"We can choose, you know"

“We can choose, you know, we ain’t no amoeba.” Bonnie Raitt, Thing Called Love

Some time ago I was in a meeting with one of my clients, who was complaining about a work team he was part of, and how dysfunctional the team was.

“What a waste of time it is,” Joe said. “We don’t have an agenda and the leader of team is really disorganized. He asks for our input, but we never know what happens when we give it to him.”

After listening to his frustration, I asked Joe, “What part of this situation do you own?”

He looked at me, stunned.

“It’s like you thrust a dagger into me,” he said. “I never thought about that.”

“So…what are you going to do about it?”

Joe’s story is not unique. I hear this same story over and over again from people who are frustrated with a team that is ineffective or a relationship that just isn’t working. They complain to me about it, not realizing that they could hold the key to changing it, making it better.

Relationships and teams are like chemistry, with each person representing a unique element. If I am hydrogen and you are oxygen, you know that when I bring my two parts of hydrogen and you bring your one part of oxygen, the resulting compound is water (H2O). No matter how many times we come together, as long as we bring the same molecules, the combination will always be water.

iStock_000000945732XSmallIf water is what you want, then there is no need to change anything. But when you want something different than water, you need to change things up. Since you can’t change me—you can sure try, but I think that will only lead to more frustration on your part as I’m not all that amenable to having others change me. What you can do, however, is choose to change what you bring.

So what happens if you bring an extra part of oxygen? You get something beside water. In this case, you would actually get peroxide (H2O2).

Back to Joe’s story. When I asked Joe what he was going to do, his response was, “I need to step up here and change how I show up. In fact, I wonder if I talked to this leader before the next meeting and suggested an agenda and some topics, that might change things. Even if that doesn’t work, I can ask more questions, just try to change what happens at the meetings.”

As Bonnie Raitt points out,

“We can live in fear or act out of hope...You only see the world you make.”

Thing Called Love