20 April, 2022

Professional Contribution in Disruptive Times

After a relaxing, Easter long-weekend break, here's sharing some emerging thoughts from my interesting "return to work" experience today, which highlighted some profound insights for me.

I had a Board-related meeting at 13h00 SAST and a series of critical meetings thereafter. Living in South Africa, the electricity was off all morning and there were unexpected water supply issues which made me look and feel professionally unprepared to get on screen in front of my colleagues and clients. In between, small disruptions kept me chasing rapidly ticking time - the downside to WFH and hybrid working models.

With 30 mins to go, I noticed that my phone's battery life was low. I needed the hotspot for connectivity. Deploy some responsive solutions thinking - I figured the car charger was my only option so I took a scenic drive along the coastline. An added upside was that I found creative headspace to process key information and refine my approach for the upcoming conversation, instead of delving through more data to be absolutely prepared.

To be honest, I am not sure where I found the time to be meandering around such tight obligations - helps to live in a "10-minute" city, I guess. Point-forward for those smart-city strategies that await green-lights!

At the end of the day, somehow, it all worked out. Outcomes achieved but not in my routine way. To get there, compelled some quick reframing from my side. What I realised was this:

  1. As South Africans, or more generally in the "new normal", we are all vulnerable to our daily systemic inefficiencies and/or circumstantial disruptions. Acknowledge that it impacts your natural routine, flow and rhythm. Plan "slack" time between key calendar appointments to cushion those frustrating curveballs. If no surprises pop up, practice mindfulness to "fuel your flow", ahead of your next mission.
  2. Adapt to your personal circumstances and discuss it with your stakeholders, without any guilt or fear of being unfairly judged. Relatability strengthens trusted connections which, in turn, helps to quieten that pesky inner critic.

Under certain circumstances, the best we can offer is Professional Contribution rather than chasing Professional Perfection.

3. Don't let the external inefficiencies compromise your quest for excellence - this goes beyond the perfect "Zoom" pitch or picture. Re-prioritise your success factors so that you uphold your composure, your ethos and your accountability, despite the external turbulence and circumstances. We're humans; not humanoids.

It starts with some recalibration of your self-confidence, your self-worth and becoming comfortable with your imperfections or your imperfect circumstances. The more you do this, the more you are training that agility muscle called "Resilience".

In disruptive times, Professional Perfection may serve your self-confidence and own performance objectives well. Whereas a focus on Professional Contribution sharpens the focus on the outcome, limits distractions and constructs certainty.

Perhaps you can relate to this shared experience or anecdote in some way. Add the suggested hacks to your Resilience toolkit and stay purpose-driven.

Article written by Roshni Gajjar