A recent article in the New York Times, “That Daily Shower Can Be a Killer,” talks about how everyday actions can carry greater risk than major events. We Americans tend to have a skewed view of risks: “we exaggerate the risks of events that are beyond our control...terrorists, plane crashes, nuclear radiation, genetically modified crops…and underestimate the risks of events that we can control” Like our daily shower, where a fall can result in serious injury, or driving a car to work every day. These are “hazards that carry a low risk each time but are encountered frequently.” In other words, we don’t pay attention to the mundane daily activities that can have a big effect on our lives.
So what does this have to do with being a manager? I find my clients often want “A Big Thing,” to happen that will bring about change. Business owners, especially, are in a hurry to have change happen, whether personally or for their company. It’s sometimes difficult for them to understand that change most often occurs in increments rather than all at once (although the latter can certainly happen). It’s the small accretion of events and actions that add up to a big risk—or a big reward.
Consider the manager who allows herself to be interrupted regularly by emails, or whose ‘open door’ policy extends the time needed to finish a project.
Give yourself permission not to respond every time someone walks into your office. What would you be like if you were mindful of your daily activities—do they feed your passion, reflect your values, bring you joy, make you more productive? If not, you’re in danger of killing your soul, shriveling your spirit, and joining the growing ranks of zombies featured in books, movies and TV. That’s scarier than your daily shower.
Give attention to your actions, be mindful of how you choose to invest your time, select the things that matter. These are opportunities, not hazards, that when encountered frequently can bring a big reward.
Barbara Kurka, an experienced HR professional, offers executive coaching; management training, and HR consulting, the latter uniquely geared toward small businesses. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.