Behavior: getting from pointless to purposeful

Point­less­ness. I hate it. Don’t you?

I bet that you, just like me, have had point­less expe­ri­ences. Point­less meet­ings. Point­less texts. Point­less phone calls. Point­less con­ver­sa­tions.

We can be tempt­ed to say, “yeah, but even thru the point­less expe­ri­ences, you can find mean­ing!” Or we might say, “even when things seem POINTLESS, there’s a big­ger thing that’s always going on.” Or, “Rela­tion­ships are valu­able. Deal­ing with point­less stuff is part of build­ing rela­tion­al cap­i­tal!” And, I’d agree. But for a moment, think with me...

Point­less expe­ri­ences (meet­ings, con­ver­sa­tions, phone calls, emails, doc­u­ments, text mes­sages, etc.) are deemed “point­less” by you and I, the ones who think. We don’t sim­ply do things “just because,” but with a pur­pose. Pur­pose dri­ves every­thing we do. We hate when we are unclear on the objec­tive, can’t see the “why,” and don’t know our role in the larg­er pic­ture. We hate when behav­iors don’t align with how we like to oper­ate: with orga­ni­za­tion, clar­i­ty, agen­das, and mean­ing.

So here’s my idea: you and I must spread a pas­sion for pur­pose­ful behav­ior. We must talk about “how we behave” to our co-work­ers, boss­es, and col­leagues who typ­i­cal­ly facil­i­tate point­less expe­ri­ences. We must spread a pas­sion for think­ing things through and tak­ing the time to decide. We must find great mod­els and ways of doing things that can spread to oth­ers and not just be based on our own per­son­al pref­er­ences.

If we base our work sat­is­fac­tion on whether or not oth­ers “do things the way WE like them,” we will always be frus­trat­ed, annoyed, and bogged down. But if we learn to see oppor­tu­ni­ties to come along side oth­ers and sug­gest a mutu­al­ly BETTER way of doing things, we can expe­ri­ence growth, change, and progress.

The more you and I demon­strate what it looks like to give some­thing the atten­tion it deserves (a doc­u­ment, an email, a meet­ing agen­da), we will gain more cred­itabil­i­ty and influ­ence with those around us. It’s cred­itabil­i­ty and influ­ence that then gives you a seat at the table to bring about real change in how things are done.

I don’t know if you’re dis­cour­aged today by some­thing that hap­pened at work. Maybe you feel like your boss is an idiot... you’re putting in all this extra, valu­able effort . . . and it’s unno­ticed.

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Make a list of the kinds of “key behav­iors” that you’d like to see more of
  2. Demon­strate the behav­ior you want to see more of
  3. Find an oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk about “how you behave” with your co-work­ers*
  4. Con­tin­ue to talk about the kind of behav­ior that best serves you & your work
  5. Reg­u­lar­ly make adjust­ments and per­form course-cor­rec­tion

* My sug­ges­tion for how to find an oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk about “behav­ior” is this (based on advice from Clay Scrog­gins): Find a moment when you are hav­ing a light/easy-going moment with your boss or co-work­er. Ask them their advice on how you can bring up things you dis­agree about in that moment — when the stakes are low­er and the air isn’t tense. Use this as an oppor­tu­ni­ty not to talk about the hard stuff but to learn the best way to bring up the hard stuff, the next time it does.

Core principles

We all oper­ate with a set of core prin­ci­ples and com­mit­ments. Some of us are aware of what they are, oth­ers haven’t defined them yet.

Whether they’re writ­ten down and “defined” or not, they still exist. They just might be in the dark.

A bright light can help.

Shin­ing light in a cer­tain area expos­es what’s hid­den. Most of us have some­thing that’s in the dark: deep in our heads and hearts. And some peo­ple can walk around and be OK with all of that in the dark. Oth­ers go crazy.

The goal is to fig­ure out first what kind of per­son you are and how you best oper­ate. Then fig­ure out the peo­ple around you and how they best oper­ate.

If you need your core prin­ci­ples vis­i­ble, keep them vis­i­ble. If you don’t, then don’t wor­ry about it.