One of the worst things to do whilst you are crossing the street in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, amongst the cars and mostly motorbikes and tuk-tuks screaming past in all directions, is to stop, to stand still.
Hey, it’s Andrew, and this is Safety on Tap.
Since you’re listening in, you must be a leader wanting to grow yourself and drastically improve health and safety along the way. Welcome to you, you’re in the right place. If this is your first time listening in, thanks for joining us and well done for trying something different to improve! And of course, welcome back to all of you wonderful regular listeners.
Crossing the street in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. That’s the analogy I used to explain what happens immediately before disruption, in my opening keynote address to the New Zealand Safeguard Conference in 2019.
The entire conference was on the theme of ‘daring to disrupt’.
Disruption happens when we feel like we’ve been blindsided, when something comes out of left field and surprises us. So the metaphor associated with the movement here is important. We feel like we’ve been struck, hit, tripped up. Something of much greater force has collided with us in some way.
So the metaphorical opposite of this is to be in motion ourselves. Not stuck, stopped, stalled or stale (believe me, I have felt all these things in the past few months).
Stopping, or standing still is one of the worst things we can do, like crossing the road in Ho Chi Minh City.
So we need to always be thinking about our next step. I’ve got five different kinds to steps to help you with your next one.
Did you know that in any self-organising group, even a group of entire strangers, that leaders emerge really quickly? In fact, if you give a task to a group of random strangers, leaders appear in just a few minutes, sometimes seconds.
Scary times call for brave actions, and that is what the first step is all about – stepping up. This is the step that we take when leadership is missing, irrespective of whether the person with the job little is there but not leading the way that is required. This is stepping up in our work, our community, and our families. I have heard from many of you who have stepped up into new jobs, into crisis management teams, into the media, into leadership. You are inspiring.
Stepping up is not business as usual, stepping up is not the safe path to take. Stepping up risks you getting cut down, shot down, pushed down or let down.
So step up, if that’s what the world needs of you.
“You can’t do everything on your own”, are words that many people have said to me many times in my life, including recently. I have had a saddening number of conversations with people like you and me who are saying things like ‘this is breaking me’, ‘at that point I just broke down’, or ‘I don’t know how I can keep going with this’. Sometimes what we need to do is to step aside, to give ourselves a break before we break.
I mean this literally, as in take time off for your physical and mental health, but I also mean this in a more servant leadership style. Just because you are in the position you are in, doesn’t mean that everything is on you. Apart from major disruption, global pandemics seem to be a great catalyst for humans to show how amazing they are, and surprise us in the process. Stepping aside sometimes means getting out of the centre, the middle, the core, and enabling other people to occupy that space and to show us how amazing they can be. Not only does that allow for more awesomeness to emerge than there was before, it means you are less likely to break in the process when you step aside. Like they used to say to us in the army, you’re no good to us if you are broken.
My friend and previous guest Wade Needham gifted me with one of the most useful insights of my life – have strong views, but hold them loosely. This has so much depth to it, but fundamentally the message here is that sometimes, we need to step away. The earth used to be flat, until enough people stepped away from that idea to explore the possibility that it wasn’t. To step away is to entertain the idea that what we used to think, believe or do, could be wrong (or at least unhelpful). The way this sounds in our heads or our conversations, is things like ‘that’s not my/your/their job’. Or ‘it should/shouldn’t be this, that or the other thing’. That might be equally right and equally useless at the same time. Step away from worldviews, opinions, ways of working, relationships, systems, processes, which don’t continue to serve whoever they are meant to serve. By the way, that keynote presentation I did in New Zealand, at the Safeguard conference with the theme ‘Dare to Disrupt’. Do you know what my talk was titled? Go disrupt yourself. It was both a tongue in cheek and very serious enticement for us to step away from strong views, when we need to step away.
My friend and previous guest of the podcast Cameron Stevens told me the story about his local coffee shop. He is based in Perth, who have had Covid pretty under control, but his local coffee shop was at risk of closing, not because of government shutdowns but because they couldn’t source hand sanitiser to make available to staff and customers. Cameron doesn’t take lightly to that, and loves a challenge, so he helped them work out the ingredients of hand sanitiser and how to source and make their own safely. Broad scale shortages saw gin distilleries switch to hand sanitiser production. Step around the problem.
Tough times will always throw up challenges in front of us, it’s almost guaranteed. The mental image I have is of the movie Twister, which came out when I was a kid, where the wild tornado would pick up post boxes and dogs and trees and houses and then drop them from the sky as cars are driving frantically away, dodging the falling debris.
There will be challenges, barriers, problems. It’s easy to look at these and drop our shoulders, shake our heads, and walk away. This is exactly when you need the final step – to step around. Big challenges seem bigger than they really are. If your approach to barriers that land in front of you is to step around them, you’ll find that they aren’t so big.
Big P, Little P
You can probably tell that reflections like this, and a lot of my more recently ones, are far less tactical and far more, well, reflective. That’s because these are the reflections which I see percolating out of my lived experience and that of others, clients, coachees, friends and family. It’s also because our growth, and in turn our performance, is based on a foundation of what I call the big P – principles. It’s easy to make a podcast full of the little P’s (practices). These are the sorts of things which we feel we need – what do I do now? How do I tackle this problem?. But when we approach the world and our work with Principles, the practices don’t matter, because they will adapt, flex, and change in line with the application of the Principles in our context.
A client of mine mentioned that their learning teams, which were in their infancy, were put on hold due to the disruption of Covid-19. That means that the practice of learning teams, the way they were defined and conceptualised before, is on hold. But instead of merely a practice, we have a Principle which says that learning by tapping into the rich resource that exists in the people around us, if that is important to us, then there is no reason why learning shouldn’t be happening, it just needs different practises.
Anyway let me know what you think. This podcast is about you, so you get more of what you want if you let me know what you want or don’t want. Drop me an email to email@example.com, or a DM on Linkedin.
And the last step? Going back to Ho Chi Minh City, and crossing that road. The number one rule, don’t stop. Or framed as a more affirmative action which psychologists suggest is a more helpful thing four our brains to process – keep going forward. Step forward is what we all need to do to be relevant, fulfilled, and effective into the future. Things won’t go back to the way the used to be, so forward is the only productive way to step.
Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, what’s the one thing you’ll do to take positive, effective or rewarding action, to grow yourself, and drastically improve health and safety along the way? Seeya!
Here’s your FREE reflection worksheet from this episode.
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