’ by forcing them to log in and be monitored, but you likely created a bigger systemic issue and it will permeate in your system for as long as it remains unresolved. Listen to your ‘self’, your body, your emotions – it is there to inform you and help you. And when you do, when you Stop. Be Still. And Listen, you are now in the place of self-awareness and you have a CHOICE in your next response. When you don’t stop and listen, and be present with yourself and emotions, you are not coming from choice – you are reacting from habit, from fear, from anxiety – to get rid of the anxiety.
Listen to your system. Your organizational system. It is there to inform you. The voices in the system have something for you to hear; and you must be listening to hear it. What if you trusted the voices in the system to help you solve and co-create solutions for the dilemma you are facing? What if you trusted the voices of the people doing the work? You see, when you “impose” a change on your system, they feel it being done “to them” (they are victims). Whenever change is imposed on people, rather than co-created with them, this is what happens. Your culture begins to suffer. And your results begin to suffer. When you make your people part of creating a solution, part of the change process, they are now bought in – because they have helped create it!
Hidden Voices. They are the voices in your system that want to help you. They want to bring their creativity, their energy, their passion. They want to speak. They are afraid. They need their jobs. They need to take care of their families. They are afraid to speak the truth to you. They are afraid of consequences. They are afraid, so they comply, they go passive, they go distant, they grumble at home, they grumble to their friends, they cry, they are sad, they are anxious, they are afraid, they don’t want to go under financially. And under all of their emotions, there are also requests. What is their request? They want you to trust them, they want you to believe in them, they want you to ask them for their ideas, they want you to appreciate them, they want you to acknowledge their challenging situation – taking care of children, homeschooling children, sharing office space with a partner, trying to come up with arrangements that work for all, they want you to be fully human with them in this. This is their request.
You see, it’s the same. So, what if, you could make known your request, and they could make known theirs – and together you could move into creating something new and possible to come from this very challenging time in our world? What if we could all do this?
Stop. Just Stop. Be Still… Listen.
Written by the Voice of: Michele Madore
P.S. If you are a leader and you are feeling overwhelmed with the challenges you are facing right now, you might consider getting a coach to help you. We all need coaches at times, including me as a coach! I am a Certified Integral Coach, a leadership coach, and am passionate about my work. I write about Hidden Voices from my own experiences, from my own place of seeing my voice hidden and not expressed in its full authenticity, and from my journey of believing in myself and trusting my voice. I write about Hidden Voices from working with others whose voices are quiet, suppressed, buried, lost, and all the many ways people compromise their truths. The world needs to hear what the Hidden Voices have to say. If you are considering hiring a coach, consider me, and contact me at [email protected]