Obstacles are the work

Is it really December?  Businesses and schools are winding down for the summer break. The cricket has started. Christmas is rapidly approaching.  With that comes a quick close to 2013.

2013 has been a year of adventures, obstacles and challenges. More than anything else it has been a year of new momentum. I could not be more excited by the incredible opportunities that have arisen this year:

Embrace the Chaos and all its Obstacles

I was reflecting on all that has happened this year when Dany DeGrave tweeted yesterday about the need to maintain momentum in the face of obstacles:

Obstacles are the work. They show you have chosen to have an impact. They help us see our purpose. They provide the challenge and interest.

Obstacles are proof that your work matters to others. These challenges remind us that change is human and social. They encourage us to share knowledge with our networks, to work aloud and to pay attention to the knowledge moving around us.

Obstacles help us reflect on what matters. Pushback make us ask new or obvious questions.  An orderly progression of success can be quite tedious and generate its own doubts.  If success is that easy, are we missing something?

If there weren’t obstacles, our talents would not be required, we would not learn and not grow in the work. If there weren’t obstacles, we would not get the rewards of overcoming them.  If there weren’t obstacles, we would not have the joys of collaborating with others to move forward around over, under or through.

Your Obstacles. Your Momentum. Your Year.

So next time you are considering a year of obstacles, remember the hard work proves that you are on the right track. Obstacles are proof of your momentum.

I bought this poster at the midpoint of this year. It has been a reminder ever since that every year is my year.

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Every year is your year too. Move past challenges. Reflect on the successes.

Maintain momentum in doing whatever you need to do to make it your year. Your impact is up to you.

If you would like your own or other great posters, the source is The Poster List. 

We need shared context

If you are struggling to get your message across it might not be the message, it might be the context.

You are an expert.  You might be an universally recognised expert, have some special qualifications or you just might be the person who best understands your job, your customers or a problem.  That better understanding of some context, however narrow, makes you an expert.

Any form of work or collaboration will require you to use your expertise. That expertise can also be a barrier to communication and collaboration.  Your challenge is that others don’t share your unique context.  

Unless you share a context, others won’t be able to understand what you are doing or what you want to share.  If we don’t share enough context, we can’t see things, trust or understand what experts tell us.

Here’s a simple example.  Start working with a new group of people and you will find people are speaking incomprehensible new acronyms or using buzz phrases you don’t know. The group knows their history and you don’t. That group has a context and you are not part of it. Until you learn enough of their context and share enough of your own, you won’t be able to follow conversations or contribute.  The friction and surprises will undermine your confidence and potentially your trust in the group.

So how do you make sure others share your context & your expertise?

  • Work aloud: Sharing what you are seeing and doing with your connections enables them to pick up your context.  You don’t need to push it on them, but they can pull what you share when needed
  • Ask questions: The questions that you ask will be some new ones and obvious ones.  The fact that you are asking will enable you to explain a little of your context in response.
  • Be curious and generous: There is no right or wrong context.  Explore the context others have. Ask them to tell your their stories and share your own in reply.  Learn more in the process about what you may not have seen and also how your expertise can help others

Opposition is engagement

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Many years ago I pitched an initiative to a senior executive group. The presentation went without a hitch. There were no hard questions and no push back. I walked out of the meeting pleased until a wise mentor of mine asked a devastating question:

What level of engagement was there in the room?

My mentor went on to point out that without pushback it is unlikely anyone in the room actually turned much of their mind to my initiative. The lack of pushback was bad news because it meant that support would fade quickly and little follow through would occur. Sadly, he proved right.

That day I learned a lesson to bring on questions, debate and conflict to generate engagement. No matter how compelling your case for change, you need debate to get people to consider the options, risks and issues. Without debate, people don’t agree. They just acquiesce.

Debate, questions and conflict are an essential part of how knowledge gets attention, currency and is shared in organisations. You can’t advance a meaningful agenda without them.

If it feels like you lack opposition, then there’s a good chance you are inadvertently playing to the safe ground. Platitudes might win unthinking support. That might work for a while, but there’s a risk you will lose your support when real challenges arise.

If others aren’t bringing debate, then start the debate yourself. Raise the hard questions and doubts. Provoke your likely opponents. A real discussion upfront is always better. Knowing where you stand as a change agent is critical.  It will give you valuable information on what to do next to move forward.