Managers are so often presented often with someone else’s urgent demand to act quickly to resolve a situation. Many times, immediately. But five short minutes is all we need to collect ourselves and look inward for the counsel of our experience, our intentions, our beliefs, and our gut sense of what feels right.
These moments of opportunity to connect inside ourselves are sometimes taken, but too often missed. Somewhere near you right now, a manager has the chance to take five short minutes to get connected before acting. Maybe, in your favorite lunch spot…
Terri squirted some Cool Whip onto the side of the plate hoping no one would walk in on her. She’d been so looking forward to a piece of that cherry pie. Having just ended her first week as a newly promoted manager at the restaurant, this quiet moment in the cramped, musty office out back with a piece of warm cherry pie was the perfect way to celebrate. She savored the first bite for two whole seconds when she heard them coming.
John and Marguerite burst through the doorway together. Without missing a beat, they launched simultaneously into a shouting match over the holiday weekend shift schedule. Something about old promises. Trading favors. Cheerleading practice for Marguerite’s niece. A surprise fishing trip for John’s brother-in-law. In the span of thirty seconds Terri’s private celebration had dissolved into a squabble over who would have to work the Sunday brunch shift.
“Okay, okay. I hear you both. We’ll work this out,” she assured them. They looked down waiting for her to join the fray so they could argue this to a bitter conclusion, as had been the customary approach of the previous branch manager.
“Can you please step out and give me five minutes to collect my thoughts?”
Where did that come from? Terri surprised herself saying it, and John and Marguerite seemed confused as well. Stunned by this unexpected response, they reluctantly walked out of the cluttered office while glaring at each other.
“All right now. How am I going to approach this with them?” Terri glanced forlornly at her cherry pie. She scooped up a portion with the remaining smudge Cool Whip.
She could approach this the way scheduling disagreements had always been resolved, as if refereeing a boxing match. But she disliked the idea of judging a “winner” between family commitments. Well, she could flip a coin, but that just felt too impersonal. She could approach it analytically, looking back to see who may have put in more weekend hours recently and earned the break. Or she could stand in as a neutral party and support them in negotiating their own agreement without all the yelling.
She took a third bite of pie and considered her two best options: either analyze their recent schedules or serve as an neutral arbiter and let them decide. The idea of staying out of the middle of it appealed to her, but her gut told her that maybe that was a bit too “hands off.” So she decided to pull out the prior three months’ schedules and look those over with them together. She was pretty sure it would indicate the fair resolution.
“Yes, that feels right.”
Adding one more generous squirt of Cool Whip, Terri carried the crusty remains of her cherry pie on the way out to chat with John and Marguerite.
Five minutes is all we ever need to connect our thoughts. To think through our choices and identify what works best for us and our colleagues.
What’s in line with our beliefs?
What draws upon our strengths?
What would serve our colleagues best?
What does our intuition tell us?
These were the questions Terri answered for herself in those brief five minutes.
She could have just immediately jumped into the mix as had been the custom in her workplace culture. But instead she asked for five minutes to connect with, and within, herself. She used a bit of reason and a bit of intuition to think through what the situation called for from her.
Leadership may be as simple as just that: the discipline to pause, reflect and inwardly connect before acting or reacting. Evaluating not so much the details of the problem you’re facing or the opportunity you’re seizing, but rather the values, strengths and experience you’ll draw from in order to do, and be, your best in the moment at hand.
Give yourself those five minutes the next time you’re presented with a challenge, and make that connection.
–Written by Daniel Doucette