Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Passionate Detachment: A Paradox Worth Practicing

This paradoxical idea of “passionate detachment” was introduced to me years ago in my readings of Carlson’s “Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff”. I call it paradoxical because I had been raised to understand that being passionate required being overwrought and stressed out as a sign of caring. I am so glad to be rescued from this approach. With time and consistent practice at cultivating this approach, I have learned to be driven with less (dis)stress, and to be committed without being bound or feeling put upon.

In a nutshell, passionate detachment is an approach to life, indeed work, which focuses on “right execution” of the process more than the outcome. One learns to enjoy the journey confident that the journey, pursued with the right spirit, will get us to the right destination, even when that destination is different than what we had originally envisioned at the outset.

I find that in this “state of grace”, I have more energy for coming up with creative solutions as less of it is tied up in negative emotions and speculations. I find that even when I do not get the outcome I envisioned (which is never guaranteed), I am more aware of the learnings the experience yields and I can take solace in a process well executed. Either outcome, these learnings make for continuous improvement and self-development, less of a negative emotional, psychological and relational toll on myself and those I lead.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Price is Not Too High, The Value is Too Low: Part 2

Recently I have been reviewing this post I wrote in September 2009 as I am working on 2011 business plans where I work, and wanted to further elaborate on this topic, at the encouragement of my boss. :-)

In these austere times, "no price too high, but value too low" this mantra is all the more critical as everyone is crying "low and lower price" while not really asking enough about "what is the value?". This lack of asking makes it all the more critical that we who are seeking funding & resources be better than ever at articulating the value we will deliver. I had a great discussion with my boss about this matter and he challenged me about a few things that stick with me:

1. Lead with the deliverables, not the resource request. So often we are preoccupied with what we need to get a job done (the resources) and neglect to clearly define and articulate the outcome we will create (the deliverables). We fail to understand that the investor is most interested in the outcome. For success, we have to learn to think as much like the investor as like the performer who converts resources into outcomes. As we transform our thinking in this way we will improve our proposals with better linkages between deliverables and resources, and as a result, improve the "hit" rate on our requests, whether it be for budgets, jobs, relationships, etc..

2. Focus on value-added activities & drop the non-value-added "busywork". So often we get caught up in the "urgent and efficient" elements of our to-do lists to the neglect of the "important and effective" elements of the same lists. In reflecting on this admonishment, I have to remember the 80/20 rule; that 20 percent of our effort gets us 80 percent of our outcome. Where we invest effort has a lot to do with the outcome we get, for better and or worse. If we are neglecting the investment of that 20 percent in important and effective effort, our outcomes will suffer. Another element of this dilemma is that those things that are most important and effective, are also most challenging to us and thus invite procrastination (see my earlier post on this topic). This tendency toward the urgent & efficient, and avoidance of the challenging is something to watch and to be disciplined against in order to deliver the value that warrants the higher price we all like to charge.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Laying Bricks or Building Cathedrals: Which are you doing at work?

One of my favorite parables is that of the brick layer and the cathedral builder. Its a popular tale told in many places. In summary, it relates the tale of man who when walking past a construction site asked the builders what they were doing. One said, he was laying bricks, a second said he was feeding his family and a third said he was building a cathedral to the glory of God.

What is poignant about this story is the different attitudes that each builder brought to the same task. This difference in attitude is one we see everyday, and which we hopefully check on and struggle with regularly. In our work, we all are laying bricks (of sorts) but do we only see our work as laying bricks, or only as providing for our families, or do we see it as something larger which is achieving an important end for the glory of God and the good of the society? If not, we should search and embrace that deeper meaning and purpose that is available in any work if we search it out and embrace it.

On my toughest and most frustrating days at work, I find that reconnecting to the cathedrals I am building, restores and encourages me to recuperate and recommit. I further find that as I am now firmly in the second half of my life, and everyday reminds me of my inevitable end, it is all the more critical that I spend my life energy on cathedrals and not brick walls. To this end, I inventory my activities frequently and seek to shed those which are only brick walls (to me) so that I can put more of my energy into those cathedrals I want to leave the world with.

May we all take time today, and frequently in the future, to identify the cathedrals we are building in our work, and to avoid those endeavors that are only brick walls.

Blessed building. :-)