Are You Tripping Yourself Up?

Jo Ilfeld | Relationship Building | Executive Leadership Coach |Are you tripping yourself up?

This past summer, I had the joy of spending two summer weeks in Carmel, a place by the ocean I love. It was a working vacation but I made time every morning to walk along the ocean and on the beach. It got me to start my day with a gorgeous vista, it got my dog a great walk, and it fueled my soul for the day ahead.

Except for this one day. . .

I was trying to get a workout while walking and had this great online app workout queued up to accompany me on my walk. I closed the door to our house rental and hit play. Annoyingly enough, I just kept seeing that loading circle where it appears your app is trying hard but isn’t quite ready to play. I continued my walk towards the beach.

Once I hit the beach and let my dog run free (it’s a leash-free beach), I put my full attention on my phone, starting and restarting the app to try to load my workout.  20 seconds later I was lying on my face in the sand.

Jo Ilfeld | Relationship Building | Executive Leadership Coach |Are you tripping yourself up?

It turns out as I focused on my phone, completely oblivious to my surroundings, I had walked right into a hole on the beach that someone (dog or child) had dug. Having no warning that I was even falling, I was literally face down in the sand before I realized what had happened. Luckily for me, sand is a pretty soft landing, so only my ego was hurt in the fall. As I stood up and brushed myself off, I gazed around me to see who had witnessed my plunge onto the beach. I expected to see people cracking up around me, but graciously because of the earlier hour, few people were on the beach and no one it seemed, had even noticed me. Bruised ego and all, I continued my walk along the beach and couldn’t help noticing that in my mindful desire for a workout, I was mindlessly walking into holes on the beach. “How many of us,” I wondered, “focus so deliberately on our goals, that we lose track of all the potential pitfalls around us?”

I know I’m not alone, and yet I also know that for the leaders I coach these days, being obsessively goal-focused is a fast path to lying flat on your face. In this Covid-world of hybrid work, with more and more co-workers you’ve never met in person, there are too many relational landmines to focus primarily on your goals. Whether you call it give-and-take, relationship-building, or collaborative teaming – the truth is that ignoring the people around you at work (especially the people beyond your immediate team) is no longer is an effective strategy when you have big goals to meet.

The hallway passing conversations, the chit-chat before meetings, the quick coffee breaks together – these were the glue that often held our relationships together at work pre-Covid. Nowadays, people are hitting the “leave meeting” button as fast as they can in the hopes of getting 1 minute to refill coffee mugs and visit the bathroom before they hop onto yet another call.  In a Zoom setting, it’s even harder to share a sense of humor  – if you made a funny quip, often no one can hear it when another Zoom box is lit up in green – so your momentary lightening of the moment is lost to most. 

This means you need a key relationship building and relationship maintenance strategy – right now! It can’t wait until you just finish this one big project, until you’re caught up on your to-do list, or until after you’ve responded to your emails. It needs to be happening now, and it needs to be happening every week.

Trust me that whether you’re working in a newly hybrid world, or your evergreen remote one, taking meaningful time to build relationships is no longer an option. It’s your path to success. Because otherwise, your goal is like my phone, it’s keeping you focused on what you want to happen while you ignore the environment around you. . . and there’s no guarantee that your landing will be as soft and painless as mine was.

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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