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When the United States Navy defeated the British Navy in the Battle of Lake Erie, the Master Commandant Oliver Perry penned this now famous line to Major General William Henry Harrison, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
This was in 1812, but on a daily basis there are moments where you come to a new awareness that you may be an unwitting accomplice to a problem.
My experiences may not be as strategic or life-threatening as those experienced in the great lakes during the War of 1812. But, the insights from the day-to-day interactions can influence how and and why to move forward in a new direction in your work and how you show up in the world.
Tune in to find out how I discovered that I was part of the root cause of a problem at home and work. And, decided to change because of it.
Episode 134 Transcript
This is Rebecca Clark Episode 134 unwittingly at the root of the problem. Mhm This podcast is for anyone that knows, they haven’t yet found and offered up their best work but are compelled to seek it out and do it. Are you ready to move your desk This week? My son could not sleep one night because he was sniffling and sneezing and I knew he had an allergic reaction to something and there’s something were the weeds in the yard And there’s a particular kind of weed that I haven’t figured out what it is, but it creates congestion in him and it does not leave for about 24 hours. It doesn’t matter what allergy medicine you give him or how many showers you asked him to take to clear the sinuses. He just has a reaction to it now. Maybe he is closer to the ground than I am. And so it stays with him longer. But I noticed this just a few weeks ago and kind of took note of it and thought, okay, I’ve got to be careful and make sure that he isn’t involved in some of the activities that I’d like him to be involved in because the reaction is painful for him and it’s also painful for me, right? So you get two people that are slogging around the day not feeling that great because one person can’t sleep well. So I had this, aha after he was experiencing this because then I was like, oh shoot, I exposed him to those weeds. That’s why he’s feeling this way, but along with that, I also realized that even though I had taken a shower, I had decided not to wash my hair when I had gone back in for another shower because I thought, oh I was just out doing a couple of things really quick in the yard and there should be no problem here. So I’m thinking I’m all good, my clothes aren’t carrying any of this or anything and I forgot that someone likes to snuggle up to me when I read books and that kind of thing. And he seemed to be getting worse the longer that he was with me. And I did not realize it until after the fact after I washed my hair. Mhm. That perhaps I was unwittingly part of the problem that perhaps the reason that he kept on sneezing that he kept on having the congestion is because he was sitting with me and I was carrying around this stuff on me as I was thinking about this, I remembered a moment that I had when I was a brand new project manager representing the government before that point, I had worked for a small government contractor for a year and a half or so and I have been on the other end of the equation. Right? So I think that when you’re in the government and when you are a contractor for the government, you get really skilled in different parts of the work, right? So if you’re on the government and you may not be as good at the cost estimating to do certain work because if you’re not doing the work, you’re not going to be as great at figuring out how much time it’s gonna take to do a task. Whereas if you are the contractor actually doing it, hopefully you are keeping track and getting some lessons learned. So that when you go into new experiences in projects or in operations or providing some service, you have some kind of baseline that you start to recognize as you start to offer work for people. And I had come from the contractor and so I knew it took a certain amount of time to do certain development work and everything. But then I came onto the government side where I was the project manager and having to make sure the contractors did certain work. And so there’s a few things I could figure out because I had been on the other end. But there were other things where I was still trying to figure out how to represent the government and that kind of thing. And we had dozens of projects going on simultaneously. And there were multiple contracts to support this work. Right? So you’d have these weekly calls where you check in with the project manager of the contract and find out which projects are going well which aren’t. And then you knew which ones to delve deeper into the details on and which ones you could kind of let go for a little bit and trust that the work was getting completed and I already knew a lot about the work I had done, that kind of work before. So I um could recognize red flags pretty quickly and that kind of thing. But I also took a little while to recognize that I was now in the position where I called the shots right? I wasn’t the person giving the recommendations. Waiting for someone to call the shots. I was the person that was receiving recommendations and making decisions to call those shots. And apparently I was a little delayed on making some of the decisions wanting to get more information before I made a decision. I got to learn this one day by eavesdropping. It was a fairy’s dropping right. I’ve been on one of these weekly conference calls with one of the contractors and we