Do you ever feel like you are just spinning your wheels-getting nowhere fast? In my time management class I start by helping people look at what they can control vs. what they can't. It seems we wear ourselves out focusing on things over which we have no control.
How often do you get frustrated and start complaining about what someone else did or didn't do? How often do you feel like you are stuck and can't move because someone won't let you do something, the policy is restrictive, or you are waiting for someone to make a decision?
When you feel that way, stop and ask yourself what you can do. You almost always have options if you choose to take them. Here are some suggestions for focusing on what you can do, not on what you can't do.
- When you want to do something the "policy" won't allow, talk to several people in charge of the policy to understand why the policy exists. Often times a policy has been put in place because someone did something that no one wanted to address with them, so they wrote a policy for everyone. Sometimes a policy is old and needs to be changed. Many times it is the spirit of the law, not the letter of the language that needs to be followed. Find out the real intention of the policy and act within the latitudes available. Policies can always be changed unless they are the law, so make specific recommendations to the appropriate people if you believe you can improve the policy yet stay within its intention.
- When you are waiting for someone else to make a decision, provide to them everything they need to make an informed decision. Provide deadlines for when you need to have information so you can proceed with your part. Tell them the consequences of not having the information to you on time, if there are any. Send periodic reminders so the deadline doesn't slip up on them. If it looks like you won't be able to meet your deadline, let the people waiting for you know that the deadline will not be met so they can plan accordingly. Finally, understand that different people have different priorities. Ask for support from someone higher than you to raise the priority level if necessary.
- When the way someone else does their job keeps you from performing your job well, focus on your customer/supplier relationship. This person is the supplier and you are the customer. Talk with them about what you need from them to do your job well. Become a more proactive customer to get what you need so that you can be a good supplier to your customer. If your supplier is not cooperative, go to your manager and discuss what need isn't being served. Perhaps your manager can remove some obstacles or provide different resources.
- When someone tells you no, you don't have to stop there. My daughter says that when someone tells her no, she thinks they don't have enough information to say yes. Therefore, she works harder to make her case and prove why what she is proposing is the best way. Do you give up too easily when someone tells you no? Ask more questions to understand why they are saying no. How much effort do you put into your proposal in the first place? Be customer focused when making a proposal and help them say yes.
We are rarely so dead in the water that we don't have choices. If nothing else, we can choose to work on something else until the roadblock is cleared. By focusing on what we can do, even in a small way, we can maintain a positive outlook and feel more empowered in our lives. We are only stuck if we do nothing.
Thanks to Vicki Anderson / Leadership Matters