Think more about systems, and less about people

201601-unsplash-peopleWhen it comes to politics, you know one of the things that frustrates me the most? The focus on the politicians themselves.

Politicians constantly talk about other politicians. Sometimes it’s glowing praise. Other times it’s stinging rebuke. But you can’t get away from hearing one politician talk about another politician.

That gets old, in a hurry. The same thing happens at work. When you think about the barriers you face at work, it’s easy to think about

  • Who doesn’t appreciate your hard work,
  • Who is stabbing you in the back,
  • Who is preventing you from getting that big promotion, etc.

On the positive side, when you think about the big wins you’ve had at work, you probably think about

  • Who helped you with the visible project,
  • Who gave you the best advice and feedback,
  • Who picked you up when you were down, etc.

We’re social creatures. We’re wired to think about ourselves, first, and the community in which we belong, second. That’s understandable.

When you face obstacles, think less about specific people. Think about the processes that will help you overcome whatever obstacle you face. If your boss is holding you down, find a way to have an intimate conversation, where no one feels on the defensive. If you feel like there’s no path for career growth, consult your mentor, learn more about what your company does, and consider non-traditional avenues that might give you what you need.

When you’re reflecting on success, thinking of people can be very helpful. Acknowledge, and share, your gratitude. At the same time, identify the processes and tactics you followed to earn your success. Some of those might be repeatable. It’s easy to assign outcomes to serendipity, but there’s often much more than that.

When I’ve been least excited about my professional life, I’ve thought much more about people, than I have about what I’m actually doing. I’ve thought about people who were having more success, or people who didn’t “get” me, or people who seemed out of touch with reality around them.

And that’s BS, frankly. It didn’t get me anywhere. It’s when I took the focus off other people, and thought about myself, and what I needed to do going forward, that I rediscovered the path to what made me most fulfilled, work-wise.

As a rule, behaving the way politicians behave isn’t going to serve you well. Leave the tit for tat, back and forth personal nonsense behind. It only disguises the path you really need to follow.

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