While proofing this post for Kevin, I was reminded of the first time I saw this sign:
“No Urgency, Chaos or Drama”
I was interviewing. This sign hangs outside Kevin’s office. I thought, okay, THIS is where I want to work. This was opposite of prior work places which, unfortunately, I became skilled at navigating. Those environments were physically and emotionally draining. Imagine constant emergencies where every task or request is urgent. That’s just not realistic or possible.
So, on my first day (I got the job), I took a picture of this sign to bring home — proof that the conditioning of prior employers was not needed nor desired.
I suggested that Kevin add to this post how I was impacted by his sign. Kevin decided not to publish as planned and “rushed” between meetings to edit and rework. Considering the subject matter of this post, I realize the irony of my last minute suggestion and so does Kevin.
—Lauren Castaldi, Executive Assistant
“Lauren, may I publish my post now?” Yes. “Okay, here we go:”
Is everything an emergency? Do you really have all those things going on? Deadlines from all directions? Are you spiraling? Out of control? Too many social media channels to check? Always saying, “Sorry, I’m too busy.” or “I have to go to a meeting.”
That’s the point of that sign outside my office — to squarely challenge the “urgency, chaos, drama” dynamic.
I’m not denying the existence of urgency, chaos and drama. That’s a real triple threat (see below). All I’m saying is that I choose to take a moment to discern whether a “crisis” is real or feigned. I expect the people on my team to do the same. That sign reminds us to take a gut-check before jumping into action.
That sign is a reminder of my firefighting days. Despite the adrenaline rushing into my veins, I was taught that a three-alarm fire was not my emergency. I needed to execute my duties in a detached, professional way.
Empathic people — like first responders — can easily be drawn into someone else’s emergency. But, first responders don’t fall pray to that because they have a higher purpose. They need to save life and property. And, that requires the right mindset. The folks caught in the thick of a true (or even a false) emergency need to see calm and poise in action.
That’s a good metaphor for life and business.
Vision without execution is hallucination. — Thomas Edison
Why is taking a perceptive pause so important to me?
- Sitting quietly to contemplate gives me pleasure. I don’t never underestimate the power of thought to bring me clarity.
- When I reflect on the September 11 Attacks in 2001 or the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami or Hurricane Katrina in 2005, I realize that nothing is “under control.” So, why not take a more relaxed approach to life?
- I read the The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First and those books changed me. I think differently now. When I’m in a fog, pausing gives me space to walk into and through the Covey Quadrant back to clarity of purpose. I was fortunate to meet Stephen Covey in October of 1994 when I attended his Principle-Centered Leadership Week at the Covey Leadership Center in Sundance, Utah. I still hear his words every day, “take a moment to reflect before taking action.” That’s Covey’s key principle: begin with the end in mind.
Choosing to take pause is big in life, business and leadership.
I include two examples of Covey’s Quadrant below because together they provide a more complete explanation than one or the other. This is my method to stay focused on what’s most important. I study these Quadrants each day.
This perspective gives me the guts and grit to challenge the “button-pushers” of false emergency or urgency. We encounter these people all the time. We might even be these people. These are the people that like drama. They can’t relax when things are calm. They get bored when things are going well. Deadlines become headlines if these people aren’t organized. These people are the enemy of sound decision-making.
As neurophysiologist Stephen Porges has explained, humans can only handle so much volatility.
Button-pushers are chaos addicts, urgency junkies and drama queens (that’s unisex) and their addiction is real. Google it. I feel for these people. I also avoid these people.
MANAGE FOCUS AVOID LIMIT
Most of the time but not always, the act of pausing helps us side-step the vortex of stressors created by button-pushers. Daily habit is important here. The Quadrant is my filter. That’s what launches me back to my focus. The best conditions for leadership are found in Quadrant 2. If I find myself in Quadrant 1 too much, that’s a sign I need to slow down and spend more time in Quadrant 2.
My message? Regardless of position, title or authority, “lead up and down” your organization by making the Quadrant a habit. That builds your credibility as a leader faster than running around the office with your hair on fire.
How do you stay on track? How do you take your mental breathers? How do you recalibrate? Please share with me how you stay focused.