"How could that be?" I muttered silently as I reread the message. This was not a person I wanted to encounter as I returned from a holiday vacation filled with family, friends, and fun. And yet, there he was on my calendar. My first meeting of the New Year was scheduled with my nemesis.
I wish I could tell you it was a good meeting, but it wasn't. I got exactly the difficult, irritating, frustrating event I expected. Now years later, that meeting snapshot easily pops to mind as I remember the negative relationship dance played out in my office that day.
Yet it was that occurrence that ignited change. Like Janus, the Roman god of doorways, beginnings and endings, whose name inspired the first month of the year, I saw in two directions. I could either drag that past into the future by continuing the detrimental escalation of this important work relationship, or I could leave it behind and make a psychological fresh start. I chose the latter.
What changed that day was my vision of the doorway I wanted to go through. I realized that every time I dealt with that difficult manager, he brought out my less than positive side. In effect, I had relinquished to him the power to control my reactions. But with one simple thought I took it back.
I decided that every time I saw him in the hallway, or at a meeting, or had to deal with him, I would directly look at him and mentally say, "I wish you well." At first I forced the thought, but in time it flowed easily. It turns out I did wish him well. How could I not if I offered the best of who I was?
Wishing him well slowly altered my response to him. It refashioned how I showed up, and transformed a negative, difficult work relationship into a professionally neutral one.
You see, it's easy to see the things we don't like in other people, easy to identify their irritating habits, their performance deficiencies, and their problems. It's easy to remember when we've been wronged, replay memories of their roadblocks, escalate their email tirades, or relive their failed promises. It's easy to put all the blame and onus for change on them.
But people who are winning at working train themselves to look again at difficult work relationships. They seek to glean positive traits in those who frustrate them. They extend a mental thank you for the mirror these people hold up, realizing that often their most professional and personal growth is spurred by those who push their hot buttons. And they accept that the only person whose behavior they can control is their own.
While people who are winning at working may develop goals, commitments, and reflective inspiration at the start of a New Year, they don't limit their timing of fresh starts to one day. They recognize the choice they have to start anew with old problems, difficult relationships, limiting beliefs, or narrow thinking doesn't happen once a year, nor does setting goals or dreaming dreams or assessing progress.
People who are winning at working know that any day of the year they can make a fresh start; any day of the year they can change their thinking and their results; any day of the year, they can begin to create a different work future. And they do.
©2008 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008). Host of "Work Matters with Nan Russell" weekly on webtalkradio.net. Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Sign up to receive Nan's "Winning at Working" tips and insights at http://www.nanrussell.com.