Let’s be honest, change can be a challenge both personally and professionally. The truth is, change is constant and how we navigate it can often affect our perspective and how we handle it. In the technology field we thrive on new platforms, standards, architecture, and equipment upgrades. Agile innovation methods, including big data and machine learning, have completely shifted the landscape over the past 5 years and companies have to embrace agility and innovation to stay competitive. The ability to adapt to change, seemingly on-demand, is essential to success. What we have learned navigating this landscape is that changes in technology can be easier to implement than getting people to adapt. While I was thinking about change and agility in the workplace, as well as the complexities of leading myself and others through it, I was brought back to a book I read a decade ago. Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements, written in 1997. The Four Agreements are four rules to simplify what we expect from ourselves and others. Applying this to our business environment, in this article, I will be exploring the connection between the agreements and our own values.
Be impeccable with your word.
“Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean.”
Values: Communication, Influence, Honesty
Speaking and acting with integrity is the foundation for good client and co-worker relationships. Communicating with integrity allows you the opportunity to influence others because the trust and respect has been built. In today’s environment we have so many ways to communicate with colleagues, contractors and clients; it’s extremely important to have consistent messaging across the board. Clarity is key; take the time to be impeccable with your word in all communications.
Don't make assumptions.
“Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life."
Values: Honesty, Innovation, Courage
We were having a team meeting one day and one of the points written on the white board was “don’t make assumptions”. This was the meeting that got me thinking about the book. Making assumptions can erode a project, a team and pretty much anything else you can think of. When you’re making assumptions, you are most likely making things up in your head and haven’t taken the time to engage to understand. I’ve watched this happen and you probably have too. When I catch a glimpse of an assumption, I start asking questions, which basically transforms the assumption into an opportunity to learn and to dive deeper into understanding the root of the issue. Hidden behind an assumption is often a problem that needs a solution. As Brene Brown advocates, openly address conflict and embrace problem solving.
Delving into assumptions takes courage and honesty. Courage to be a part of a deeper conversation that might get a bit messy and honesty because you have to take a step back and reflect on a behaviour that brought you to make the assumption in the first place.
On the business side, by not making assumptions and therefore asking questions you are constantly validating requirements and improving on service, product and customer and team relations.
Perhaps even more importantly in an innovative R&D environment you need to be curious and ask questions in order to explore all possibilities. It takes courage to ask questions and to express what you want to communicate. Asking questions increases the accuracy of information and brings clarity to decision-making and strategy. Yes, it can be that simple.
Always do your best.
“Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret."
Values: Agile, Common Sense, Positive
Always do your best! This might seem overwhelming but like Don Miguel Ruiz’s excerpt says, your best changes from moment to moment. Doing your best means being fully engaged and present in whatever you’re doing in the moment. What sort of energy and engagement are you bringing to meetings or work sessions? Are you open to trying new applications that might make life easier for your team? When you find yourself in a negative mindset or a setback occurs can you pivot into a more positive space?
I believe with a positive mindset it is much easier to adapt and be agile in the workplace. When change happens will you survive or thrive? What happens often depends on the effort, action and attention. If you do your best you are empowering yourself and those around you.
If I’m trying to do my best and those around me are doing the same thing, work is so much more fun. We help each other to achieve success and grow together. We focus on the details because everything matters. Having this attitude benefits the business as a whole because people are taking accountability for their work and their personal and professional attitude.
Don't take anything personally.
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality.”
Values: Passion, Team work, Collaboration
Sometimes we get caught up in thinking, it’s all about me. It’s all about “me” and not enough about “we”. Not taking things personally is an important concept in business and life because if you think it’s all about you, things will eventually stagnate.
When I stopped taking things personally, for the most part, the drama stopped and focus and discipline took over. Taking things personally takes a substantial amount of energy leaving little for openness and collaboration.
Being passionate about what you do, no matter what you’re doing, plays a huge role in career success and happiness. This passion turns into ideas, and in the business world an idea often leads to collaboration and working with a team to turn it into reality.
If you take things personally there is a chance that you will never allow yourself to be vulnerable, you won’t take risks, you’ll stay safe in a silo where you don’t share ideas and allow yourself to grow, both personally and professionally. This pretty much equates to unnecessary suffering.
When woven into the other three agreements, not taking things personally becomes much easier to integrate because you’ve been impeccable in your communications, you’ve asked questions instead of making assumptions, and you’ve done your best by being present and engaged in the moment.
Thanks for staying with me. My goal was to explore the connection between the four agreements and our values, and I did. Culture and Values evolve as businesses grow and they drive strategic direction. Exploring this was a good exercise for me because I have deeper understanding of what our values bring to every moment and how they support change and growth within the business. Best advice…try out the agreements…and then try again….it’s a life long process.
Erin Bursey, Network Manager Missing Link Technologies