I’m an alumna of Pepperdine University, and our campus is located in Malibu, CA, just off the PCH, across the highway to famous beaches. Surf culture was definitely around, and many of my friends could surf. Our mascot is even Willie the Wave, so, I’m familiar with waves.
When in a mastermind group I’ve joined talked about our ups and downs at work, my mind conjured the image of waves battering a surfer hanging onto to her board. It’s a familiar feeling.
I was complaining about feeling battered around by the changes that had been occurring and the feeling of spinning out of control. A fellow caller was also describing her feeling of helplessness. Geoff Woods, our host, paused us and told us that we need to take accountability for the feelings and for the situation – regardless of the cause(s). He reminded us that our responses (not reactions) to the changing situations are the ways that we can get back on the board and not feel so helpless.
It took me a few days to reflect on it. Instead of clinging to my surfboard and following the crests and troughs like a piece of dead wood, I can get on the surfboard and ride a crest through its progression. Okay, that sounds great, but how do I do that??
Well, here are three ways:
First, change your mindset. I haven’t met anyone who has a problem-free workplace or job. Stress at work and the requirement to respond to situations will occur. Instead of framing the situations as problems, what would happen if you considered them as opportunities to set up a system or to teach/learn? Would you feel differently about walking through that challenge?
Second, prepare yourself. When situations at work seem to go crazy, and you feel like you’re being battered by waves, you probably are. And you’re probably not taking the time prepare for the crests and troughs.
There are times that I’ve been impressed by the ability of certain leaders to respond to crises. They seem calm, able to take in the details and issue an appropriate decision. Do they think more quickly and creatively than I do? Nah, they’re better prepared and had anticipated a situation like that.
Preparedness is key. In my work, many issues that occur in each project are similar to issues in other projects. Once you’ve checked off a few projects, patterns will emerge. Get ahead of those patterned problems and eliminate them, if possible, or anticipate and plan accordingly. Get ahead of the wave.
Finally, beware the riptide. Go into the surf knowing which way the tide is flowing and which areas will drag you out to sea. There are certain tides to avoid going towards, and there are certain people whose attitudes and work practices will drag you down. Just don’t go there.
So remember: Surf don’t sink in the waves of change. Prepare and practice.