Issue #124, August 30 2023
Welcome to Insights and Implications!
Last month, we told the story of Kate: a highly productive and driven non-profit leader who was leaving a trail of upset employees in the wake of her quest for speed and perfection. You can find that story here: https://insightprinciples.com/newsletter/impatient-execution/
This month, we’d like to share a bit more detail about Kate’s insight and how she is keeping herself accountable.
Wishing you happy reading,
All of us at Insight Principles
Executing Execution Part 2: Feelings as a Guide
Through interviews with Kate’s employees, we discovered that she would get impatient and snappy when her people raised problems or issues. Her general tone was: “Why is it taking so long to fix this? Why can’t you just figure it out?” And her impatience had an impact: employees often left meetings feeling disrespected, confused, and discouraged. During our coaching meetings, Kate and I reflected on why she wanted to keep moving forward at any cost. Finally, I asked if she’d ever faced a life problem.
“Of course,” she said.
“And when you’ve got something that you can’t figure out,” I asked, “does it help when you’re stressed or fearful? Or does your mind generate better solutions when you’re more relaxed?”
Kate paused. “I’m not sure I’ve ever fixed anything when I was scared,” she said. “I mean, I have problems, but it’s weird – it seems like I get ideas out of nowhere when I’m not actually even thinking about my problems. Like, lots of stuff hits me when I’m walking my dog.”
Bingo. The mind gives us an endless flow of insight and ideas that arise when we’re not stuck on particular content or clogging our systems with rumination. When our minds are relaxed and flowing, solutions often just show up.
After more discussion, Kate realized that her impatience with her employees was filling their minds with worry, which was slowing down the problem solving process. “You’re telling me they get scared when I get frustrated? And when they get scared they’re even less likely to bring good ideas to the table?”
“Yes,” I said. “That’s exactly what’s happening.”
Kate recognized the truth of this phenomenon so deeply that it stopped making sense to do anything that might block the flow of ideas in her employees. As she discovered, fearful environments are incredibly inefficient.
I recommended that Kate pay attention to her feeling state the next time someone brought up an issue. If she found herself impatient or urgent, it just meant that her speedy, impatient thinking was taking over. Instead of leaning in, she could use these feelings as a warning light. And Kate came up with her own idea: she’d let her employees know about her insight, apologize for her past impatience, and ask for their support while she tried to turn things around. Her office now boasts a stuffed toy (named the Patience Puppy…an ode to her dog walks) as a reminder to stay grounded. And she asked one of her most trusted colleagues to alert her to any tone creep or urgency.
It’s working. The organization is having its best season yet. Employees are less scared. They’re working together and solving problems quickly and they’re more willing to ask Kate for help. And as Kate works to create a more efficient problem-solving environment, she’s been surprised by the personal benefit. “I had no idea how fast I was revving,” she says. “It just feels better to work from a different perspective.”
Sometimes, insights pay themselves forward. We wish the same for all of you.