I spend quite a bit of my day writing. Writing proposals, writing sessions or workshops, writing emails, writing blogs etc. Writing can be very cathartic and meaningful or it can be arduous. How often do we write things, have someone misinterpret what we wrote resulting in some form of conflict? I can certainly say that happens in my world. Some days I’m fine with it, some days I’m offended, some days I’m bewildered, some days I just don’t care and some days I learn from it and do better the next time.
Writing affords me the opportunity to think about my boundaries and my opinions, to evaluate them in terms of how, why and when I formed that stance, particularly when I get a conflict response from someone. Writing is a privilege, being able to communicate is a privilege. About five or six years ago I watched a movie called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, it is the true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke and has to live with what is called locked-in syndrome which has him almost completely paralyzed, including not being able to speak. One of his few functioning muscles is his left eye. He authors an entire book by learning and employing a form of communication that his speech therapist orchestrates. She reads out the letters of the alphabet in descending order of their use in the French language, and he blinks his functioning left eye when she reaches the appropriate letter. So he literally spelled out each word in each sentence in each paragraph in each chapter in the entire book. Can you image how frustrating it must have been at the onset? Or when he was tired? Or when his therapist was tired? Or when he wanted to use a word he didn’t know how to spell? His book is 131 pages. He died two days after the French publication of the book.
Like anything we take the ability to speak, write, point, laugh and blink for granted. We assume that today will be just like yesterday in terms of our abilities to ‘do’. Maybe that’s a bit of a gift in and of itself, the fact that we don’t consider the many blessings of being able to walk around or drive or feed ourselves. It’s the old adage ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’ And I think loss helps us value things, when we lose something we are forced to evaluate what it meant to us or to our ability to live day to day. And what will we fight to keep?
Everybody has a currency. There are parenting books that talk about using your child’s currency in discipline to be successful. For example, if social media is your kid’s currency, as a discipline you take away the computer, the phone, the tablet, the iPod etc. You take away all avenues to access social media so they have to do without, and then it becomes your leverage in future negotiations. Why don’t we use that as leaders and managers in our work life? I am not saying that adults you manage are childish or immature, but I think this approach for discipline holds true at any age.
I also think it can be individual. In other words, if you have an employee that you allow a privilege, like flexible time to accommodate the drop off and pick up of children from childcare, and they become problematic or defiant or whatever, the ability to take away that privilege is acceptable discipline right? No? Why not? Because it’s unfair? Its mean? It’s drastic? It affects their family? Does their out of bounds behaviour affect your office? Your team? Your mission?
I think people management is about maintaining focus. There are a ton of things that will get you off course, if you let them. If your team understands what is a privilege and what is a given I think that allows you room for discipline that is suitable and equitable.
It’s your job as the leader to keep them on track, to be flexible, to be accepting, to be understanding and to be clear. It’s your job to enforce the rules and to ensure they are fair, to ensure you are fair. It’s your job to discipline, it’s your job to find a way to communicate that they will hear you, even when it’s hard, even when it’s frustrating, even when you have to blink spell each word.
What is your currency? What will you do to keep it?
Is having a job, being a manager or leading people a privilege?
How hard would you fight to keep it?