Blog

July 27, 2017
Try a Little Patience: Guidelines for Leaders

During a road trip this weekend, I let my daughters play DJ in the car, mostly because I was curious what they’d come up.  Minus my awkward date, their choices brought me back to my eighth grade dance. Toto, Foreigner and Journey all made their cut.  They would make it through the chorus, and then be quick to move to the next song. When they got to one of my favorite bands, Guns N’ Roses, they tried to skip over the classic  Patience.” I didn’t let them.  Rather than kickback and enjoy the song, my mind started racing. Ironically, I don’t have a ton of patience, I realized...and apparently, neither do my kids.

Our world has evolved since I was a kid. Everything is so accessible these days, patience is rarely required. I need something for my home? My kids need something for school? My dog needs a new leash? Go online, order, and watch it show up almost immediately. Post a picture on Instagram, and achieve ego gratification watching the number of “likes” that quickly rack up. The same behaviors of wanting immediacy translate to the workplace too. And that's not always such a great thing. While technological advances and operational efficiencies are amazing things, we are at the same time creating a world where requiring patience is more and more difficult to ask of people.

Of course, many of us in business are feeling the pressure.  We want to achieve maximum impact. We want to create high performing teams that will lead us to those results.  We want our people to come to work motivated, inspired, and ready to take on the world. And we want it NOW. And while every leader understands it takes time to build the foundation before you can produce the “wow,” ensuring your team members understand that challenging balance dynamic can be downright rough.

Strong leaders drive to results, while simultaneously attempting to create growth opportunities for their people. In doing so, there is judgment applied what skills and capabilities are required, while taking note of who is ready to step up and take on a new challenge. In the age of business where leaders are just as impatient as their team members, here are a few points to consider in favor of taking a pause before plowing ahead.

GOOD STARTS DON’T EQUAL RAPID RESULTS

Years ago, I was playing my same role at another growing company. A young man, with just two or three years of work experience under his belt, had been with us roughly three months. He got off to a good start, and was being provided with increasing responsibilities as a result. The company was working through a promotion cycle, and the young man voiced his desire to be considered. While talented, we just didn’t feel it was warranted yet, and set a more realistic path for him.  He wasn’t promoted.  He was upset and further highlighted that displeasure by having his mother call me to voice her concern that we weren’t treating her son fairly.  Let’s just say that conversation didn’t go particularly well for him.  In short, arguing that you are smart and hard-working doesn’t necessarily mean you are ready for a promotion within a few short months. It means you are doing the job well that you were hired for. Mastery, a track record of success, and a host of other elements factor into a person being ready to take the next step. Don’t rush it; it never ends well for the team or the individual.

DON’T JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS

Many leaders are quick to share their opinion and offer plenty of commentary on how they feel others should have handled situations. A strong leader will be objective and open-minded enough to listen and seek understanding before rushing to judgment. Rather than offer their immediate insight, they will instead forego personal opinions and listen to all sides of the issue before weighing in. When we are stressed out, growing impatient and want quick answers, it’s easy to judge how others are arriving at their approaches and decisions. Strong leaders will handle the pressure gracefully and seek to resolve the challenge gracefully. Not only will this lead to a better result; it will build trust among the people involved as well.

RESPECT THAT PEOPLE WORK AT DIFFERENT PACES

My brother is an incredibly gifted product designer. He’s always worked at startups and incubators, with big visions and accelerated timelines. The pressure he receives to innovate and create on demand has always stressed him out. “How the hell can I be creative on demand?” Again, it’s the delicate balance of trying to accomplish business goals, with the added element of the creation of something that’s never been done before.  He needs the investors to be patient in terms of their expectations; and they need to understand when you are envisioning the future, it doesn’t always happen on a pre-scheduled Tuesday between 2 and 4 pm. In short, teams need to communicate well, and align around expectations. Without that, frustrations run high on both sides and people become impatient with each other.

TURN THAT FROWN UPSIDE DOWN

I live outside of the city where I work, so commuting is a dreaded reality.  Over the years, I’ve taken to coming into work before the sun rises, driving a fast car, and pretty much every hack I can find to make this experience as painless as possible.  And yet, at the rate at which snow storms and accidents happen in this town, I never felt like I could cut a break.  My impatience for sitting in traffic was so bad, I would inevitably get to work in a complete mood. And then I decided to take a completely different approach. I decided to make that time held captive in my car work for me. I now use that time schedule calls with teams in different time zones. I listen to podcasts to learn something new. I created a playlist for songs that are guaranteed to put me in a good mood regardless of the situation. In essence, I made that time where I historically would lose patience work for me in a positive way. A little attitude adjustment makes a huge difference.

Patience, like kale, is something that we know plays an important role in our lives - while we understand its benefits, it’s still not the easiest thing to weave into the everyday without a little practice and commitment. And yet, when we do, we find ourselves with an increased ability to gain perspective, learn about ourselves and others, and potentially even make better decisions. Take a deep breath, try a different approach, and see if you reap the benefits. Then go crank up the Guns N’ Roses and blow off some steam.


Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator.