Character. And. Integrity. Intact.

Okay…so I’ve been watching a LOT of Downton Abbey (I curse the houses of those who recommended I start watching this show…for real), and I’ve been listening to a series of mystery books that follow a member of the extended royal family in London, so perhaps my sense of what is and is not proper behavior is heightened…but…

I was recently involved in some strategic planning sessions.  Before we could get to the really good and meaty stuff, how best to move forward, what to focus on next, how to improve processes, and how to grow our success exponentially, we needed to address a couple of things that were holding us back.  Thankfully the group was made up of people who all want to do good work and are willing to be vulnerable to make that happen.

Vulnerability.  It ain’t easy.

But because we were all willing to be truthful and vulnerable, we were able to have incredibly frank conversations about what we needed to do differently moving forward.

While I do think I’m right much of (most of) the time, I am well aware that I’m not perfect.  In our session we all agreed that none of us are perfect, and that we’re bound to slip up from time to time, but we needed to establish standards that we wanted to set for ourselves, our behavior, and our work.  This particular group is made up of very busy, very hard working people who have very little time for BS.  Sometimes, in the heat of a very busy time, we can steer ourselves into a place of negativity and bitterness.  It’s hard to work really hard and really long hours and not feel appreciated or heard.  It’s a lot easier to bitch and moan about things, or people, and have others agree with us.  Which, of course, leads to a really unhappy environment full of snarkyness and negativity.  And for our group, we’ve decided, that’s not good enough.  We don’t want to be those kinds of people.

I’ve mentioned in past posts that I’ve been there before.  In work or committee or personal relationship situations.  When things are rocky, instead of working to make them better, I’ve succumb to bitching about it, and sharing my dismay with anyone who will listen.  Or I’ve been with other people who got there first, and I joined them.  And for awhile, my cohorts and I shared a little bond, in which we could be snarky together.  And in meetings, or on the sidelines of a party, or over email, we’ve been snarky about our colleagues or the situation.  And I used to justified the behavior by feeling like I’d finally found someone who understood my strife.  Someone with whom I could commiserate.

After a while, however, I always started to feel like ‘ugh…seriously?  Are we STILL talking about this???’  And then I felt stuck because the relationship, or the work environment, or the committee on which I’ve sat, had turned toxic and I felt unable to change it back to a normal or healthful one.  And then what?!

Within our group there have been some pretty large obstacles over the past several months.  Challenges that have felt particularly personal and unfair.  And while on the surface we’ve attempted to maintain our professionalism and an air of being unflustered, internally we’ve expressed deep disappointment, frustration, and anger.  We’ve talked to each other about these feelings but we haven’t done anything about it.  Just more and more chatter about how unfortunate the situation is.  Once again I started to feel uncomfortable with how it all felt and I started hoping for some sort of escape.

So we did something crazy.  Instead of letting it fester, instead of continuing to let the negativity spread and grow, instead of talking all sorts of smack that would never be backed up, we decided to confront it head on.  With respect, and dignity, and humility.  How ridiculous!

We laid out expectations.  Expectations for processes, behavior, and how we want to be seen by others.  We promised to hold each other accountable if we saw each other slip into negativity.  We even came up with a phrase to help jolt us back to the standards we want to hold ourselves to.  We confessed to each other that there are things that some of us have been doing or saying have in fact impacted the rest of us in ways not intended.  And we told each other that we believed we had it in us to simply take the high road.

All the time.  Or at least MOST of the time.

You know when you have one of those experiences that feels so enlightening and profound and then you realize that you actually learned the principals when you were four or five years old?  Yeah.  Well that happened.  I left our last strategic planning session feeling so light, and positive, and hopeful for our future as a group.  It was almost like we’d given each other permission to behave like adults should.  With character and integrity fully intact.  We don’t have to behave in a manner that is beneath us just because our competitors may be comfortable down there.  We don’t have to constantly discuss our frustration, we get to acknowledge it, but then we get to move on.  We get to be examples of the way we expect others to work/behave/treat people with whom they work.  We get to because WE choose those things for ourselves.  We get to be proactive instead of reactive.

It’s not like it’s rocket science.

Ever since that last meeting I’ve noticed myself stopping those around me from going down a tangent that isn’t kind, or respectful, or necessary, or becoming of them.  I’ve realized how talking smack actually makes people look and sound so very ugly.  But most importantly I’ve been trying to hold myself to a higher standard.  It feels so much nicer to act like I want those around me to act.  It feels so much freer not to mess around in the mud when others around me are wrestling down there.  Surely there will be times when my frustration gets the best of me but I have to say…it feels wicked awesome to be living and working in an environment that is primarily positive most of the time.

TODAY:  What if I remember that the Golden Rule really is just that…GOLDEN.

PS – For a good time check out the Her Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen.  I don’t typically read books that are light and fun…I usually read particularly intense and/or serious books.  These books are fabulous and make me laugh out loud.  And make me happy to be married to an Irishman.


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