By: Brenda Robinson
Do we get caught up in doing things the way we’ve always done them ? Do we get set in our ways, unable to evaluate the positive or negative impact of the way we do things ? Do we hold on to the old ways when new ideas come into play ?
For years we measured our success based on how well organized we were. We worked hard to establish a place for everything and a place to put everything. When we had everything in its place, we glowed with pride when our homes and offices were neat and tidy. We built cupboards and closets. We created systems and procedures. We filed and stacked and organized things to our hearts content. The more cupboards our homes had, the more organized we felt. It wasn’t enough to put closets in every bedroom – we put closet organizers in each closet. Some people went so far as to put dividers in their underwear drawer. We continually looked for ways to increase and improve our organization and took great pride in doing so.
We also began to feel guilty about junk drawers – they weren’t organized ! Tupper ware was a brilliant scheme for organizing our junk. We bought little plastic containers with lids. We cleaned out our junk drawers and put all that stuff in the little plastic containers and labelled the lids. Now we could organize the junk drawer. Wow !
But, did we lose some important things in the process ? When I was a child, growing up on the farm, my mother had a wonderful junk drawer. My father would come in from outside looking for a three inch spike. My mother’s reply would be “look in the junk drawer.” My sister would be right behind him looking for a hair tie. My mother’s reply would be “look in the junk drawer.” Amazingly, all of these things were usually there. Besides, the junk drawer held so many fascinating things. When we were small, my mother used to get the junk drawer out on a rainy day and it would entertain us for hours. I remember being fascinated by how much my mother knew. We could hold up a strange looking part from the junk drawer and ask, “Mom, what is this ?” She would reply immediately “Oh, that’s a part for the old John Deere tractor your dad used to have.” I was in awe that anybody could know that much.
Maybe – just maybe – we shouldn’t clean out, organize and throw away all those old parts as we strive to be neat and tidy.
When we become that organized, we also become somewhat territorial. I go into offices today where people have taped their names on their staplers. Why do people put their names on their staplers? Most people say they don’t want others to take their staplers. Would it be a bad thing if someone borrowed your stapler in order to staple something? Don’t we want to help each other get the work done?
Besides, people would rather take the stapler with the name on it – it will likely be the one that works. If someone has their name on it – they probably take care of it!
I watched a young woman one day in a large busy office. She had lost her stapler. I timed the scenario. She searched for her stapler for eleven minutes. She interrupted seventeen people to say “Have you seen my stapler? My name is on it. I believe Rod took my stapler – he is always borrowing it and not bringing it back..” Four people joined her in the search, agreeing that Rod is a problem. She never found her stapler.
I could not help but notice that she was carrying a piece of paper that needed stapled. I saw her bypass four staplers during her search. I couldn’t help myself. I asked her … “Why didn’t you use one of those other staplers to staple your papers?” She replied “If I can’t use my stapler, I won’t staple.”
This is what happens when we become territorial. Protecting our territory becomes a higher priority then productivity and results.
Perhaps we think nobody can organize our territory quite like we can – or maybe nobody can enter our territory because they’ll disorganize it.
Have you ever said?
“If you want it done right you have to do it yourself.”
“If I don’t do it, nobody will.”
“By the time I show somebody how to do it, I could have done it myself.”
“Why is it always all the same people doing all the work, all the time?”
What is meant by all these common sayings ? Could it be that nobody is able to help us because in order to do so they must enter our territory which is organized in our way and that our way is the only way ? Are we so resistant to change that people must work around us or exactly like us to avoid criticism and correction / What is our role as leaders, mentors or coaches in today’s society ? Should we teach them to do things the way we’ve always done them or should we encourage critical thinking and creativity ? Once we’ve decided on a place for everything and put everything in its place, do we think about whether or not that’s the best place ? Or, do we think about the best way to manage things. Or, do we just concentrate on getting them organized ?
How do we empower people to be responsible for their goal setting, planning, programming and involvement in activities ? We must look closely at our tendencies to organize everything for them. We must share our territory with our co-workers even at the risk of becoming somewhat disorganized. We must develop expectations instead of imposing expectations. We can only accomplish all these things by letting go of some of our rules about being organized. It is a time for fluidity, not rigidity. There is a great challenge to balance the traditional rules and guidelines with the need for creativity and meeting the challenge of change. This will be accomplished by leaders who are willing to challenge the future. Where will you spend your time? There are apparently four principal areas in which we invest time and energy. They are:
The Way Things Used to Be - 40% “When I was ….”
The Way Things Should Be - 30% “If it were up to me ….”
The Way Things are - 20% “I don’t know what this world has come to”
The Way Things Could Be - 10% “Let’s try …”
Right now, we tend to spend most of our time and energy in the past. Is it time to concentrate on the fourth principal ? Let’s celebrate the way things could be – let’s enter our future with joy and excitement. The way things used to be provides the foundation. The way things should be give us the support. The way things are is our springboard. The way things could be are our dreams and visions becoming reality.
Leaders must be responsive, flexible, adaptable, and ready to move ahead – sometimes without being caught up and totally organized. Thrive on the challenge of the unknown and chaos of the times.