We come – fueled by enthusiasm and ideas – into the workplace, ready to deliver some [bleep]-kickin’ results… and then the inevitable smashes us (less gently!) in the face.
Well-intentioned leaders allow inefficiency and politics to prevail, debate and innovation to be stifled, bottlenecks to obstruct, and burnout to take hold.
But for most of us, fixing the system feels big and out of reach. We imagine the wizard behind the curtain making all the wrong calls. And we get frustrated. And we want to lie down.
But don’t lie down. Today’s the day you become your own wizard.
Here’s what I mean: there will be – in any system – breaks and frustrations whose real fixes lie outside of our control (says the pessimist dressed in red on my left shoulder). But the little guy in white on the right reminds me that there are nearly always small, incremental fixes well within our reach.
The power to make work work just a little bit better lies within all of us.
We just need to follow the yellow brick road. Here’s how:
Step One: Name and rank.
When I say “frustration,” are you more likely to think, “my boss writes in ALL CAPS” or “I can’t get a [bleeping] thing done because the one guy with the info is on vacay?” Because frankly, both technically qualify.
But really, the former is no more than a buzzing gnat (your boss was absent on etiquette day – chuckle and let the scarecrow deal with that one), while the latter is likely crushing your ability to be a person who does things.
Note the gnats – give them acknowledgement, but see them for what they are – simple annoyances (and fodder for your next dinner party). Then hone in on the progress-crushers. These are the ones worthy of your energy.
Choose one as your starting place. That’s the issue we’ll seek to wand-wave around as we move ahead.
Step Two: Imagine the wizard’s solution.
So now you’ve identified the issue you’ve brought to the wizard. Now imagine he peeks out from behind the curtain and asks what change you’d like him to bring about.
What would you ask?
Let’s just imagine that your issue is a pervasive culture of disempowerment: when new project arise, the norm is for a team to convene, the boss to inform everyone of the plan, and then everyone moves to execute. And you all sit around wondering – why did we go to college again?
Now imagine the wizard’s solution: Major culture change.
The wizard blows his fire and suddenly leaders are asking teams for ideas and opinions, everyone contributes to solutions that are stronger and more creative, designed with the same number of heads and hours.
Imagine that. No literally – I mean, really imagine that. We’ll need it for step 3.
Step Three: Find your own wand and DIY it.
So now you know what you’d ask of the wizard. And then you remember, there is no wizard behind that curtain.
Here’s where you become your own. Grab your wand.
What is an alternate version of this outcome that you do actually have the power to craft, whether on your own or with a trusted group of colleagues?
You can’t wave the big wand to change the culture from above. But how can you influence change from where you’re standing?
If we return to our example from Step 2 here are a few ideas we’d recommend:
Before that next meeting, boldly but confidently let your boss know that (choose one to start)…
- You have a proposed plan you’d love to show her – to take some of the burden off her plate
- You’d love an opportunity to co-facilitate the planning session with her so you can begin to build your own project planning and leadership skills
- You’d love to invite the team to propose and contribute ideas in advance – and you’re more than happy to collate and present them – so the solution is collaboratively designed
- You’d love to experiment with putting 2 or 3 potential plans on the table (instead of just one) to see if any interesting ideas emerge; and you’re happy to contribute
We could go on all day. The point is that while none of the suggestions about would equate to a full-on wizard-worthy change, any or all could serve to bring about a small move in a positive direction.
Bringing about – even thinking about bringing about – change on any scale can be exciting and empowering. At the very least, it will likely cure you of your desire to lie down.
It may even get you back to Kansas.
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