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Listen, reflect, and pause

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There is a story of a woman who was sitting in an airport waiting for a flight in abusy lounge. She had a bag of cookies and put her hand in to take one. Almost immediately the man to her left put his hand into the bag and took one. She could not believe he would do this. She then took a second cookie and within seconds he had put his hand in and taken a second cookie. She was now getting really annoyed and did not know if it was arrogance, ignorance of social norms, or just plain rudeness. The flight was called, so she got on the plane and sat down. As she was chastising herself for not saying anything to the man, she opened her luggage to see a full, unopened bag of cookies. It dawned on her that he was not eating her cookies, but the other way around!

How many times have we made an assumption that has triggered further actions, only to realise that our starting point was incorrect? The problem we have today is that we are not getting time to think. We are inundated with messages, texts, tweets, and we spend our lives scrolling through our phones. There is no end to the news on our devices. The challenge, therefore, is that we give ourselves no time to pause, no time to think and no time to reflect. This may seem like sacrilege in a 24/7 world, but we value doing more than thinking. The old adage from Lincoln 'If I had six hours to chop down a tree I would spend the first four sharpening the saw'has never been more apt. In today's world, you would more likely hear 'We have no time to sharpen just start chopping!'

The companies we all hear of as the success stories are those that have come up with new ideas, challenged traditional thinking, or just decided there could be a better way of doing things. Businesses are in trouble if they do not believe things can be done better - but that means you need your employees to be thinking and reflecting, as the only place you will not get any ideas is at your desk. Look around your organisation and ask yourself:

  • Are those 5am emails of value?
  • Are meetings where everyone is checking their laptop/ phone while someone else is speaking an effective use of time?
  • Are you encouraging new ideas?
  • If you have a challenging relationship at work, have you reflected on what you can change as opposed expecting change from the other person?

We need to work hard to grow and be successful, but more importantly we need to work smart and to do this we need to bring our best self to work every day, with or without a bag of cookies.