Issues with navigating

“How lost to myself I have become“  – The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood

These words have been burned into my brain ever since I read them.  Maybe it`s more accurate to say that they struck a nerve, because I have the distinct impression that I have been feeling this way for some time and it was only in reading them on a page that I was able to see them in myself.

If you work in HR, you have likely felt this way, but it`s not the part we share with those considering going into HR.  We will tell you  that HR can be hard, that being a “people-person“ may be a detrimental quality, and that it`s thankless.  But rarely do we mention those soul-crushing moments and worse, the cumulative effects that these can have.

There is something about this industry that consistently places you where the four corners of  business needs, business wants, due diligence and empathy meet.  At this convergence, the risk that you are going to make a wrong move is  high.

Actually, that does not even do the feeling justice.  It`s can be the overwhelming weight of knowing that you are placing yourself in a situation where you need to disconnect from your personal feelings about a situation and rely on the GPS of others, but you know that you can`t.

Going back to those four corners, I want to talk about empathy a bit. The definition of empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. What is rarely mentioned about empathy is that it is exhausting  (Limits of empathy).

Think about it, the bases of being empathetic is to absorb what others are feeling and, in most of these cases, they are not feeling very good.

Even when you do all the right things, for the right reasons, and in the right way…you will feel shitty.  Why? Because you just participated in a decision or action that is negatively impacting someone and to do this right, you need to be empathetic.

So is this the source of my feeling of being `lost to myself“ – the fact that I am almost running on empty in the empathy department?  Not entirely, although I suspect it`s a contributing factor.

Going back to the idea of using someone else`s GPS, or even any GPS for that matter – it messes with your sense of direction.  It allows to you to move along a route without you actually paying attention to where you are going…you don`t have to count street corners, or look for the gas station on the right-hand side or notice the names of streets that you are going past.

I think the biggest issue for me is that I have always had a good sense of direction. I could navigate to various places based on my knowledge of the neighbourhoods and the fairly reliable map in my head.  Even old school maps were helpful to make sure you were on track and, when necessary, to see how far you had gone or had left to go.

Relying on a GPS, particularly someone else`s, has made me less aware, less intuitive and even skeptical of whether I am taking the best route.

This is not a good feeling when you are driving to a location where you have never been.

It`s a worse feeling when it`s moving forward with business decisions that impact people.

And it`s even worse when you are trying to locate yourself.











Sober thoughts

I love Ernest Hemingway`s recommendation to : write drunk, edit sober.

However, after numerous false starts and some really questionable (and possibly litigious) blog drafts, I came to realize that this advice was better applied figuratively and not literally.  I then committed to myself that I would write when the feeling hit and edit in a more reflective mood.

Obviously, I have not been very good at taking either Hemingway`s or my own advice, which has resulted in a number wasted moments.

Last week I attended a conference put on by my employer for our management community.  As far as conferences go, it was actually pretty good – I had an opportunity to meet with many people whom I had not yet met, was challenged with the case studies we went over and was inspired by what we are trying to achieve.

In spite of the fact that the agenda was not put together with the faintest consideration that there may be introverts attending , I made it through with no major issues. (Seriously, if I only have 1 hour of free time in a 24-hour period, I do not want to go for a team run…what is wrong with you people?!)

Truth be told, I drank the kool-aid.  The whole damn glass of it.

And really, that was the moment that I should have written this blog.  It would have brillant, it would have been insightful, it would have had amazing analogies between what I had learned and some Pixar movie.

But alas, I waited.

Days have gone by and I returned to work.   I am still feeling the after-effects of both the conference and the kool-aid, but the buzz that I had that would have helped me to craft a spot-on blog post have dissipated.  The result is that now this reflection is more of a sober second thought on what I heard, from both the presenters and my fellow participants.

The harsh reality that things have quickly slid back to where they were. And the fear that maybe my memory has distorted what really happened and that I imagined the hope and energy that was generated.

I do recall being asked to identify three things that I would do when I return to the office to improve myself as a manager.  Not being the kind of person to rush into commitments, I deferred making this list.

I am thinking that maybe #1 should be carrying a flask of kool-aid.