Author: James Middleton
This post could’ve been named a whole host of different things… The science of waiting… The task of waiting… The art of waiting… The pain of waiting… All of those different words are part and parcel of what it means to wait, especially when it comes to work and our professional lives. I hope to provide a bit of wisdom to those that find themselves in a place of frustration and aren’t quite sure what to do about it.
What are you waiting for?
I’ve recently learnt that sometimes we find ourselves in a situation at work where things aren’t as they should be and you’re not quite sure what to do in order to get them right. It might be that you’re leading a team and things aren’t sitting quite right with how it’s operating. It might be that your manager isn’t quite providing you with what you need in order to reach your potential. Whatever the situation is, there’s something that’s out of kilter, and while you know how you would like it to be, it seems impossible. In my case, I was capable of acting, but didn’t know quite what to do with the circumstances I found myself in.
In today’s super fast-paced world where everything is instant (how many times has that sentence been penned recently?), we’ve become expectant that things will happen immediately. In light of this, I believe that most of us are not disciplined at waiting… we want it now! The potential problem with this (and I say “potential” for good reason) is that we run the risk of interfering with our circumstances immaturely, impatiently, unwisely and ultimately end up stuffing everything up royally. This means that when we’re not quite sure what’s happening or what we should do, a bit of “active waiting” is usually a good move.
Having said that though, there will be times when waiting is not the right thing to do and you need to act instinctively and decisively! This post isn’t about that though, so hopefully I’ll write about that in the future. In the meantime, you’ll just have to trust your “gut” and choose between whether waiting or acting is the right thing!
Active waiting is what I would define as waiting with the intent of better understanding what’s going on around you. It’s waiting mingled with observing, thinking, imagining, asking questions and watching. The goal is to take stock of the situation as a whole (e.g. what are all the potential factors that are causing my team to be unhappy and under performing?) and compare this to the situation that you imagine to be the best one. Once you take a look at the current situation and compare it to the ideal situation, you’ll already start to get an idea of potential solutions. However, hold those horses and don your critical hat! Recognise that you are predisposed to see things in a particular way and this will definitely not paint the entire picture. Make sure to ask questions of those around you regarding the situation to see if they can add more “colour” and widen your understanding. Let the situation wash around in your head subconsciously, imagine different scenarios and what it would mean if they were to play out, try enjoy the process (that isn’t as easy as it sounds). Give your brain a bit of work and let the sands of time pass through the hourglass whilst it works away on the problem.
While there is no formula to how things pan out when you wait, I can guarantee you that while you wait, think and ask, stuff will change… even if it’s only you and you change a little bit. Waiting allows your thinking and understanding to develop and you will have a bigger, richer picture of what you’re facing (and hopefully a few more options of how to deal with it). The best case scenario is that the situation develops in such a way that it naturally progresses towards your ideal situation (like it did in my case). Sometimes you won’t have to wait long, whilst other times you will be required to exercise impressive patience. You never know what you will be facing, but make sure that when you are waiting, that you’re doing it actively.
I suppose the major point of this post is to propose that sometimes it pays to stop, take a step back, take a look around and wait to see what happens. By no means am I saying you must disengage yourself, but rather bunker down and get that brain wrestling with what’s in front of you. Actively wait to see what happens and you’ll put yourself in a much better position to come out good through it all.