It takes courage. Human nature longs for comfort and security, often leading us to prefer the devils we know rather than the angels we don’t. But hey! There are a whole lotta angels out there ready to make our happy acquaintance. Those familiar devils can gnash their teeth on their own time, rather than ours.
I love the people I work with. Even when we’re driving each other crazy, I love them.
So I was losing sleep when I felt I needed to dramatically change my role on one of my teams recently. I felt concerned that I’d be letting my colleagues down, or leaving them holding the various bags of our work together. Or that I’d miss them terribly, and the work I loved.
But I couldn’t ignore that some significant issues hadn’t been working for me, or for any of us, as far as I could tell, for quite some time.
The thing is, it was our problem, that’s to say, I was very much a part of it. I could see and well describe how I was helping (ahem) to keep us locked in an unhealthy place, the things I was doing and the ways I doing them. And our team had undertaken many frank discussion about it, but this didn’t seem to shift things.
So I took a sabbatical to think things through and get some perspective, and see whether the things that I found imbalanced would change for the better without my close involvement.
Eight months later, they hadn’t really. I didn’t want to return to the status quo, in great part because I felt my own unhelpful patterns would click right back in. I shared that I wanted to keep collaborating together … at the new arm’s-length arrangement that had emerged during the sabbatical.
It was a painful situation, and an uncomfortable conversation.
And do you know what?
The imbalance of the dynamics that had been troubling me began to shift almost immediately. The functionality of our team became, to my mind, much more healthy. I was still part of the team and the work I love, merely in a different, more balanced, role.
Next time I’ll know that I can work with my colleagues to improve roles and structures, or change my own behaviours and approaches … without the fretting.
Gandhi’s credited with saying “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Becoming our own role model is a good feeling. Besides, the only person I can change is myself.