My client’s issues often come in waves. This past month it seems to be the fear of public speaking. I find this to be interesting because it makes me wonder what we really fear. And why is this dread so severe that it continues to out rank death as our greatest terror.
This morning, I took a beach walk. The high tide from the night before had ebbed to a fresh palette of sand and the only creatures on the beach were a few birds and a distance dog walker. Still in a bit of a slumber, I heard a noise, looked up, and saw the white spout of a whale as its dark back surfaced from beneath the water. I reacted as I always do when glimpsing the majestic mammal, with a spike of adrenaline and an audible sigh. My physiology changed in a breath.
This week, I wanted to write something uplifting. After all it’s spring, most of us our celebrating some form of Easter or Passover, and in Southern California we have had a break in the rain. Yet, although I try to focus on the positive, I find myself vibrating with a new kind of fear. As I make my way through my days, I am afraid to look at the news that regularly pings on my cell phone– and I’m afraid not to.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. -Albert Einstein
Many years ago, I remember my daughter coming home from kindergarten. In her backpack, there was a yellow sheet that gave the instructions for a fire drill. The note asked parents to talk to their children and make sure they knew the appropriate course of action. I turned toward my daughter as we sat down to lunch and asked what she would do if a fire broke out in her classroom. Without hesitation, she remarked, “I would stop and wait for the voice in my head to tell me what to do.”
What I often hear in coaching sessions with clients is “I didn’t say anything.” They had the answer, they knew it was right, or they knew the decision being made was wrong, but they didn’t speak up. They decided to keep important and sometimes vital information to themselves to support the group norm, to be “liked”, or to not be seen as adversarial.
What I tell my clients is simple. You have a responsibility as a corporate citizen to speak up. In most cases, you were not hired to be liked, or to be complacent. You were hired because you are smart, you have a point of view, and you have an obligation to help your company be a better organization. Your voice is important.
At the end of the day you may not be heard, or you may be wrong, but without your voice nobody will know what could have been. If you want things to be better, show up and say something. Don’t let fear, or self-doubt diminish your contribution.
Yesterday, I was reminded of something I try to remember. Sweltering in the heat of the day, and after many hours of working, I became irritated about something quite petty and was short with somebody that was simply trying to assist my request.
When we put in too many hours in an attempt to “get it all done” we are destined to hit a point of diminishing returns. We try to keep doing or giving, but the expenditure of energy costs more than it earns. The quality of our work and interactions with others is compromised. Instead of our efforts having a good impact on the world around us, they begin to have a negative and sometimes costly one.
This is the time to stop and acknowledge that we have crossed over to the dark side of our efforts. It’s time to get some fresh air, silence our minds, and find a cool place to take a nap. If we wish to have a good impact on the world, we must remember to nurture the spirit within that makes the world good.
One of my favorite work-life strategies is, “If I do nothing, it will hopefully go away.” It’s effective when the stakes are low like obnoxious music coming from a neighbor’s house or an email chain to support somebody’s agenda that I shouldn’t have been on in the first place. When the stakes are low, avoidance helps us not sweat the small stuff. It works.
Yet, like every work-life balance strategy if avoidance is overused we miss out on the opportunity to make something better. When we don’t speak up because we have an opposing point of view, or we tolerate repeated insensitive behaviors because we fear a conflict, we are indeed part of the problem. If we do nothing, it will not go away.
Engaging in difficult discussions is the first step toward progress. It stimulates creative thinking and helps others to gain a deeper understanding of their actions and our interpretations. It’s an opportunity to step in and gain greater understanding. So I leave you today with one simple sentence to get the ball rolling. “I need your help with something…” It’s a great way to collaborate with the person or people that we deem to be the source of our conflict and solicit their assistance to help us resolve it. Things do get better, but most of the time it requires some effort.