Source | LinkedIn : By Dave Ulrich
We live in an instant gratification world. Snail mail is replaced by e-mail and if e-mails are not responded to within hours, something is amiss. E-mails are replaced by twitter and Instagram which promise continual glimpses into people’s lives. Success is quickly followed by “what’s next” and “what have you done for me lately.” “Long term is Tuesday” as we try to respond to the pressures of daily living.
This turbulent world has been characterized as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA). These four processes require that organizations become agile and responsive (e.g., in the military this assessment lead to an emphasis on special forces who could move quickly in military assignments).
While individual and organizations’ responses to this turbulence require agility, boldness, responsiveness, and speed, in many cases if rapid response is hasty, it will be flawed. We suggest that successful leaders navigate the paradox of responding quickly, but with patience.
In a world of rapid change, delayed responses lead to lost opportunity; but without patience, rapid responses may lead to bad decisions. In Christian scripture, Jesus Christ suggested to his disciplines, that in times of turmoil, “In your patience possess ye your souls.”
What Is Patience?
Patience may be characterized as tolerance (we accept ourselves and others), forbearance (we exercise restraint), stoicism (we endure well), persistence/tenacity (we stick with something), and forego (pay price today for tomorrow’s benefit).
As we have coached leaders in all types of organizations, at all levels, and in all work areas, we have generated a set of tips that help leaders develop patience. These tips are listed below:
- Anticipate the worst case. what is the worst that can happen and emotionally accept the worst case scenario, so we can live with what might happen. Leaders can anticipate and prepare for the worst, then anything that happens has to be better than that. This is often called scenario planning, but helps leaders prepare in advance on what might happen.
- Manage expectations. impatience often comes from false expectations or hopes. When leaders don’t expect as much, they are more likely to be patient with the outcomes. Managing expectations is tricky because too low of expectation results in low performance, but too high of expectations results in discouragement. We coach leaders that their personal and organizational aspirations should exceed their resources, but not by too much.
- Understand the context. If someone offends a leader that might cause enmity, patient and good leaders try to understand why the person is acting the way they are. What about their history and experience leads them to act this way? By understanding, leaders learn to be more patient and accepting. We encourage leaders who are frustrated with someone or something to ask “5 whys” to explore the underlying cause of something happening.
- Control what is within your control. Sometimes, patience requires recognition that leaders can not control all the events that shape their lives. Impatience with weather, traffic, politics, social fashions, and economic trends, and so forth are often out of a leader’s control. Obsession with these uncontrollable externalities only exacerbates our personal frustration. It is useful to let go of what can not be controlled. Our Buddhist friend, Marshall Goldsmith, continuing encourages those he coaches (including us), “let it go.”
- Linger less. Instead of holding grudges, memories, or sleights, good leaders linger less on these past misfortunes and attend more to positive outcomes in the future. Focusing on the negative and what has gone wrong creates antipathy and festers old sleights. In quiet moments of reflection, it is helpful to ponder on the positive and what can happen.
- Forgive ourselves. Good leaders want to get better. To do so, they should recognize mistakes and be annoyed with the mistakes. Then, after reflecting on what caused the mistake, they need to forgive themselves and learn from the future. Patience increases when leaders accept their mistakes, often made with good intentions, and move forward.
- Separate events versus patterns. Sometimes, leaders lose patience with something has gone wrong that is an event not a pattern. Events happen, but they need not be repeatable. Many frustrations are temporary events, but not patterns. Patient leaders look for patterns more than events.
- Persevere. Impatience leads to letting go and giving up before fully giving one’s best. Patience reflects persistence and staying with something until it becomes doable. One of the most dominant predictors of long term leadership success is resilience, grit, learning agility, or perseverance. When patient, leaders forgo and sacrifice current demands in anticipation of future opportunities.