It’s not easy balancing getting shit done and loving the people in your charge. Most businesses prioritize “get sh*t done” over care for their people, which sets you up for emotional conflict where the care you have for your teams takes second fiddle. I’ve seen this in my work with execs and team leaders. I’ve been there myself. It’s pretty agonizing. Sadly, the “get shit done” stuff wins over “love in action” (the acts of care for your people) more often than not. And for the record, focusing on your people over “get sh*t done”, is still hard even when you’re in organizations where care for your people is in first position.
When “get sh*t done” is number one, we’ve accidentally created an ever present threat in our companies. Face it, you will always have more to do, more than you could ever do. It’s a guillotine hanging over you with a precarious knot holding the rope. “Get shit done” is actually the fear of not getting sh*t done.
So, when you sustain “love in action” for your people while you’re in that situation, stop and rejoice in that. You’ve done well. (Hey Marcel, I just had to borrow your “love in action” phrase.)
When you falter in your “love in action”, and you will, you get a double hit. Not only are you still under the duress of getting all that shit done, you’re also now realizing that you let your team down, and that wave of sh*t is still coming. That is some serious fear triggering stress!
Our normal response to the fear in leadership is to lean away from our vulnerability and push forward. And damn, if this isn’t the opposite of what we should do.
Each little thing in the “get sh*t done” pile is a tiny sabertooth tiger waiting to pounce on the back of our neck, a trigger for a self-preservation reaction in your lizard brain. And as they add up, it gets harder and harder to not pay attention and react to the risk at hand. What we pay attention to, we do. And so, we pay attention to the immediate and nearby threat and miss the impending and distant, and much longer impacting tribal threat. Our “get shit done” focus and response effectively prevents our “love in action” that creates belonging in our organizations.
You see, our brains are designed to make sure we don’t die, especially from an immediate perceived threat. That’s just our circuitry, according to John Medina, the Brain Rules guy. This is what makes leadership so hard and why good leadership is kind of rare. To do it right, you have to be OK with the fear, and by that I mean, you’re going to listen to the fear and let it guide you in the right direction and put it in perspective so you can work with it, instead of in spite of or against it.
I actually like fear, pretty much a big fan of it. Fear keeps me from an uncontrolled fall when I’m rock-climbing and from coming up too fast while scuba diving. But, it doesn’t prevent me from looking out from the top of a climb, or, from hanging out arm in arm, literally, with the 14 to 16 foot diameter octopus at a 10 story depth in the Puget Sound. (Both of my hands in a circle wouldn’t reach around his arm at his webbing base. Sooooo cool!)
In both climbing and diving I’m part of a buddy system where we’re accountable to each other to have each other’s backs. We’ve checked each other out emotionally, physically and technically. If either one of us goes all “get shit done” on the other, in getting to the top or to hanging with the octo in the deep, we’ll miss something that will put us both at risk. Right before we start the actual climb or dive, we do one last mental check in, “belay on?”, “on belay!”, or hand signal “OK?” met with hand signal “OK!” And away we go. We use our fear to make sure that we’re both going make the journey to something great, safely.
When “get sh*t done” is number one, we allow our focus to stick on the continual bombardment of threats. Our stage is set to automatically react to our don’t-die circuitry, even though we’re actually not in a I’m-gonna-die situation. “AAAhhhhh! I’m not gonna hit my numbers!!!! … wait … WTF? I’m still alive…” Again, this is just really hard, because it’s how we’re wired. Immediate threats get our focus.
And then we say, “love in action…, -we don’t got time for that.” I gotta tell you, in the long game, that creates a lack of belonging in your organization, and that is your biggest threat. The “get shit done” that you want from your people, that you’ve been so urgently focused on, it ends up taking second place to their self-preservation. And without belonging, there’s no help to be found. You and your people end up in a “get shit done” fear loop.
So, the more dangerous sabertooth is the lack of belonging, and the cure is “love in action.” You could say it’s, do some “love in action” to really “get shit done”! We didn’t hit the top of the food chain as an individual. We did it as individuals, together in belonging. In belonging, your people will go to the ends of the earth for each other and join each other’s cause. Outside of it, they’ll merely exchange their effort for pay.
Oh, and “get shit done” doesn’t “get sh*t done”. Your people do.
If I could offer two things to help you avoid the “get sh*t done” pitfall:
Not only will you be less likely be “get sh*t done-ing” at the expense of your people, you’ll feel better. Really, you will. You’ll have caring habits while you’re actually getting shit done. You’ll also have stockpiled a tremendous bank of “love in action” based goodwill. We’re human and we need good times with each other to look back upon in adversity. You’ll have a springboard to launch yourself and people past the difficulty that’s in the way of your aspirations.
When you know your followers will pick you up when you trip, fear loses its power over you. Less fear = less “get shit done” fear. And your people, they’ll pull you out of the “get shit done” loop. Hey, it’s safe to approach someone who’s vulnerable. You’ll be showing them this and they will follow in kind. Fear gets reduced across your company or team. Besides, your people aren’t following you for your amassed knowledge and perfection. Well, maybe a little for your amassed knowledge and experience. They’re following you because you have the guts and heart to keep moving forward when it’s scary, for the tribe’s (their) sake. They’ve joined you in co-owned aspiration.
Here are 7 business “love in actions” that you can practice to build belonging so that when the “get sh*t done” hits the fan, you and your people can provide “love in action” when it matters.
Things to Practice Daily: (do at least 3 of these a day and keep track of your doing them).
If you try these things for a while, I’d love to hear back from you about the changes in your organization, your team – and perhaps most importantly, yourself. You’ll love your people and really “get sh*t done”!
Thanks for reading. I appreciate your time. Paul
In belonging, we fear less and aspirations beyond our individual selves become possible. Choose belonging.
(Yes, this article is full of sh*ts 😉)