Patience is not my strong suit. When something needs doing, I like to act right away and get things moving. Not doing makes me feel like I am not getting anywhere. In fact, I have these words posted on my computer screen, “SLOW DOWN & PAUSE – No time to think, No energy to strategize”.
I recently participated in a group communications training exercise. We had a team of four people and we were being timed to see which team could finish first. One person was given a metal board and several magnetic puzzle pieces. Another person was given a picture of the puzzle pieces assembled in a specific shape. The person with the picture (the caller) was to give verbal instructions to the person with the puzzle pieces (the drawer) so that they could recreate the picture on their metal board without seeing what it was they were drawing. The other two people stood so that they could see what the two people creating the picture were doing. They could not talk to anyone while they were watching but when one of them felt they could help with the picture they could switch places with the caller.
So as a watcher you could hear the caller giving instructions and you could see what the drawer was doing with those instructions. Sometimes they would have a piece upside down or in the wrong place. As a watcher you could see this and you could jump in and switch with the caller and tell the drawer, “no you have that piece upside down”. Pretty good, right! Only problem, inevitably the drawer could not wait until the new caller was in place, it was a race and they continued to move pieces while the callers changed places. The new caller would sit down and say “you have that piece upside down”, but the drawer had already moved it. Another watcher would see what happened and jump in to fix the problem.
This same situation happened over and over again because it is not in most people’s nature to sit and wait without doing anything, especially if they are working under a deadline or racing to beat the clock. We wasted quite a bit of time because the drawer did not take their hands off the board and wait for the next instruction. By trying to speed things up they in fact slowed things down.
Sometimes we think that by moving full steam ahead we will get there faster. But many times it may be advantageous for us to pause, to wait and see, to think things through. Obviously this isn’t appropriate in all situations – medical emergencies call for full steam ahead.
When our team debriefed, the drawer said that they couldn’t just sit there while the callers switched, they wanted to move forward so they kept moving the pieces even though they didn’t know where they were supposed to go.
So this month’s blog is a reminder to pause. Just because you are doing something doesn’t mean you are getting anywhere or moving forward. Take the time to think things through and make sure you have the information you need before you start doing. Then all your effort will indeed go toward moving forward instead of just spinning your wheels.