You Want To vs. You Should

“We can do only what we think we can do.
We can be only what we think we can be.
We can have only what we think we can have.
What we do, what we are, what we have, all depend upon what we think.”

~ Robert Collier

Are You Doing It Because You Want To? Or Just Because You Think You Should?

By Andrea Novakowski

Somewhere along the line, back when you were working your way up the corporate ladder, someone probably gave you advice. The advice made sense at the time, you followed it, and today you’re the owner, leader, or manager of your organization. Congratulations! Now is the perfect time to take a moment and assess whether that long-ago advice still serves you.

In other words, I’m asking you to consider if there’s anything you’re still doing, not because it feels right to you, but because you think you should. Whenever I pose that question to my clients, I get some revealing answers.

To be successful, I should work 24/7. One of my clients, Kirsten, had a job that required her to be available all weekend in case her company’s computer system went down. She (and her husband) were tired of being awakened in the middle of the night by calls from the third shift. Sometimes the problem did demand her expertise, but more often it was a routine matter.

Kirsten and I talked about the situation and came up with a plan: an FAQ document that included a decision tree for the simple problems people could solve on their own. Kirsten also developed a program to train other leaders, and – more important – a schedule to rotate them to be on call.

I should never let an employee go. Ryan, the head of his law firm’s IT department, had promoted Toby, but as time went on, it became evident that Toby was in over his head. The department was starting to suffer as work got stalled on Toby’s desk. Even though Ryan knew he’d made a mistake, he spent many hours working with his employee, trying to help him see what he needed to change and why. Toby would nod and agree to the changes, but then he wouldn’t execute.

After six months of this, Ryan finally replaced Toby with someone more suited to the position. Immediately, projects started moving. Sure, everyone in the department felt bad about Toby – but the change brought them much-needed energy and room to grow.

I should have an open-door policy. “I want to be available to my team, but I’m falling behind on my work,” Pamela told me. She loved the idea of developing a relationship with her staff and being a resource to support them – but she desperately needed time to think and accomplish her own work. We formulated a plan for Pamela to close her door from 10 to 11 each day. She alerted her staff to the new schedule and then stuck to it. Finally, she started to get things done. As a result, Pamela felt even better about helping her team.

I shouldn’t bring humor to work. Business is serious. Thomas grew up in a family where hard work and perseverance was valued above all. Only when your work was done could you relax and let loose a little. But then Thomas became manager at a company where people told jokes at meetings and went out to lunch. Meanwhile, Thomas kept his head down and worked and worked, expecting his team to do the same.

People started complaining about Thomas. Sure, he hit his deadlines, but he just didn’t fit in with the culture.

Thomas and I discussed the situation and he agreed to try loosening up a little. He actually had a wonderful sense of humor! Once he started using it, his job became easier.

I shouldn’t blow my own horn. If I just do my job well, I’ll be rewarded. Angela had last been promoted a year ago, mostly on the strength of her hard work. Then a position opened up in her company’s marketing department that she knew she’d be perfect for. She had the skills. She was ready for the next step. When the promotion went to someone else, naturally she was upset.

I encouraged Angela to talk to her manager about it. Sure enough, the manager didn’t even know Angela was interested! Lesson learned. Going forward, she won’t make such a secret of her ambitions.

What about you? Is there anything you’re doing because you think you shouldor not doing because you think you shouldn’t? It can be unsettling to start examining your own list of “shoulds.” As you start looking at things differently, it may be helpful to find someone who can support you. What’s your first step?

Coaching Call To Action

Choose an activity at work that is no longer “working” for you.  Maybe it’s not getting the results you want or it feels too hard or it’s boring.  Dig a little deeper – and ask yourself: Why am I doing this? What is the result that I want?  Is there another way to get that result? What did you learn?  Please share your experiences with other Tip readers below.