Remember Your Roots

I met with a senior leader and she asked how a project I contribute to was progressing. This project is demanding, has high visibility and has become a source of ongoing stress. During our meeting I explained how I felt a partner who plays a pivotal role was creating unnecessary roadblocks. Essentially they had a process to follow that required steps to happen in a certain way for a certain amount of time. Because the project required a compressed timeline and my team has been pressed to meet these objectives, I was frustrated that this partner was throwing up red flags and causing delays.

As I moaned about this to my leader, she told me the following – while it seemed obvious to me that this project deserved special consideration, my partner, whose performance is rated on adherence to defined processes, could only see substantial risk. She further reminded me that some people thrive in environments that are consistent and which require predictability. So while I am not somebody who would be happy in an only-color-in-the-lines job, there are many people who prefer this type of position.

What she didn’t know, is that I used to be one of those people. My first corporate job was in a call center. Process and procedure was my bread and butter. I had to adhere to a single way of answering the phone, transferring the call, researching content, etc. As a matter of fact, my performance review even had a category called Adherence.

After hearing her feedback, I felt sheepish. I had forgotten my roots. Upon consideration, I realized that I had changed as my responsibilities grew and I embraced challenges. This was organic and progressed with stops and starts over a long period of time. Since it was a gradual evolution it was easy to forget how I used to see things. Having lost touch with my old perspective, I was disdainful of people who were still working through (or choosing to keep) habits I had outgrown.

Once I had this epiphany, I reconsidered some people who were annoying me at work. I could now recognize that I was irritated because they were struggling with practices I already mastered. Knowing this, I decided that I was being unfair and definitely ungracious.  These are qualities I don’t want to keep, so now, rather than complain (which always increases negative feelings), I am attempting to teach.  In doing so, I hope to add value for both myself and the person who is willing to learn from my experience.

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