I was discouraged before I arrived at the empty tracks at King’s Cross station. I’d been going flat out for a week since returning from the US: two teaching days to finish, investor meetings in London, calls on several projects backed up, the end-of-month bookkeeping waiting for attention.
I put my lists together and pounded through the tasks one by one, the momentum of crossing things off building an illusion of getting things done. By yesterday I thought I was well on top of things.
In reality, I was minimally prepared and pretty well worn though when I reached London for the day’s meetings. The Monday morning messages were the first sign: email is always always sticky, in that answers tend to generate comments rather than closure, but this time there were more questions and issues than usual. A routine trip to St. John’s to pick up the mail got tangled in cross-town traffic that held me to less than a block’s progress in half an hour. The trains ran slow; the news paper had more bad news about Afghanistan where my son is deployed. I know he’s okay, but it’s a worry.
The Board meeting probably lasted twice as long as it needed to, and we missed talking about several key issues. In hindsight, I didn’t have my proposals framed up or my arguments rehearsed, so we wandered around some key issues instead of deciding them. On the Tube, thinking back, there’s really a pattern forming: I haven’t been focused, crisp, prepared, on top of the best game that I know how to play. I was just sliding by: getting things done, but not done well.
There’s a ripple to this. Tasks have to be redone, supplemental questions need answering. The interpersonal dynamics shift, confidence ebbs. I was reading an article last week by Megan Fitzgerald about how lack of confidence shows through to others:
- Being hesitant to speak up, share your thoughts, or advocate a position.
- Lowering the tone or volume of your voice.
- Qualifying or downplaying the importance of what you are saying.
- Using less powerful and clear words.
- Failing to convey all of the value created or possible.
- Burying distinctive qualities behind generic or neutral qualifications.
- Using less thoughtful and service-oriented language.
It was a menu of my Monday.
I can (still) do this.