Be the change you want to see


A friend came to see me the other day about a problem she is having at work. She is feeling frustrated with poor work processes, inadequate communication across the business, and the impact these problems are having on the organisation.

Unfortunately, these frustrations are also causing my friend considerable stress. Lack of control is one of the primary causes of workplace stress.

I don't think my friend is alone in her frustrations. As the pace of work gets faster and as the amount of information we have access to increases, there is often a detrimental impact to team communication and work processes.

While we know that planning and open communication lead to better outcomes in the long term, that can be hard to remember when we are meeting a deadline. Taking the fastest route to the end goal is easy to do when we are under pressure.

And of course, once we stop communicating with each other, and stop following efficient work processes, we very quickly start to see the detrimental impacts on individual and team performance.

But what can one individual do? Even small organisations are hard to influence when you’re not in a senior role. And even if you are, it can still be hard to enact change unless you’re the CEO or you have the CEO’s support.

As my friend and I were talking through her frustrations, we came up with two different ways to tackle the problem:
1. Be the change you want to see
2. Surrender

Gandi‘s words still ring true and equally apply in a work setting. If you can see a problem ask yourself, ‘what can I do to help fix the problem?’ and then ‘be the change you want to see’. It might be as simple as informing a colleague of the impact their poor communication has on your work. If you see the need for more cross-team communication, initiate a monthly morning tea session to get people together sharing ideas.

The second option, surrender, might seem a little odd in a work context. But surrendering to what you can't change is key to managing your own frustrations and stress levels. This is about having the wisdom to know what you can change (see step 1 above), and the wisdom to accept what you can’t. Or as one of my first mentors told me ‘pick your battles’. You can’t possibly fix every problem, but if you focus your efforts on one or two then you have a good chance of making a lasting difference.

My friend’s problems and our subsequent conversation lead to the development of the below infographic. If you’re experiencing a frustration in your work or personal life this might be a helpful tool to identify what you can change, and what you need to let go of and surrender.

Janet Hopkins