Have you ever been surprised by something that an employee (or manager) has done in your workplace — and then been thankful for the outcome because it was something you would never have thought of yourself?
This past weekend, Grace was nearby as I spread new mulch in our flower gardens. Because she’s an anxious and nervous dog, she doesn’t stay in any one spot for too long, so it’s not uncommon for her to be moving around a lot.
But I was curious when she starting pawing around in the tall, ornamental grass. The stuff was thick and there was not one logical spot that I could see where she could fit. Was she trying to dig a hole (not something she does casually without being on a hunting-related mission)? Was she trying to find something I couldn’t see? As my mind was still pulling up questions trying to figure this out, she plopped down happily on top of the grass!
So that’s new. I haven’t seen her do that before.
And then instead of questions, my mind went to answers: “Well, why not lay on top of a patch of tall, thick, soft grass?” That was actually kinda smart, I thought. It’s like an overgrown lawn patch, made just for her!
Grace was thinking much more creatively than I was that day. I was stuck in my preconceived notions of where she would be comfortable, in places where I’ve seen her before. But she went outside those boundaries and found a new, even better, spot.
Have you been witness to this kind of behavior in your workplace? Perhaps you’ve seen someone taking an initiative when another person in the same situation is ‘blind’ to the possibilities?
We can all get caught up in doing things the way we’ve always done them. In some ways, it seems efficient, because we know the routine and it’s comfortable. But we may be missing out on something wonderful, and it might even be right in front of our very eyes all the time!
The first step in getting past these normal and understandable “blocks” is to recognize it. If we don’t know we’re stuck, then we certainly can’t move to a different place. Here are a few of my suggestions to help raise your awareness and move into action:
- Listen to others who suggest another approach. They may be telling you that your process is outdated or inefficient, or just isn’t working any more!
- If a task feels too complex, awkward, or confusing, it probably is! Start to think about ways to simplify.
- Don’t get stuck on staid thoughts like “we have to do it this way” or “what would Sue say if we got rid of that?” Getting too comfortable with things creates a false sense of absolutes. Those phrases can also be a signal that you’re using excuses to prevent you from moving towards something better.
- Make a commitment to do at least one new thing every day. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering or time-consuming. Maybe it’s trying a new food or learning a new vocabulary word. Creating patterns of change will help you be open to other ideas that naturally cross your path.
- Take any feelings of fear (of the unknown) that you have and think of them as an opportunity to learn and develop. Refocus your nervous energy into excitement about what’s to come and what you can achieve!
Sometimes we need to stay in a tried-and-true state — and it’s ok to do so for a while. But it’s most often the case that if we haven’t evaluated our most consistent ‘things’ (whether it be processes, skills, daily habits, or relationships), we are missing opportunities for improvement.
What examples can you think of where you got outside your normal thinking and life improved? What patch of plush, green grass will you find for yourself today?