(Spoiler Alert: There is NO Magic Box)
In maintaining a healthy and adaptable business, one helpful tip is to examine situations through different lenses. For example, let’s take the meaning of a single word. Here’s what happens when we look at our business through three definitions of the word “present”:
A present?! A gift for the business. I like that. In fact, the business needs that right now. The solution to everything that is wrong has arrived!
Be present?! A business? Sheesh, what does this have to do with me? The business exists and gives me a paycheck.
Present?! Everything is a priority now. Things are moving so fast, yet sales don’t reflect it. I’ve been waiting for something to happen with all this activity.
As I was writing these I giggled. Then, as I reread them, I was a bit frustrated. I’ve been there. Truthfully, parts of my business are usually in one of these three places at any given time.
A truth: everyone involved has their own definition of “present.” And, issues crop up when the same word has different meanings.
There are things in a business that just are. Like bank accounts, processes for billing and collecting money, one’s mailing address, knowing what is being sold … the list goes on.
But measurement factors that fall into more of a gray area form part of every business, even though they are wishy-washy, intangible and emotional.
As business leaders, it is up to us to create the shape – the solidness – of these more intangible ideas. The clearer we are about the whys of what we do in our business, the more each person on the team understands. Their cognizance about the reasons behind business operations creates limits for those who need them; shows the edges that can be pushed; and illustrates how the team comes together to achieve goals.
When our team lacks full understanding, there are gaps in communication. Let’s own it as business leaders, and start with ourselves.
Are we present in the business?
When looking at and applying the concept of “being present” to our business, the three aforementioned definitions blend together. Recognizing the three meanings of “present” at the beginning of the article, AND the fact that there are more definitions not mentioned, creates a need to shape and define what “being present” means for your team … right here, right now. This article focuses on thinking about “being present” as a skill.
Being present (plus its corollary, having presence) represents an overlooked business skill, the three parts of which are to stop, to look, and to listen.
When we are harried, overworked, fighting burnout and dealing with all the responsibilities in our life (not just at work) it’s easy to just keep going. To get through the day, to get through the situation, to get through a tough time … a common strategy is to keep our head down.
When the atmosphere is comfortable, with everything in a groove and moving forward with ease, we get used to that feeling. We tend to want to do what’s working and not intentionally change. We keep our heads in that space and do whatever it takes to stay there.
The ability to stop when things are crazy difficult or crazy good takes practice. (We already have a good start: i.e. the space to let unconnected musings become full-blown ideas within our awareness – for example, while relaxing in the shower or waking up in the middle of the night after a dream.)
When we stop, we make a space to look and listen. To see and feel. To really, truly look and listen.
When go-go-going we might be looking around, but what do we really see? Not much. All is a blur while passing by.
It’s like walking to the store instead of driving – we might make eye contact with other people; come across a lone flower growing in the crack of a sidewalk; or encounter a ladybug or grasshopper landing on us….
Here’s an example that involves my little man, who is five-and-a-half years old. Each week he has the choice to take something to school and share with his class. Recently, the theme was an item starting with the letter “b.” The weather was beautiful the morning he picked out his show-and-tell, so we walked to school. Along the way a ladybug landed on me. We both got excited, but for different reasons. I was glad to have an interaction with the world around me. He was all over that AND he had another “b.” So he took jumping beans AND a ladybug in a box, carried to school in a polar bear bag for sharing.
When he came home from school, his first inspiration was to make a home for the ladybug so the the insect could have a habitat on our kitchen table. He recognized a way to connect with nature in a different way – outside of the norm – because we stopped and looked around.
He’s five-and-a-half and already wants to go-go-go. There is so much to do, so much to see, so much to experience (ya, he’s like his mama) … to keep going is easy. Looking around and seeing is a skill. To really, truly interact.
Curiosity is our friend in this step. The willingness to be open and look deeper and listen beyond what’s said. There are things that people say and things they don’t say. There are things we choose to overlook. When we don’t stop and don’t look around … we can’t see what we might be missing.
What words are we using to describe a situation? What words does the team use? What do they mean by those words? Am I taking for granted that we define the words the same way?
From listening carefully, questions can be formulated. When we ask, the ability to pose questions of quality is what lets us be present with our business. Questions that matter dig into discrepancies and expand upon what is seen and what the problems actually are.
The three steps to be present in business add value.
Add value to our understanding of where the business is at right now. Using past performance to inform progress allows us, as business leaders, to hold the shape of the business. It informs how the shape needs to change to stay aligned to the five- and 10-year company vision, while still reaching the goals set for the near future (this month and this year).
There are times we just hope some magic box will mysteriously manifest and take care of the situations we expect to happen. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist. It’s the skills we and our team bring (and continue to build) that formulate the path to take. No magic box needed. The more we practice the skills to be present in business, the more our notions of an enchanted container lose their mystique.
Practical practice: start with action.
We take action every day. However reaching the decision for doing, movement is happening. After taking some action, stop to see where things really are. Look and listen to what can be observed right now. Make adjustments to stay on track to goals. Take more action, and repeat.
The true outcome of being present in business: adaptability.
Don’t wait till you’re at the end of your rope. Take steps to avoid burnout, and align your everyday tasks to your business goals. Download my FREE ebook! 7 Ways to Lead Your Team WhenYou Don’t Have the Answers