Being versus Thinking At work
How do you take in the world around you? We have two main modes of making sense of what is happening around us, our senses and our thoughts. These are often used together, so it can be difficult to separate the two, yet there is value in understanding the habitual ways you interface with life and which of these two modes is influencing your experience.
Take your senses, they give you a lot of rich information. As an example, when you first arrive at work you may be able to hear others arriving, saying “hello” to each other or the sounds of people putting their bags down, taking off jackets (zippp). You may be able to smell someone’s coffee. Maybe someone grabbed a fresh cinnamon bun on their way into work (ummmmm the smell of warm pastry with the unmistakable hit of spice). These are all things you take in with your senses and it can be relaxing to sink into a sensory mode, enjoying the tableau this has to offer. No thought or thinking, a present and natural way to take in the living “art” around you at work.
And then your phone rings, breaking you out of the “moment” and into thinking. You wonder “Who is calling? Is it urgent?” The lingering smell of cinnamon reminds you that you are getting hungry. You consider getting something to eat and then remember you have a meeting in 10 minutes so there is no time …oh and you had better go over that information you were sent yesterday prior to heading into the meeting. You wonder if your colleague is in yet, because you have a few questions for her and want to squeeze that in before you go (it’s the only time you’ll catch her today).
Feel the difference? Of course, we cannot stay in the sensory world all the time, especially at work. Yet it is this world we lose touch with so quickly in our lives. Seasons change and you barely notice the show nature is putting on outside. Lists, “to do’s”, things need to be planned and done, and considered and discussed…we are each accountable for a lot in our lives; work, family, home. So, which of these modes gets priority in your life? How would it benefit your work and career to be more in the moment for yourself and others?
I have a friend who is wonderful at weaving these two modes together. When you see him, he’ll get you excited about the food he can smell being prepared in the cafeteria, begin a guessing game to see what favourite they are making for lunch. He does this in a genuine and authentic way that I now see is his way of inviting his sensory experiences deeper into his life. Working with him is a breath of fresh air. None of this gets in the way of professional connection, or the work we share. It is all wrapped up in a beautiful example of someone who is able to balance these two modes …and it just feels good.
What does more balance between sensory and thinking modes have to offer your well-being at work? Take a moment. Take a few moments and see if there are opportunities for you to invite more of the richness your senses have to offer you into your day – you may be surprised by the impact the sensory mode has on your productivity and well-being.
“We don’t distinguish sensory objects from the things we think about, and this obscures our experience of the richness and natural beauty of the sensory world. – Andy Karr
Managing Up: Trust & Influence
Establishing mutual respect, and from there, nurturing trust, requires a commitment to doing things that may not feel comfortable, and may need a lot of emotional energy to carry through. However, the outcomes include being able to incrementally, build trust and mutual respect with your boss so that when the time comes, you can present an out-of-the-box idea, or a contrasting point of view, and be heard. This is where all your hard work pays off.
Influence. A simple word that is also the holy grail of healthy working relationships everywhere. The ability to get others to think in new and different ways, consider innovative options, or just to listen to you, is not only highly productive for your work, it supports well-being. There is an “entrance condition” for influence, and that is trust. You may not like someone personally, but that doesn’t exclude you from being able to trust him/her in the work they do. Ever worked with someone whose communication style rubbed you the wrong way, but whom you also knew would absolutely hit their deadline? Trust doesn’t always come dressed in friendship, or even likeability. It comes from being consistent, communicative and clear. What this means is you and your boss may not socialize with each other at the next staff bar-b-que, but together you can still be highly effective because you’ve both invested in the work you do for the organization and each other.
Influence requires trust, because before your boss can stick her/his neck out for you, he/she has to know that you are both aligned on what is important and meaningful in the work you do. This requires you to know what your bosses’ priorities are, and not only the strategic or operational items, but also the way your boss likes to receive information. Often, we communicate based on how we would like to be communicated to, not how we would like to be received by the listener. Being able to understand how your boss likes to be communicated with is a highly effective way to continually build trust, and influence. Does your boss like facts? Start there. Does he need to know about planning or progress? Use it. Is she more concerned about how the work impacts others? Tell her. Is your boss intrigued by new ideas and novel approaches to solving problems? Bring it. All of these things will be important, but start with what is most important to your boss. Figuring that out, and using this information in a helpful way, can make the work you do more effective. This is not always an easy move, but if you spend time listening to the questions your boss asks, and how she/he communicates with your team, you’ll start to see a pattern emerging that can help you to re-orient your communication to better meet his/her needs. You can also just ask how she/he prefers to receive information – a reasonable request that shows you are invested in your relationship at work.
Managing up doesn’t mean sacrificing your needs, if you feel your boss is being unethical (in word or deed), or is not upholding the values and principles of the organization, then you have an important decision to make. You will not always be a good fit with your boss, but if there is absolutely nothing upon which to build a relationship that includes mutual respect, then consider what actions you could take (which may include speaking with your bosses’ boss, or looking for a different role).
Managing up should always be about building and maintaining healthy relationships that are mutually satisfying and empower both parties to be more effective in their roles. This will require you to practice emotional management (whether you like, or dislike, your boss) and have the hard conversations necessary to course-correct or re-align with each other (remember, your boss will be doing this too). It also requires self-compassion. As you learn, be gentle with yourself, mistakes are a part of the learning process. Know that even the journey towards mastering the skill of managing up can lead to increased working life well-being.
"Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing."