Imagine a hotel lobby full of guests eager to return home, yet unfamiliar with harsh winter weather. There are two results for those individuals:
- Panic. Looming deadlines and meetings that await them at the office the following day.
- Excitement. Giddy at the thought of massive amounts of snow and powder turns that await.
While there may not be an actual blizzard in your workplace, we’re all too familiar with what “dangerous conditions” can look like at work and how everyone reacts differently to those "conditions". These questions may as well be, “why isn’t my teammate as worried as I am about…”:
The newcomer on the team? The new office configuration? The increased reporting expectations of our executive team? The increased sales quota in a shrinking market? The obvious tension whenever our team tries to discuss next steps on our project?
What is the secret of the teammates who handle change and “dangerous conditions” with apparent ease? While there may be dozens of explanations, it is likely that these teammates utilize the five following approaches in their work. With practice, any individual can do the same.
5 Practices to Approach Change & Challenges with Ease
1. Self Awareness and Shared Awareness
Most of us know our pet peeves, those behaviors or actions of others that cause us to “snap”. List them out and ask your team to do the same. You may love your pen, and absolutely churn inside when someone on your team borrows it, even with asking. Keeping that a secret isn’t helping anyone. Being aware of what makes you tick is essential to not letting your reactions control you.
2. Centering Practice
When your teammate does take your pen, take a breath, find balance in your body, count to three or go for a walk. Whatever you choose to do, having a strategy for disengaging the reactive part of your brain is crucial. Who knows, when you get creative about it, you may just have more fun with creating a solution (like buying him a pen and tying it by string to a giant wrench, so he feels like he is at a filling station restroom).
3. Open Mindset and Focus
Approaching blizzard warnings with the mindset of “I can only control my actions and reactions” is a great reminder that the environment around you will often change without any input from you. If you dedicate your energy to a healthy response, then any environmental change will almost certainly lead to growth. Focus on how you respond in a way that will help our team and contribute to the fulfillment of the organizations mission and experience enjoy increased productivity.
4. Assess and Adapt
Once you have read the warning, looked at the timing of the storm (and factored in that it could be off completely), assess the actions you can take, the risk associated with those actions, and the real (not perceived) outcome of not taking those actions. Your adaptations to schedule and behavior should reflect the reality that most people (even the harshest critics) can understand the value of life. No meeting is worth your life, but perhaps you can video conference in and hunker down for the storm. In the workplace, that means pushing off the conversation about the product for 15 minutes to give your team enough time to check in, and get a sense of the pulse of the group. Perhaps in that 15 minutes, a team member vents a frustration about the product that leads to great changes and a better result.
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” - Stephen Hawking
When you go to great lengths to hustle out of the hotel, get the car packed and get on the road, only to discover that 5 miles down, it is closed, and you have to turn back to the hotel anyway, what do you do? I hope you laugh. Sometimes, despite our best intentions and greatest effort at work, things don’t work out the way we envision them. Find the humor in it. Especially as a team, help one another laugh, the good ole belly laugh that has you wondering why you ever tried the other way in the first place.
When you're done laughing, go back and practice the first four strategies.
Trust won’t grow without effort and time. Psychological Safety is necessary for a team to be its most productive. Look into ways to develop trust in your team, but be cautious of the games and activities that simply further alienate outliers or introverts, while lifting up further the alpha members of your team.
As you reflect on these strategies and tools, ask yourself what the storm warning report of your team would be if it was written as a forecast for the next 7 days? Then, ask yourself how you could apply the tools and strategies above to ensure that you don’t turn the "Blizzard at Work" into the life threatening situation it could be.