Exploring Impatience at Work

Leaders and I are exploring the topic of impatience this week. One finds himself getting almost belligerent when others slow him down with self-evident (to him) questions. Another hides her impatience (she thinks) while her tone gets brisker, colder and more formal. What makes you impatient, and how useful to the work is your response? Left unnoticed, impatience can quickly turn to outsized anger.

In Full Span Coaching we are interested in putting our insights to work. Using an Integral 4-quadrant lens, we explore impatience as an “early warning signal” –  which leaders can respond to consciously and compassionately.

  • The fastest, easiest place to build patience might be in your physical body. When tension sets in, having a way to unwind and slow your response is important (is that why spinners are so popular?) The adage to “count to 10” is a good one. If impatience has taken up residence, try training yourself to go slowly. Set your fork down between bites. Walk don’t sprint. Pause and take a breath between sentences.
  • When working with others, try shifting from annoyance to curiousity. This is a good practice when certain people make you impatient on sight. Drop your certainty, and open to the possibility that you might discover something important and unexpected from slowing down and meeting them in their pace. I like the poem Things to Think by Robert Bly. He says: “If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message, Larger than anything you’ve ever heard.”
  • Consider the larger picture and the culture of the organization as it relates to deadlines, timeframes and status conferred by being “busy”. Possibly you are responding to habit and group norms. I once met a harried administrator who had a profound sign at his desk, “Why is there never time to get it right, but always time to do it over?” Why indeed.
  • Make it about you, not them. That feeling of being poked or prodded seems to be coming from what the other person is doing (or often, not doing) and then we push back at them. Realize the poke is coming from inside of you. Name the unmet assumption, expectation or belief that is causing your disappointment. “I am getting irritated because I assumed we had agreed to this in our last meeting. And now we are discussing it fresh. What did I miss?”

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