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Trust the wisdom that comes

June 30, 2010

This morning I rode my bike to work for the first time in about a week. Soccer schedules and grad dinners and ceremonies kept getting in the way, and so I road the bus for a few days.

Yesterday, on the bus ride to work, I found myself filled with all kinds of sadness and worry – a lousy way to start the day. When I stepped off the bus at the office, I knew exactly what I was missing and why I felt so ill prepared for my work day. I needed movement. I needed fresh air. I needed to pedal my concerns away and spend a half hour in meditative motion before tackling the things that were stressing me out.

This morning, I cycled, and it was good – very good.

I started out this morning feeling stressed out, worried about the annual performance reviews I have to do with my staff this week. It’s no secret that I detest the annual cycle of filling out performance reviews, meeting with each of my staff, going over the same things year after year, and then seeing no significant changes in the staff or in my relationships with them. I’d spent most of yesterday afternoon wrestling with the template and forms I was supposed to use, and I’d finally gone home in defeat. This morning at 8:30 sharp was my first meeting, and I was seriously ill-prepared because I hadn’t gotten my paperwork done.

As I cycled, I tried to give myself the annual pep talk. “Just get through it. Do the stuff you need to do, have the dreaded talk, submit the forms to the HR files, and move on. You can do it! Just like last year and the thirteen years you’ve been a manager before that!”

But despite the pep talk. I was miserable. This wasn’t working. Nobody was gaining anything from this. WHY did I have to “just get through it”?

And then I heard a little voice that sounded a lot like my very own wisdom… “It’s not working, so don’t do it. Scrap the old way. Ignore the HR rules. Do it YOUR way. Make it work for you and your staff.”

What? Do it MY way? Surely this was foolishness! How could I ignore the “right” way to do things? And what could I put in its place?

“Just have a conversation,” wisdom whispered. “Just admit to your staff that you don’t trust the old way of doing things and let them set the tone. Just ask them how things are going and how they’d like to see things go and see what happens when you leave an open space for them to speak.”

It felt like a cop-out – a lazy way out. Just a conversation? No forms, no templates, no agonizing over a prescribed process? Buck the system? Ignore the “right” way to do it?

But… because I’m working harder and harder at trusting the wisdom voice when it pops up, I decided to go for it. At 8:30 this morning, I began the first new version of the “annual conversation” with one of my staff. “The old way’s not working,” I began. “I have very little to say, and no form filled out. I just want to know how you’re doing, how you feel the year has gone, what some of your hopes are for next year, and how I can help you get to where you need to go.”

And then we talked. And talked some more. It was open, it was relaxed – it was truly one of the best conversations I’ve had with this employee in six years. We wrestled with some things, I did some deep listening when he admitted some of his hurts and struggles, I admitted where I could have managed things better, I coached him to see some new paths for some tough relationships, and we never once wrote anything down on a form. It was brilliant, easy, and constructive.

What did I learn today?

  1. Move! When your body moves, your mind clears and things click into place the way they should. Wisdom likes to show up in an active, engaged body.
  2. Trust the wisdom that comes from your own experience and your own truth. Don’t let the negative voices over-rule it. (For a truly inspiring post on this, visit Julie Daley.)
  3. If you need to, overthrow the “rules” and the “right way to do things” and replace it with the way that works for you. In the long run, everyone wins.
  4. Just because something feels too easy or downright lazy doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do! Sometimes the best results come from the easiest solutions.
  5. Listen. Don’t fill all the silences with your own words. Just listen deeply and wait for what needs to emerge.

p.s. This is the kind of thing I’ll be writing more of when I launch my new big idea… SOPHIA LEADERSHIP! Watch for it at the end of the summer.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2010 1:20 pm

    You know, you mentioned thinking that the thing you tried (that sailed so beautifully) was, maybe “a cop-out – a lazy way out” – and yet a LOT of folks would call that the HARD way — the way without templates or forms to guide your every step…funny…

    What a lovely example of trusting our inner wisdom – and opening ourselves to new stuff (without knowing how it’ll turn out) — I’m so glad you shared this!!

  2. June 30, 2010 2:06 pm

    i loved that part too: the easy way, the lazy way.
    i really need to start living the Less is More route a bit more myself. thanks for pointing that out. i’m going to be loking back at those 5 things fr a while i think.

    great post heather
    (sorry i’ve been so absent as of late… catching up!)

  3. June 30, 2010 2:07 pm

    I love the list of things at the end, especially #5. I was stuck about what to do next with a coaching client a few weeks ago. Sticking to the agenda we’d mapped out didn’t seem to be the right thing to do. I also heard that voice urging me to try asking her what she needed and fully hearing her answer. Humm, simple and effective! Love when we ditch what we thing we should do for what really needs to happen. Thanks for a great post.

  4. June 30, 2010 11:20 pm

    I’ve always been on the other side of the evaluation process – oh, what a welcome relief it would have been to have a manager approach my evaluation this way. Good for you!

    My body had been screaming for movement and I started yoga. My creativity has flourished as a result.

  5. July 1, 2010 8:20 am

    YEY! You listened! That is, truly, the hardest part. The more you listen to the inner wisdom, the easier it gets and the better things turn out.

    I am so happy to hear that having a real conversation instead of the “same old, same old” went well. People know when they are being heart and that can make a huge difference.

    This is such an empowering post! You listened, you trusted and it created a shift. WOO HOO!

    (I’m excited for you – can you tell??)

  6. July 4, 2010 3:46 pm

    That is so funny. I do the conversation thing and have always felt kind of guilty because I have no important forms.

    Now I that I have your permission, I no longer need to justify my lack of forms. How nice!

  7. July 6, 2010 10:23 am

    What you did was not lazy. It was the culmination of years of teaching, coaching, mentoring and leading and it worked.

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  1. unabashedly female · The more truth, the more love.

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