marched through all the projects and I thought we were in a good spot. And the call ended well I was finishing up the call while sitting in my car in a parking lot and for whatever reason I wasn’t able to hang up that quickly and the person on the other end thought he had hung up but he hadn’t. And so I got to hear him say to whomever was sitting with him. Sheesh, it’s like pulling teeth to get a decision around here and there was a pause and then a woman said, is the phone hung up and then I heard a click and then I of course hung up the phone and sitting in my car by myself with very red cheeks. I had a moment and realized oh things are not going as I thought and I am unwittingly part of a problem that I did not have a clue that I was part of and I was so grateful for that moment because I am sure in that moment I had anger, embarrassment, hurt, not wanting to show my face in front of these people again. But also in that moment I decided that maybe there was some truth in what they were saying and maybe there was something that I could change and so I showed up differently at that point going forward, I showed up with that contractor making decisions, making trade offs, assessing the risks, calling them on things that I didn’t agree with. I chose to turn that moment into something that helped me be a better manager. Now of course I wasn’t perfect from that point going forward. But that was a very important data point for me to experience because I knew that I might be behind on some things I was trying to juggle a lot and I was still learning but I learned in that moment something I didn’t know, I didn’t know, I was creating a little delay, I didn’t know I was part of a problem and that was very useful information now that could have gone several different ways? I could have decided to hold a grudge. I could have been angry and interacted with those people in different ways going forward. But that pain and that hurt taught me and I was able to move forward and I believe it helped me become a better project manager and production manager going forward. Now that could easily be in an episode about taking feedback. Right? But right now I wanted to just point out how important it is to be aware of those clues around us. Because I know often when I’m talking about mindset and getting your mind managed because of all of the thoughts that go through it and all the emotions that creates also in that I never want to lose sight of the fact that even though each of us is responsible for how we show up in the world, it does matter that we pay attention to how people respond to us because if we do that, we can learn a lot about ourselves. Perhaps now some people are just gonna show up as jerks no matter what, right? Everyone’s gonna agree that they’re just showing up as a jerk, they got something going on. They’re choosing to deal with it a certain way and they’re going to respond to you in a certain way, no matter what and you can choose how you respond to that. But in that choice it’s worth taking a moment to go. Is there some credibility in the way they’re responding to me. Is there something I can take note of? And I and am I unwittingly part of a problem and no one’s being up front with me so that I can decide what to do with that, right? So that I can decide to change or improve or respond differently. Everyone’s being quiet about it or they’re tiptoeing around me or they’re just not saying it And so I just don’t know. Even though I think I’m super aware as a human being, I just might not be aware of that. Mm So I wanted to offer to you today that it’s worth paying attention to how people respond to you. It’s worth looking at something that’s going on around you and going, am I part of what’s making this worse? Am I part of what’s making this not work? Like I had to realize with my son and his allergies and to be open to the pain that goes along with that. Like I had to be with that call And that was over 15 years ago and I still remember it. I still remember where I was sitting because I was at the Dulles Airport going to retrieve a lost ring that I had left when I had to take it off during the security screening and they just so happen to have it because it was very unique and they easily identified it And there I was sitting there waiting in to go get this ring. So I was a little preoccupied. But I had this moment where I got to notice that people thought that I was a bottleneck that I was not making fast enough decisions to help an entire team move forward on their work. It’s very fascinating. And each time we pay attention, we get to choose what to do with that information. Sometimes we will choose to take that and be angry and go make a ruckus and that anger will be a good thing, right? It will happen to work for that particular situation. Other times will internalize it and make a change and that will be correct for that situation. Right? It may be different each time, but I will tell you that it is worth paying attention to discover those moments where you are unwittingly part of the root cause of a problem. Because you can create tremendous change in yourself. If you choose to use that information in a way that serves you and serves those that you will serve. Okay my friends, that is all for today. I have washed my hair again. I am in a good position to give my guy a hug when he comes home from school and hopefully not be part of the problem. Have a great day. Talk to you soon. Thanks for listening to the show today. If you enjoyed it. I’d love if you’d write a review and share the show with your friends, sign up for a weekly nudge at move your desk dot com. Mm hmm.