Have you ever had a day that you come home from work and can’t sleep because your mind is racing about a situation that happened that day? You continue to critique how you handled something and can’t stop brainstorming ALL the different ways you could have handled it better?
This has been happening to me a lot lately.
To be completely honest, this is a daily occurrence for me, for as long as I can remember. I always think that I could have handled something better. I’ve listened to my fair share of TedTalks (This one is really good, actually, about self-reflection) that this is self-reflection, and can be healthy in ways. But I don’t actually believe that. I think that I can genuinely be better.
Last week, as an example, we had a guest speaker at work come to work with all of us on creating a better vision and value system for our agency, and for our sector as a whole. In other words, Headquarters has new managers and they think it is time to see how the individual agencies are working compared to how we think they should.
I wasn’t particularly excited about this exercise because I’ve been through a few of these with every change in leadership at headquarters. They always mean well, but the execution is usually lacking in many ways.
Anyway, was scheduled to take the course last. It was broken up into small groups, and my team was to be the last day for the last shift. So I had plenty of time to hear about what my coworkers thought and what management was thinking. Unfortunately, it was all negative. I heard about the lack of presentation skills of the speaker, I heard about the lack of substance in the actual exercise, and so on.
I allowed myself to have this air of knowing better when I walked into the room for the exercise. I didn’t act badly, or act-out in the traditional sense of the word. However, I didn’t participate in a way that would have actually contributed to the exercise. I half-listened and half-supported the speaker and my team.
Following the exercise, I immediately went to a coworker that had taken the exercise the previous day and blurted out “Well, that was a waste of time.” She laughed and we went on about our work. Then later at lunch, I continued my tirade about how bad the presentation was. I picked at every flaw and at every shortcoming of not only the purpose of the exercise but also the presenting skills of the speaker.
While I felt justified at the moment, because others were voicing the same thing, the moment I left work that day, I felt absolutely disgusted with myself. How could I have become such a bully? I didn’t even allow the speaker the benefit of the doubt that this was probably something that had to be put together in a very short time with a very quick turnaround. It was probably a decree from higher up that didn’t think it through completely but put the entire responsibility on this individual to create results and to be as fair as possible to all the agencies across the country.
Nope. I didn’t even think about these things until I was in bed that evening re-evaluating my entire day and feeling like I wanted to cry at how badly I acted.
Ironically, I am currently in a leadership program for work and am required to do multitudes of interviews with current managers, book reviews on team building and management, as well as actually work for another company for thirty days to experience how other companies build their teams and management. All of this exposure has made me rethink my own leadership abilities and what I aspire to be.
I’ve begun to acquire a list of leaders that I look up to or have learned significantly from. One of the common traits of these leaders is the ability to motivate the people around them and to keep their negative opinions to themselves. They are able to get their team ready for any exercise or any activity that seems useless or seems to be a waste of time. They are never the ones to be gossiping at the water cooler.
Kim Scott says in her book, Radical Candor, “leave three things unsaid every day.” And that really stuck with me. Not everything I know or think needs to be said. Actually, a lot of what I think really does not need to be said. I don’t want to be known as the gossiper. Negativity is so contagious, especially in a small workspace. I want to work in a positive environment, so I need to promote that instead of killing it.
In order to get ahead of this, I’ve decided to put myself on a thirty-day challenge. For Thirty Days I will make the conscious effort to be positive and motivating and to not say anything negative at work. If I must say something negative, first I will work on a solution to make it better so that the negativity is used for good.
If you want to join me in this let me know in the comments below. I will do updates along the way of things that I’ve learned from being positive for thirty days, and would really like to hear from your experiences as well!