The other morning, while waiting in a small café to have coffee with a former VIM Executive Coaching client, I glanced up at a television and overheard a commercial for a major internet provider. The actors in the commercial were doing a sort of a happy dance because they had just switched to a super-fast, super-gig capacity, super-wonderful data download provider (the company in the commercial, of course), and away from their old provider who was just “fast.”
While I am not naïve to the need to rapidly download data, the commercial did strike me as being quite interesting on another level. Indeed, the level is one we talk about at VIM Executive Coaching with great frequency it is the value and need for the virtue of patience.
“Who has time to be patient?”
In speaking with executive and entrepreneurial leaders about patience, the deliberate act of carefully weighing alternatives and of responding to “what is,” I almost invariably encounter the following response.
“While patience may be a virtue, in today’s business climate, who has time to be patient?”
Therein exists the confusion. Patience is somehow always linked to “time.” We confuse the two. Today’s digitized, cyber connected, rapidly downloadable world is seen as one that is reactive to the slightest change – and that is somehow perceived as good. A patient and deliberate world is all too frequently viewed as being the equivalent of stalactite formation in a limestone cave! Patience must therefore be bad. Right?
In truth, it is just the opposite. Immediately reacting to every change may indeed have its place in the worlds of bond trading, anesthesiology or even tulip farming, but instantly reacting to a personnel issue, acquisition opportunity or even an advertisement for a newer, faster internet provider may be catastrophic.
Responding to a situation, being patient in the moment, takes no longer than reacting to an issue that requires a little thought. Let me put it this way: the anesthesiologist may note a change in oxygen levels during a procedure and she, by virtue of training and experience, will immediately know how to react. It is a very good thing, of course, but it is also a technical correction, no more or less than a tulip farmer understanding that once the soil becomes just a degree too dry, that moisture is needed.
However, suppose the anesthesiologist is also the director of anesthesiology at a major teaching hospital and there is a conflict between two staff members. If she approaches the dispute while being patient, mindful and responsive, she will have a much better handle on how to deal with the situation. If she is reactive and jumps from decision to decision, it is usually a guarantee that she will choose the wrong path. There is no virtue in reacting to situations that require patience.
Patience is mindfulness
The beauty of being “patient,” even in a cyber world is that the more we train our minds to approach even high-stress situations with mindfulness, the better we are assessing situations and better responding to them.
Therefore, with patience cultivated by mindfulness, the director of anesthesiology learns to better listen, to be in the moment, and ultimately to be responsive to a workplace situation. At VIM Executive Coaching, we have taught “patience” to executives and entrepreneurs in virtually every field of endeavor from professional sports to hospital administration.
Interestingly, once an executive learns to be more patient, mindful, responsive and authentic, he or she takes no longer to make a decision than the executive who improperly reacts to challenges. Even if the executive jumps quickly in reaction, it is almost a certainty that sooner or later the reaction will cost the organization time, money and a “human toll” that may take months or years to correct.
Even in the cyber age, patience is a tremendous virtue.
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