When you are a business owner, it’s easy to fall into a rut and feel a little blah on occasion. But the problem is, when the business owner is in a rut, the whole business generally follows right behind him or her. There’s no time for this!
As much as we love business, even business advisors can fall into a rut. Sales calls, proposals, meetings … there are days when these can become a grind. But just as we were feeling a little uninspired ourselves, the book The Inner Game of Work by Timothy Gallwey came into our lives.
This book yanked us right out of our doldrums by providing us with a lesson in balance. Gallwey wrote that there are three measures of satisfaction in work: Performance, Enjoyment and Learning. When any of these three are out of balance (e.g., if you focus only on performance) then the other two will suffer. So, if you are feeling flat about your work, you might try dialing back on the performance measures, and add a dose of learning.
But how do you learn more about something you’ve done 1000 times? One way is to become observant. Even if you’re on the fifth interview of the day, you can watch each interviewee’s facial expressions carefully. What do you think they are feeling? What aren’t they saying? Even on the phone, you can recognize the emotion in their voice – are they excited, scared or nervous? When focusing in on these critical details, you’ll see that the interviews aren’t all the same – they become fascinatingly different. When you can notice what is unique and different about each one, you’ll realize there are things to learn.
A second solution is to challenge your own thinking. When you’re writing a proposal, ask yourself if you can get the idea across in fewer words. Or, maybe you can try an illustration or chart. Force yourself to look at the challenge afresh, and maybe learn something new in the process.
Now comes the magic part. This will not only help keep you focused, but it will improve your performance. When you listen for emotional clues in an interview, you’ll listen more closely. When you try to craft the most concise sentence, you’ll think more deeply about what you need to communicate.
You get the idea; it’s a double whammy! Not only is the task more interesting and enjoyable, but the performance improves too!
Another book with a similar theme is A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. He tackles this issue by looking at his life as if it were a movie script (because in fact, someone asked him to write a script for a movie about his life). When he looked at his own life through a lens, he found it had good performance (he was a best-selling author, he got paid to give speeches, etc.) but it wasn’t very interesting. Interesting stories have characters who want something and overcome substantial obstacles in order to get it. What are the things you want that are driving you to work? What are the obstacles you are overcoming on the way to achieving that goal?
Miller also observes that fear can keep you from living out great stories. Fear is an emotion that tells you there is danger and you need to either fight it or run away from it. But, overcoming the obstacles in front of you requires focused, continuous effort, something that’s hard to get in a fight/flight mode.
This is where these two ideas can really work together. The focus that Galloway advocates can make even the most repetitive task interesting, and help you to get better performance even if it’s the 1001th time you’re doing something. This also helps you fight the fear (that you will be doing this forever, that you aren’t getting ahead, that you are failing) and instead stay in the moment to do great work. By lightening up on the performance measures, you can actually perform better, achieve those goals and enjoy what you are doing again.
So, if you are doing more tactical work, or if what you have on your plate is too routine, see if adding some learning or challenge can help revitalize the task and improve your performance. Look for those opportunities to do something unique, something memorable that will make itself into a great story, and see if it doesn’t engage both you and your audience at a deeper level. Then, come on back here and tell us how it’s working for you.
Photo credit: takebackyourhealthconference