One day I was attending a business training about how to be more efficient at work. The instructor started by describing to the attendees how much money is lost yearly in companies, as a result of the wasted hours spent on attending meetings with no added value. He also highlighted how the wrong way of preparing our meeting presentations or agendas can lead to a huge waste of time without reaching the desired meeting outcomes.
So the instructor split us into two groups, and he asked one group to write about the do’s and don’ts of the meetings, and the other group to write about the do’s and don’ts of the meeting agendas and presentations.
After we finished the exercise, I was truly surprised by the ideal answers that every group gave. As an example, the group which was writing about the do’s and don’ts of the meetings wrote that the meeting should be short, with clear target outcomes and only involve the people who need to be involved.
When I saw the answers, I couldn’t stop myself from raising my hand to ask my colleagues: ‘’ If we all know what’s right and what’s wrong, and if we all know how to respect and save each other’s time and effort. Then why are we not doing it?’’. Then I turned to the instructor and asked him: ‘’I am sure you gave this training hundred times before, and I am also sure that each time you tried this exercise with a group you received the same ideal answers. Then let me ask you, who are then the people out there who are sending those time-wasting meeting invitations and giving pointless presentations if all of us know what’s correct and what should be done?’’
I kept thinking about this training trying to figure out the reason why people know the right thing but still do not do it, until one day I had a personal experience which clarified to me everything.
During a normal day at work, a conflict occurred between two departments and the topic was escalating fast to the extent that it was really hard to reach a common ground. I also discovered that this conflict already started months ago without reaching a solution and that it just disappeared and popped up again during this day. The negative feelings went viral and the colleagues started dealing with each other without looking to the common benefit, and they forgot that, in the end, we were supposed to be working together as one team.
I was walking down the main company corridor and I passed through a colleague of mine. You know this type of colleagues or friends who are courageous and respectful enough to open your eyes and tell you their true opinion, even if it was against your opinion? This was the type of this colleague. And it’s really important to surround yourself with such type of people. James LeBron the famous basketball player once said: ‘’you know, my family and friends have never been yes-men: ‘Yes, you’re doing the right thing, you’re always right. ‘No, they tell me when I’m wrong, and that’s why I’ve been able to stay who I am and stay humble.’’
So I had an open discussion together with this colleague where I explained to him the problem and then the following dialogue took place between us:
Me: ‘’ Now I am really worried that this conflict can divide us as co-workers, and unfortunately I have nothing to do and I do not have enough authority to solve this issue’’.
Have you ever been lucky to be asked the right question, from the right person at the right time?
After I told him that there is nothing I can do, he asked me a powerful question that turned everything around. He said: ‘’ Mohamed, let me ask you something, deep inside of you what do you feel is the right action? I mean, if you imagined yourself for some moments outside of the organization and without caring about the organizational hierarchies, office politics, responsibility matrices and all of this, what would you do to solve this situation?’’
And suddenly, as if he pressed a magic button, I found myself telling him a concrete plan of what can be done within the next few hours to solve this conflict. Then he commented and said: ‘’Then you know what needs to be done. Just go for it and neglect any influencing factors.’’
Some hours later, I was able to resolve a conflict which took months bouncing between two different departments and we succeeded in stopping this conflict from taking some serious turns.
Those two situations triggered me to think and also to find some answers. Maybe the first situation didn’t affect me so much like the second one because nothing resonates with a person like his personal experience. But at least the first situation opened the door for me to think and to search for answers. Until one day I found them by coincidence.
I discovered that almost all of us know what’s right and what’s wrong. Almost all of us have deep within us a compass which is always pointing to the right thing which should be done, even if sometimes we do not like it. But because of some external influencing factors, or because sometimes what is right is conflicting with the interests of other people around us, which may lead respectively to a conflict with our own personal interests at the end, we tend to choose the easy option and conceal our voices. We conceal our voices and try to move with the flow in order to make everyone including us happy. Until one day, someone around us presses the button or a life incident occurs which triggers the right opinion or action to go out.
Searching inside yourself and finding the right thing to be done and then doing it will have a profound impact on you. Not only that you will feel calm, motivated or self-satisfied because you did what you believed is right, but also because you will give the message to the people around you that you are special and unique, and that you are capable of taking hard actions if you believed that they are the correct ones, especially if your actions were against the flow or not the standard actions the others around you are usually doing.
Maybe you will think: ‘’ Yes Mohamed, but not each time I will be capable of doing the right thing.’’, and I will answer by saying: ‘’ yes, maybe you are correct. Maybe not each time you will be able to do what you believe is right. But what’s important is to search inside yourself. Search inside yourself in order to first know the right thing without the influence of the external factors and without waiting for someone to ‘’press the button’’ because it’s there within you already. And after knowing what should be done it’s your responsibility to fight to try to make it happen if you truly believe in it. And even if you failed one time, I am sure that you will succeed the next.’’
So the next time I will be in a similar situation at work or even in my personal life, and before claiming that I do not have power or authority to do something, I will search inside of me by asking myself: ‘’What do I feel is the right thing to be done at this moment without considering other external factors which can de-motivate me from taking the right action?’’. And as soon as I find the answer, you know already what I am going to do.
* Photo source: http://www.egglighting.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Office-corridor-e1396002861896.jpg