The team I’m in right now is under a lot of pressure and stress. And have been for some time before I joined it. I’ve been in meetings where no-one of the five people in the room could sit down, due to stress. Two weeks after I started I had to comfort a crying colleague after the “customer” yelled at her, despite her best efforts. Me, myself, I’m nervous to report any news (good or bad) to the customers, since they seem to be angry all the time. Things like that.
I cannot help but wonder:
What is important? Really.
Before I reveal my thoughts here - let me give a few glimpses (recent and old) that made me think about this;
I remember in Indonesia that we had an important meeting that all of a sudden was interrupted by the news that one of the board members in the foundation had died.
Me and the boys were at McDonlads, just now - 15 minutes ago. It was a mess; fighting and screaming. I then met an old friend that told me that his daughter have severe psychological problems. He just brought her to the ER. Again.
- Another time in Indonesia I saw a manager scream her staff in the face. 15 cm from the face - full volume. Then silence. The next person that spoke was me: I had to go and pick up my boys from school, I was already 15 minutes late.
- 11 September 2001 - I was in a very strained meeting with a client. Once we got out we found the rest of the company glued to TV-screens. Apparently there was an airplane that crashed into World Trade Center. I remember seeing the second plane crash live.
What if? What would then be important? What is really important?
Here’s a little thought-experiment that you can amuse (eeeh… not really but challenge maybe) your brain with the next time you’re in a though, horrible or hard meeting;
Take the most horrible person in the room and imagine how you would look at her if you learned that her mother just died. Or that manager cracking his whip (figuratively speaking… I hope) at you - what if you learned that his wife just left him. Or if someone just brought news about that silent girl in the finance department - she just got diagnosed with cancer.
What would not be important?
The thing that you just thought was the most important thing in the whole world (“the sprint is late! Again!”) - how important is it now?
The thing that winded you up just minutes ago (“how can someone behave in such horrible way to my friend”), it’s not very important now right?
This person that you just can stand, because he simply just don’t get agile; right now he needs a hug - don’t you think?
How important is it if my boys behave in McDonalds - when my old friend just told me about his daughters problems?
Even discussing corruption and financial problems on the verge of bankruptcy… and then someone dies. What is important?
When she yelled her staff in the face and I had to leave, interrupting the yelling, to pick up kids; what was important now again?
That, right there. The strange feeling I get when I think about things like that; it’s called empathy. And I think we see to little of it in our workplace.
WHAT? The things we work with is not important? Loosing millions of dollars is not important, is that what you are saying?
And why on earth should I think all those horrible thoughts? You want me to get depressed?
Of course not. But when the going get tough, I’ve found that getting some perspective on things helps me realize what is really important.
A final thought; think back on the toughest project I was in - what do I remember? The details about what got me worked up? The code? The time-schedule? Or the people and the relations between you, how you felt?
Or do the opposite; the best time I had - what do I remember? For me it’s always people and the feeling of being great together.
What is important, really? Can I be the one that spread more of that in my workplace?
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