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Think On It

Courtney Lynch, April 3, 2017


Lately, my desk has been a mess. I’m typically someone who prides themselves on a clean desk. Yet, my standards are clearly slipping. The messy desk has been making me anxious for days. Yesterday, I caught myself reacting to my desk. Yes, I was annoyed at the desk. Or so I thought. In reality, I was annoyed at myself for not dealing with the problem.
 
The flash of emotion reminded me that reacting to situations typically does not add value. Instead, I needed to think, reflect and resolve the challenge. In reflecting, I realized why the stacks on the desk had piled up (I’m in the middle of an intriguing research project) and quickly devised a plan to create drawer and file space for items I needed to keep. Then, I tossed what needed to go. My problem was solved and my clean desk was back in under an hour. 
 
We live in an era where we seek a quick fix to every challenge we face. While a messy desk can be cleaned quickly with intent and time, people don’t develop as fast.
 
Recently, I have been reading a fascinating book called Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman. Friedman believes that leaders today are chronically anxious. He argues that this undercurrent of emotion leads to regression, meaning that as a people we are going backwards in our ability to lead and live rather than moving forward to greater results and success with solving problems. He observes that this regression shows up every time a leader reacts to a problem instead of thoughtfully reflecting and responding. The back steps are evident in managers falling into the trap of catering to the most immature or poor performing in an organization versus empowering the strong. He notes that lack of accountability stunts the growth we experience when we face challenge head on. By seeking quick fixes to people problems, we neglect to coach and mentor lasting development.  
 
I often see signs of what he writes about in myself and with the clients I support. It was even evident in how I reacted to my messy deck. For days I was annoyed about the problem, yet did nothing to resolve it. A messy desk is a relatively minor issue. What are the significant issues causing you concern? Take time to think on them.
 
To succeed we must hold ourselves accountable for identifying what might be causing the challenges we are experiencing personally or with others. Then, we need to take steps towards resolution even in the face of uncertainty. Maturity is becoming comfortable with the unknown and valuing the journey. And lastly, we must be willing to take action that might invite criticism or discomfort. Anything less is a failure of nerve.

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