Patience can be hard.
I was reminded of it at the start of this year as my 92-year-old mom had her stroke, and I was suddenly thrust into taking care of every single aspect of her life. I was reminded of it the year I lived on the tiny island of Tobago, a place where time comes to a halt and nothing ever seems to happen. I am reminded of it every single time I break a commitment I have made to myself.
Yep, patience can be hard. Impatience is harder.
Not the petulant, self-righteous, I want it right-here-right-now impatience. That’s the easy kind, the one that may have gotten us what we wanted when we were a toddler. It rarely works for grown-ups.
No, I’m talking about impatience with the slow pace of change in our business or organization. Impatience with processes that plain don’t work. Impatience with questionable ethics. Impatience with glaring incompetence and the same tired excuses for why something cannot be done.
Our daily frustration with individual and systemic mediocrity.
I get it. You’re impatient for change. Impatience with the status quo is the hallmark of an inspired leader. You sometimes feel like you will burst out screaming if things don’t change fast.
Scream at home. When you want to get things done in business, however, focus your impatience. Consider these 5 ways of directing your impatience well.
1. Open The Door Of Possibility – with grace NOT: What we’re doing right now sucks. I know what will work better.
BUT: It seems we have been struggling with this same dilemma for a while now. I have a few ideas that we may wish to consider.
2. Respect Tradition NOT: Really, I can’t believe we’re still doing this the way we did it 30 years ago.
BUT: I can see why this way of doing things contributed to so many of our early successes. There are some very impressive companies that we all know who have found ways of improving how they do things. Let’s see what we can learn from them.
3. Test Your Ideas – BEHIND the scenes first NOT: I will bring this up at our next Executive Meeting to make sure everybody is in the same room and hears the same message from me.
BUT: I will test my ideas in informal 1-1 conversations to hear what others think and discover if my ideas resonate before I take a bold stand in the “big” meeting.
4. Forge Alliances NOT: I will take this on as my pet project because nobody here is as passionate about this as I am.
BUT: I will work to make sure that at least 3 other key influencers are as fired up about making this change as I am. We will be a rebel tribe. Together, we will have a powerful voice.
5. Accelerate the Process NOT: Great conversation. Let’s revisit this at our next monthly staff meeting.
BUT: Great conversation. Let’s commit to the following three actions! Can we get this done by the end of next week? Who will take on which item? Awesome.
Successful impatience is strategic, it is persistent, and it pushes the proverbial envelope while playing successfully with others. Celebrate your impatience. Season it with your ability to be patient. They are flip sides of the same coin.
Hard? Perhaps. Not harnessing your impatience is harder. So go and grab it by the horns.
Direct it WELL.