Freedom or friction
Whether it’s learning how to drive, ski or ride a bike, you’d be familiar with the bunny hop and the snow plough, as you try and connect your head (on a rational level knowing that this new activity is possible) with your heart (the fear of doing something new that, if done wrong, could lead to injury). The irony of course, being, that driving, skiing and riding a bike is far easier when you take your foot off the brake.
Why we create friction
Like a car brake, friction is usually created as a protection mechanism. As humans, we’re creatures of habit, so despite having the desire to embrace new activities with gusto, we put up boundaries and limitations to reduce our perceived level of risk. On one hand, this is smart.
In the workplace
At work, friction is created and sustained when we consistently do work that doesn’t energise us - that does not align with our motivators. It may be doing a detailed review of an IBNR calculation and underlying assumptions when we’d rather be having strategic conversations with the business. It could be participating in group brainstorming sessions when it would be more effective to take the group a proposed solution. One way might light you up, the other might may cause you to die a little bit on the inside.
Friction is often disguised as necessary support or training, or a one-off ‘necessary evil’ of the job. However, when we forget to remove the friction and work against our motivators over a sustained period of time, productivity and fulfilment is reduced and performance suffers.
Capability vs motivation: an important distinction
It is unrealistic to think that we will love every part of our job - we all have to do stuff we don’t love. And as humans, we are adaptable, so we learn the skills to be very capable at doing those things. However - we need to understand that when this ‘stuff’ forms the majority of our work and consumes the bulk of our time, this ‘friction’ will ultimately slow us down. We will be less effective and in the end, we'll give up.
Capability is not the same as motivation. Capability gets it done. Activity aligned with our motivation gets it done better and for longer.
Think about your ideal day. Are you in your own office, are you alone, or are you on a large table surrounded by your team? How do you imagine working in that space. Is it fast - are you bouncing around building on each others’ ideas? Or are you focused - getting through that detailed paper at a cracking pace. What are you working on? Are you up to your eyeballs in spreadsheets, or are you reviewing long term trends and thinking strategically?
Now reflect on your ‘normal’ day. How does it compare to your ideal? What impact do those distinctions and differences have on the way you work? Your productivity, creativity and satisfaction?
Are you set up for your best?
Replacing friction with freedom
When we identify points of friction and remove them, we allow ourselves to step up and into a space where we thrive. We do everything better - our learned technique that we perfected in the initial stages of training naturally kick-in. Our minds and bodies are free to explore the unexplored and get creative in how things are done. How to do them faster, better and stronger.
One the easiest ways to remove friction is to align expectation with motivation. Get that in synch, and...
Get your foot on the accelerator
It’s as simple as opening up a conversation within your team. Ask them the following simple questions:
What parts of their job do they like the most? The least?
What conditions and locations do they like working in?
What do they want to do more of? Less of?
How do they like to be recognised?
When you start this conversation, it becomes easy to identify how to get people into 5th gear (including yourself), what language to use with them to deliver the most impact and what tasks to allocate to them. Working in a team is like a jigsaw - everyone has a unique and important contribution to the team. But to get the best, you need to know what your team need and how to give them the freedom to deliver at their best.
Love to hear the conversations you’re having...
About Alena: Alena works with leaders and their teams to connect technical and leadership skills so they can deliver to deadline without killing their people. She is a mentor, trainer, facilitator and coach. Contact her today on firstname.lastname@example.org