“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
I have seen this quote attributed to others, but prefer this variation attributed to Gandhi. This came to mind for me on a recent business trip as I was interacting with a group of very talented staff on topics where I had little experience or knowledge. Being one of the most senior staff in the meeting (by age as well as title), I found that during some of the discussions when I offered my input everyone hung on my words — or so it seemed to me when I reflected back on the meeting that evening. Perceived “power” gained by the authority of your position can be a frightening thing.
On most occasions I am a very positive person. For me, this is the type of person who sees the glass not just as half full but filled to the brim and spilling over. Learning about new tools and concepts excites me and it shows. I love nothing more than a lively debate on alternative approaches to solving problems. With this in mind and being a more senior leader in the team, I had to remind myself to temper my initial reactions because what I might think is a lively debate may get interpreted as the final word or a call to action. Keeping my opinions in check when meeting with staff and curbing my excitement is important to not only my success but also to the success of others on the team. I am fortunate to work with a very talented group of individuals and strive to continue to shine the light on them and let them bask in the glow of their accomplishments. While they may not come up with the same solutions to problems or approaches that I would take, they most often are very innovative and able to reach a conclusion within the same time boundary.
This business trip was a short one, but filled two days with an interesting agenda. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about our User Experience team across the company. Others I attended with probably got less from the meeting than I did since they are much more aware of the work of this team. Travelling home and discussing what we had each gotten from the meeting, I found that while a lot of the topics on the agenda were new to me my companions were already well-informed and had contributed to the meeting more than they had gained. This was a good reminder that sometimes when I attend meetings, it is probably more important to be a supportive contributor than a learning participant.
When discussing the meeting with my companions, I was also reminded again that the impression we leave on others and the way that others perceive us can be colored by the weight of our title. This is at times a burden, but giving others credit and letting them grow can be it’s own reward. We are also a reflection of how others perceive us and it is difficult at times to look in the mirror and see ourselves through their eyes. The ability to do this self-reflection can be a key to our continued professional growth and I would like to think that I am still able to learn a lesson or two.
With all this said, I’ll pack away what I learned on this trip and carry it along with me the next time I travel for business. Learning is light and doesn’t need to be rolled up to not wrinkle when I pack my travel bags in the future.