Last week was a pretty stressing week at work for me. Most of us have those weeks from time to time and my time was last week. When I have those kinds of weeks, I try to get something positive out of the experience. This usually involves me looking over the week and thinking about what I could have done differently. This causes a bad experience to serve as a learning experience for me.
You Can’t Force Change on Others
The reason I focus on me is that I understand that I cannot force another person to change. Even if I wield some authority over another person, ultimately, it is up to that individual to make a change. This was one of the many lessons I took to hard through the leadership lab that is The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. As a rank-holding upperclassman, I could want my freshmen, or knobs, to do better. However, whether they did or not was completely up to them. Sure, as a rank holder I had certain options that would cause them less stress and frustration if they decided to change for the better, but it was still up to them. So when recapping a week, the first thing I remember is that I can’t change others. Therefore, I need to look at what I could have done differently. Sure, I could wish others had responded or acted differently, but it’s fruitless to dwell on that. I can’t change them. I can change me.
My Emotions Were Too Involved
I take great passion in my work. I want to do an excellent job and I want to help my organization. That is my nature. Sometimes this means I became so emotionally invested that I take things personally or I get worked up when folks want to go a different direction. I think the first time I realized I was doing this was at USAF officer field training when we were assigned a project we were supposed to work out as teams. One of the members of my team was doing quick and dirty math to map out flight times while I was trying to find the perfect mathematical equation to determine when planes should leave and arrive. We had a limited time frame to solve the problem and we only had to handle a few planes. This was a classic example of putting together a simple mission plan. As a result, my teammate’s approach was far superior to mine. It got the answer we needed, and we only needed the answer once, much faster. However, I became visibly upset that the rest of my team didn’t wait for me to work out the answer for all cases. And that’s when I realized I was getting too emotional over things.
I was making the same mistake last week with respect to a particular project I’m on. It’s a long term project and it has been stressful, to put it mildly. Emotions are good when they push us towards excellence. But emotions can be a detriment when they get in the way of logic and working together. I wanted things a certain way and they weren’t coming in that way. I caught myself a couple of times getting overwrought about it, but I didn’t do that far enough. It would have been better for me to detach and just work with what I received as it came in. So one thing I need to watch for in the next few weeks is how I let my emotions impact in my performance and other behavior. In some cases, it would be best to be like Spock, and not let my emotions come into play.
Seek a Balance
On the same token, I need to make sure that when emotions will be beneficial, I need to let them come into play. My emotions help me be more productive. They fuel my purpose. So when I say check, I mean check as in “look at” not check as in stop or drop off. The traditional meaning of “check your emotions at the door” is to leave them at the door. This is the typical advice for someone who has had a bad day at work and they want to minimize the impact on their home life. As they get to the door of their house/apartment, they need to leave the emotions from work at the door. Good in theory, very difficult in practice. However, I don’t want to leave my emotions to the side. I can’t totally be Spock, any more than Spock could be (since he had a human parent). When I say “check” I mean investigate. That’s definitely something I need to do a better job of in order to be more efficient and productive.