Pause before the year ends...for yourself and your team
Wow, 2017's gone by fast. You'd say that if you had a flurry of activity. That's mostly been good for you.
Glad that 2017's coming to an end. You'd say that if you had to tackle curveballs you didn't expect. And you feel that life hasn't really moved forward.
Both are okay.
Because year-ends are an interesting periods. It's when our minds are most receptive to reflection. We sense internally that something's coming to an end. And something else is about to begin.
In that period between end-and-beginning, there's a chance to shift gears. To progress in the direction that we want to. Individually and organizationally.
In our organization, we love routines because it frees us up. We have daily huddles, Monday reviews, monthly reviews, quarterly town halls.
And then we have our year's biggest routine. The annual meeting.
It's usually around the time we have an annual celebration we call Jalsa. During that event, we perform on stage (dances, dramas and such). We show our creativity. And entertain each other and our families.
The annual meeting however is a different ballgame. It's a deeply reflective activity. With questions that make us pause. Become aware of where we are in our journey.
11 questions...to reflect on our journey
We ask ourselves these kind of questions during our annual meeting.
- What went well? What didn't go well?
- What actions did we take? And what actions we didn't take (but wanted to)?
- How did we stick to our core values? How did we compromise?
- Did we serve our clients (internal or external) sincerely? Or, did we try to wing it?
- Are we stronger and more aligned as a team? Or, weaker in certain aspects?
- What problems have disappeared? What problems still go unaddressed?
- In what ways did we innovate? In what ways did we act unoriginally?
- What actions did we take fearlessly? And then what happened? What actions did we take with fear? And then what happened?
- Did we start something new? Did we stop doing something?
- Are we behaving responsibly? With our clients, our people, our partners, our investors, our industry, and our environment? What would we do differently?
- If we had all the time and money possible, what would we do more of? What would we do less of?
It's less important what the answers are to these questions. It's more important that we become acutely aware of them.
Why? Because for the large part, we already know what to do about most things. We simply don't act on them. Sometimes, we push what we know under the rug. Sometimes, we drown ourselves in activity so that we don't have time to ponder.
Burning bowl ceremony
This year, I plan to do something different. And I'm sharing it here. If it appeals to you, you could use it too. For yourself and your teams.
There are things that hold us, stop us. From being who we are. Like the husk that has to shed before you see the rice grain.
Things that we don't release. And let go. We don't shed. Patterns that we repeat for ourselves ad nauseum.
I learnt about the burning bowl only recently. And I'm keen to experience it with my colleagues tomorrow. I know I'll be a tad shy doing it. And I know they'll be too. But that's cool. We'll be weird together.
Each of us will write one or more things that's holding us up. Individually. And as a team. We write each point on a chit of paper.
For example, I plan to write 'communication skills' for my team. It's something that our American clients complain about every now and then. They usually say something like this. You are all so hardworking, knowledgeable, sincere and friendly. But sometimes you don't get what I'm saying. Or, I don't understand how you speak.
I'd love for us to drop that chit in the burning bowl. And watch it burn away.
For myself, I plan to write 'expansion'. Whatever it is that holds me from being more useful, more widely. And I'll drop it in the burning bowl.
I know what you are thinking. You'll feel silly doing it. Will we all now sing Kumbaya around a campfire?
Some part of you will be saying, we aren't supposed to be so vulnerable at our workplace. What will our colleagues think? I'll feel foolish.
Good. Let's question that assumption for a moment with reason.
The fundamental reason why teams are dysfunctional is lack of vulnerability-based trust (More in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni).
Wouldn't you rather work in a team that understands you for who you are? Wouldn't it be a relief to stop faking your way through work everyday?
Whatever the burning bowl is about, it doesn't matter. Wouldn't you rather let go of your resistances? Things that stop you from growing. And growing up?
No one's asking you to not take action. In fact, the idea is to propel you to action.
And what if you do shed the thing or two that's holding you back? And you progress. People love you for who you are. And you grow like crazy.
Well, that would be worth a Kumbaya!