(You Can) Make the Problem Go Away!
(You Can) Make the Problem Go Away!
Managing a day has become an art form, right? Distractions are everywhere, rhythm hard to obtain, fire drills abound. Amidst the chaos, we slip down the hole believing that ineptitude rules and we’re on an island. Why is everyone around me so F&$#ING incompetent?
But of course we know that everyone IS competent. We are surrounded by very capable individuals who are very bright and strategic. So why is our workplace so dysfunctional some times - especially after we've put so much energy into creating operational efficiencies? Why does it feel like we are working hard, yet we're not getting commensurate results?
Everyone knows how we got here: we compete in a very intense industry segment where stakes are high, competition fierce, and time is limited. It’s ‘win fast or fail fast and go home’. Even though we know of the risks and downsides of entrepreneurism, it’s the ‘fail fast’ that intimidates and scares us. We say we’re comfortable with the chaos, but are we really? We march on hoping work will get better, or, our company will exit, or, our stock will hit a price milestone and then, presto, we’re redeemed! Good luck with all that…meanwhile, Rome burns.
Well, I feel your pain. In previous lives when I was building, scaling, and managing sales operations, I felt these frustrations a lot. Many times I felt I was working really hard yet not progressing as much as I needed given my output. In recent years I have studied this problem a lot - for myself and on behalf of my clients - and that's what we're examining with this article. To be specific, we’re talking about being more connected with work. We’re talking about engaging deeper with the individuals who do the work! We're talking about being able to concentrate more and driving more productivity. We’re talking about maximizing our value because we’re more able to focus on challenges and thus, more able to solve problems. And finally, we’re talking about contributing positive attitudes in all we do, for all around us.
Perhaps some answers and help can be found from an article – and perspective - by Sherry Turkle, Professor in the Science, Technology and Society program at M.I.T. In “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.” Ms. Turkle writes, “Studies of conversation both in the laboratory and in natural settings show that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone on a table between them or in the periphery of their vision changes both what they talk about and the degree of connection they feel. People keep the conversation on topics where they won’t mind being interrupted. They don’t feel as invested in each other. Even a silent phone disconnects us.”
Of course I’m not arguing that the mobile device is the root of all business dysfunction, but I do think it’s time we have an adult conversation on why communication, productivity, and morale are all rating poorly more often than not of late. This, at least, is what I'm picking up in my business travels; workers at all levels are burned out and frustrated. People are having less and less fun at work. And before some of you smart alecks reply that ‘work is not intended to be fun’, I’ll beg to differ and suggest that work at least needs to be fulfilling, and because of that, it can be fun. But we’re not even close right now.
Further in the article, I read these words that hit me like a ton of bricks:
“Across generations, technology is implicated in this assault on empathy. We’ve gotten used to being connected all the time, but we have found ways around conversation.”
Whoa. We're not empathic any more? Managers and leaders are not digging in and providing enough support? Why is this? Is it because of the pace of our business? Is it because we're merely just trying to cross the finish line toward an exit?
It doesn’t really matter what the answer is. If we don’t immediately address how communication dysfunction creeps into our workplace, we’ll continue to see smart, honest, hard-working individuals get frustrated and burn out of our companies.
So, what do we do?
First, read the article. Again, it’s linked here.
Next, empower yourself to manage your technology so that it does not hinder your communication abilities. Be more aware of how you can create better and more effective communication in your world. Know the difference between being better at communication, and being better at texting.
Finally, address this issue with the influencers in your company. Show them the article by Ms. Turkle and talk about what’s going on in your organization. (To take it further, you can read the book from which the article is excerpted…better yet, start a book club in your org to discuss her perspective.) Also, address the issue individually when you see it: when you spot a friend in your organization who is struggling, show the article to him/her and perhaps enlightenment can occur one person at a time.
Those familiar with my writings and philosophies know I am a huge proponent for clean, clear direct communication techniques that help drive business progress and goal-achievement. And because so much of what I do centers on helping managers and leaders perform better, it’s time we all formally address this issue because responsibility lies on our shoulders. There's a lot you can do on your end to help yourself and your organization, but if you feel there's a need for an outside perspective, I'd be happy to help.
Personally, I love the Chick-Fil-A commercials urging us to "Eat Mor Chikin"...ripping a page out of that book, we can simply summarize our challenge here: "Have Deeper Conversations!"
Read the article! Think about it! Be the change! Have deeper conversations!
Just because I respect Ms. Turkle's perspective, here's one final excerpt from the NYT article in her words:
“One start toward reclaiming conversation is to reclaim solitude. Some of the most crucial conversations you will ever have will be with yourself. Slow down sufficiently to make this possible. And make a practice of doing one thing at a time. Think of unitasking as the next big thing. In every domain of life, it will increase performance and decrease stress.
But doing one thing at a time is hard, because it means asserting ourselves over what technology makes easy and what feels productive in the short term. Multitasking comes with its own high, but when we chase after this feeling, we pursue an illusion. Conversation is a human way to practice unitasking.”
Congrats on Starting Your 2016 Sales Plan (Let's now get it done.)
As you’ll recall from the September issue, there are six prescriptive guidelines that will help you write a good, solid sales plan for next year. Each guideline is summarized below with commentary on where you should be against each of these steps at this point in the calendar.
The goal is to have a finished product that you can confidently present to your superiors by mid-November. Good luck.