Archive for August, 2009

Are you marching forward or will you Stop, Look, and Listen?

Are you simply marching forward or will you Stop, Look, and Listen?

In one of my recent bouts of insomnia, the phrase Stop, Look, and Listen came to mind.  I tried to ask my subconscious and unconscious mind why it/they pushed this phrase up to my conscious level.  I really wanted to better understand what it was about that phrase that was contributing to my inability to get the much needed sleep I was craving.  I’ve yet to master getting a direct answer from that subconscious or unconscious mind of mine.  So I moved on to my typical response – creating my own hypotheses and having a dialog with myself at the conscious level.  Yes, I talk with myself regularly.  I just try not to do it out loud.  I can receive funny looks from others when I do. 

Upon reflection, it appeared that my subconscious had been analyzing and connecting together things I had been thinking about at a conscious level for the last couple of days.  It had been working in the background and wanted to share a connection it had made.  Below are some of the things that I had been thinking about at the conscious level.

  • The impacts of operating in an environment of constant chaos. 
    • What causes this to develop as a culturally accepted practice, to be the “norm”? 
    • What is the root cause for this behavior?
    • What is the impact of working in that manner for extended periods of time?
    • What level of stress results from this?
    • What coping mechanisms have individuals developed over time?
    • How might one go about influencing and potentially changing this aspect of a culture? 
  • Motivational factors. 
    • That individuals want to be recognized as that, individuals.
    • How different people are motivated by different things.  Not necessarily how some people are motivated by the US dollar, some by the Euro, and some by the Yen as my friend and colleague Tim Stephens responded them I commented on Linked In that I was thinking about this.
  • Value and belief systems, including the concepts of Integrity, Honesty, and Trustworthiness
    • What do these words really imply? 
    • How are they valued or not valued?
    • Where did I observe and/or experience these attributes? 
    • What is their importance in business and personal relationships? 
    • What causes “broken trust?”
  • What needs to and/or can be changed in an environment of constant chaos? 
    • Would better time management help? 
    • Does the client understand the difference between Important vs. Urgent? 
    • Why are the “squeaky wheels” so squeaky?  What is the root cause?
    • What goals are they focusing on – as individuals, as a group, or as a department? 
    • What “out-of-the-box” ideas might reduce stress and the feeling of chaos?
  • Who can help them change?
    • What does it mean to be a leader?
    • What can leaders do to help others embrace change?
    • What is my current role?
    • How far “out of bounds” should I go to help them?
    • What does it really means to be a “Change Agent?”  Not the textbook definition, but who actually causes change to occur and why.

It was interesting (at least to me) that my unconscious mind connected all of these with a single rule that we teach children.  If you don’t know the rule that I am talking about, it relates to crossing a street.  You stop, look both ways, and listen for vehicles before crossing the street.  This is not a rule I have thought about in several years – at least not at a conscious level. 

How often do we all consciously Stop, Look, and Listen?  How might remembering this phrase influence us as adults?  What if we take as an action to consciously stop several times a day?  To raise our heads from our desks, cubes, offices, or other work environments we are in – to really listen to those around us.  Maybe both passively and actively.  Not just listening to the words used, but thinking through the contributing factors and motivations.  How often do we really try to understand each other – at more than a surface level?  How often do we simply reflect?  What would we learn if we observed and processed more and reacted less?

What’s going on around you at work, with your friends, with your family, in your environment?  What could you better understand, influence or change if you stopped trying to go forward so fast, gathered input both directly and perceptually, and gave your brain time to process information before reacting?  As a result of pondering on these topics Covey’s phrase “Seek to Understand before being Understood” came to mind as well as the phrase “sometimes you need to go slow, to go fast”. 

I personally find it amazing and fascinating how our brain works.  Have you ever stopped long enough to appreciate what your brain can actually do and does every day?  The things that we can process mentally and process differently than a computer is truly worth thinking about.  We have the ability to leap over areas, not always thinking linearly.  Anyone who has worked with me (or even talked with me for very long) can attest to the fact that my brain will sometimes leap all over the place.  There are always connections – nodes and synaptic connections as I think of them.  However, what comes out of my mouth has sometimes skipped along 4 or 5 of them.

I’m going to challenge myself to consciously remember to Stop, Look, and Listen more often.  Will you join me?  You might just be surprised at the connections your brain makes.  I was.

A shout out of THANKS to my friend and colleague Long for reviewing this pondering and providing feedback.  His insights are always appreciated.

Note:  In case you are wondering where my brain will go next, my current blog topic list (which I maintain by emailing ideas to myself) includes writing more on Time Management, Change Agents, Covey, Active Listening, Empathy – EQ vs. IQ, Important vs. Urgent, and “going slow to go fast”.  Mental models and further discussions regarding how the brain processes information are also “in the works”.  This can alternately be described as percolating in the subconscious level. 

Some blogs will give you advice, other tools and “rules of thumb”, others are written with the intent of making you think.  I hope that this one made you think a little more today and will help you Stop, Look, and Listen a little more tomorrow.  I also hope to make you laugh along the way.  Hopefully you’ve already figured that out – if not…

Guiding Principles

- Think Holistically
- Seek the Root Causes
- Respect the Individual
- Demonstrate Accountability
- Collaborate with Clients
- Work with Integrity, Always
- Relate to the Business Strategy
- Ensure Alignment
- Demonstrate Responsibility
- Transfer Skills

Thoughts and Quotes