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?
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.