I caught myself trying to avoid work last week.
Part of my job is to make phone calls to prospective clients. As it came closer to the time I had blocked out to make the calls, I found myself getting distracted. I went through my emails, clicked on links, looked at social media and even started cleaning my office!
It took a few minutes but I suddenly became acutely aware that I was doing exactly what I talk to some of my clients about. I was avoiding something that I thought might be painful.
I recently worked with the owner of a company who was driving his management team crazy because he was micromanaging them. He would also boast that he was the first one to arrive at work and the last to leave.
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One day he complained to me that he was burned out, so we had the opportunity to talk about his work-life balance. As we got deeper into the conversation, it became apparent to both of us that he was working long hours to avoid a difficult situation at home.
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the fact that many people don’t use their time wisely because they’re caught up in doing tasks that aren’t important or urgent.
The compounding result is that we become ineffective and unreliable. We feel stressed, disappointed with ourselves and ashamed because we’ve succumbed to the temptations we know we need to avoid if we’re going to be the best people we can be.
So what are we avoiding?
Each of us is different, living in diverse situations, surrounded by unique individuals in our families, social situations and work life. So what we’re avoiding might be deeply personal. In some situations, we might even feel lonely thinking that we’re the only one facing such challenges.
Chances are, however, that countless others have faced similar issues.
Take phone calls, for example. Every day, sales professionals are tasked with picking up the phone and reaching out to their clients or prospective customers. For many sales people, this is a daunting task they tend to avoid. When I ask them what they’re avoiding, they tell me they’re worried that someone will hang up on them, yell or possibly even swear at them.
As they go to pick up the phone to make calls, I can almost see their blood pressure rise. They’re avoiding what they’ve created in their mind to be a stressful, perhaps painful experience.
We all want to avoid pain. Whether it’s the pain of rejection, the feeling of being uncomfortable or a conversation that’s going to be charged with emotion, most of us would rather avoid that confrontation. Like going to the dentist, we automatically fear drilling down into situations that might be distressing.
Yet we all know instinctively that avoidance isn’t going to make things better or change our situation. Looking for a job can shake us from our comfort zone but if we don’t have an income, we might not be so comfortable. Dealing with a relationship issue, confronting an employee on accountability or making phone calls can all seem difficult when we’re continuously contemplating those false expectations of the outcome, which appear very real in our mind.
If I think back to many situations, big and small, that I’ve avoided in my life, I realize that when I had the courage to stand up and face them head on and deal with the consequences, the actuality has often been so much different than I fearfully anticipated.
The worst outcome in many cases is much better than not dealing with what we’re avoiding.
Employee conversations that I thought would end in dramatic confrontations have usually ended in a deeper understanding and commitment to working together to find a better solution.
Relationship issues that my mind told me would end in tears have often resulted in laughter, and more profound and meaningful relationships.
And my dreaded phone calls?
They turned out to be the best part of my week. Now I need to clean my office – or perhaps find some phone calls to make to avoid that nightmare.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Avoiding phone calls? Why not email firstname.lastname@example.org
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