As energetic as a sheepdog!
On another one of my many international flights, a hyperactive attendant was running up-and-down barking orders like a sheepdog as one of my fellow passengers put it. Hyper-energetic people can be tiresome!
For a few days now, I’ve been writing about initiative because I’ve become irritated with people sitting around complaining about the recession and ‘all the bad people’ who brought it about. These complaints claim no responsiblity and worse, promise no contribution to getting us out of this mess. Before I became too irritated and bossy like a diligent sheepdog, I decided to use a week to review the essence of initiaiive. Why is it that sometimes we get on with things, and other times we do not?
3 types of initiative
Michael Frese of Giessen University divides initiative into self-starting (jumping in and making tasks our own), proactivity (mentally preparing ourselves and learning about the world) and persistence (dealing with distractions on their own terms and coming back to our own goals). Self-starters may seem the opposite of planners and persistent people may lack flexibility.
In truth, we need to understand how the world works so we can make an adequate set of plans. If we do that, we can distinguish between distractions that call for our attention right now, and our own goals that we will get back to soon. Then we find that our work rate goes up, and we feel goal oriented and on top of our to do list (and the world).
When is it time to chill?
But do we want to be hyperactive all the time – like the flight attendant who behaved like an a collie dog herding sheep?
- Sometimes we are on a learning curve. When we’ve had bad news – and what else is the recession than bad news? – then we also have to go through an emotional curve of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. That is our goal and our task immediately – to be patient with ourselves and to work through the curve.
- Sometimes it is time for a rest. We want to be like the collie in the picture who is taking a rest in the wool! There is time for everything and recreation is important.
- Sometimes it is time to wait. On these long-distance flights, the worst thing we can do is look at the screen telling we how far we still have to go. 12 hours, 11 hours – it will drive you mad. Sometimes our task is to wait.
Can we afford to wait?
That doesn’t mean we are doing nothing though!
- The pilot is driving the plane. Everything is in hand.
- We are allowing a well understood process to unfold. Should we be required to help out, in an evacuation for example, having listened to the safety instructions, we’ll act promptly and decisively.
- We understand that people around us may be restless, disorganized, agitated or confused. We make a comfortable social bubble where they can settle down and relax for the ‘long haul’.
- We relax ourselves knowing that we will need energy for sorting out hassles at the other end.
- And we enjoy the flight – the movies, our book, a bit of day dreaming, the life stories of our neighbours.
Sometimes initiative means chilling because initiative means letting a process unfold the way it should!
The right speed and the recession
Having lived through an economic melt-down before, I’ve learned we can predict ahead how people react. These are my estimates.
- A lot of people will ‘hold their breath’ for another year hoping that the recession will just go away. They are ‘happy’ to be in the denial or anger stages.
- Many people will ‘bargain‘ and try to cope individually. They will trim expenditure and try to be extra-sweet at work to avoid redundancy.
- Some will lapse into nostalgia and talk endlessly about better days.
- A handful will find opportunities and be working on them regardless.
What will the first four groups do in a years’ time when the world has moved on? I think the fifth group needs to think ahead to how to incorporate people who will not have made much preparation for 2010.
Come with me!
What is your feeling about the speed at which we will adjust to the crisis?