That’s right … this is a post about nothing. My goal is to write a post every week and yet it’s been a couple weeks since my last posting. For me writing is very rewarding as it’s a time of reflection and gathering my thoughts. I’m not sure why but I just didn’t get any writing inspiration over the past couple weeks.
This got me curious about nothing. Why is it I can be full of different ideas one week then dry the next? Is this a sign of a problem or is it just part of a cycle? Is sitting with nothing actually benefiting me in some way? What would it mean for people at work to be sitting with nothing? Hmmm…
Let me describe this feeling I’ve been having the past couple weeks a little more. Normally I’m like my dog Bree … squirrel! However, I just wasn’t seeing any squirrels. I’ve been very busy with my work and find new rewards at every turn. It would be easy to point to the busy time and say it’s the reason for the nothing, but in the past this is usually when I get my best inspirations for writing. I sat down several times in the past couple weeks to write and didn’t make it past the title. There just wasn’t anything there.
I was also surprised to find myself watching TV in a hotel room a few evenings this past week. Surprised from the perspective I don’t normally do that a whole lot while on the road. There’s rarely anything worth watching and it’s a great quiet time by myself to get lots of things off my list. Getting through those things also means when I get back home I can do one of the most important things on my list … be with my family.
On the way home last night my friend Declan Whelan gave me an insight about my nothing dilemma. Someone has actually studied boredom and the impact it has on humans (see the report here). In the controlled study they concluded creativity increased immediately after a boring task was completed. In the study creativity was measured as the quantity of creative ideas, and not the quality of the creative ideas. Hmmm … TV was pretty boring to watch.
This morning I read an article talking about the CEO of BestBuy’s approach to turning the failing company around. He has a great 5 step plan however it’s number 3 which stood out for me:
Joly says that in order for a company to keep progressing forward, employees need to make more decisions faster. If people fret too much over whether they are making the right decision, or spend too much time in meetings debating a course of action or waiting for their superior’s approval, nothing gets accomplished. “The difference between great leaders and good leaders is not the quality of their decisions, it’s the quantity of their decisions,” says Joly. Of course, empowering employees to make rapid choices also necessitates tolerating more mistakes, he adds. But Best Buy staffers report that their bosses encourage them to follow their best instincts, and promise to back them up or smooth relations if their decisions end up ruffling any feathers. “If you make a lot of decisions, you’ll make some bad ones, but then you make more decisions to correct them,” Joly says. “As long as it’s not decisions that kill you.”
So as I tie my nothingness together with boredom and how BestBuy is turning their failing business around … I was inspired to write today.
Leading for ChangeTM
I’ve noticed a common pattern when companies start a transformation. A leader comes up with a new idea for how to improve results. With all the best intentions the leader pulls the teams together and asks them to change how they’re working. The leader just genuinely wants to make the people’s lives better and improve results for the organization. However, during this time of change they can’t let productivity drop. So the Leader asks the teams to change how they’re working AND continue to produce results at an insane pace.
Unfortunately something is going to drop in this situation. It’s not to say the people involved don’t care, however they are too busy to have any time for creativity. You may see a drop in quality or even quantity of the work. The people will start to become burned out and some may even quit at some level. Morale could drop as people become frustrated with what they’re being asked to do. Every situation is different but it’s been my experience something gets sacrificed.
As a leader if you want your teams to become good at changing start by giving them some space. A little down time, even a time of being bored will pay itself back in dividends. This is hardly a new idea but is critically important if you want to improve the organization. The ideas will start flowing. Some of them may suck and even cause more of a problem then good. However, there will also be lots of great ideas in there. Who knows … you may be surprised by what shows up!
I’ve witnessed the incredible impact a little nothingness can have in times of change. The team work improves, there’s more initiative, morale increases, people are happy with their working lives and so much more. Just imagine what’s possible if the people you lead come to work with a smile and enthusiasm for find creative solutions. Be prepared to be surprised!
Now I invite you to go find yourself a little of nothing today and share it with your teams … look what it did for me today.