Friday, February 5, 2016

Management, Fish, and the Art of Being Present at Work

This week I attended the kickoff session of a six-week professional development opportunity, the Leadership Management Development Certificate (track one), here at Old Dominion. The morning's discussions and activities have prompted a lot of thought, and reflecting here will force me to organize my thinking in ways that might be helpful.

First, I really appreciate a few things the facilitators did to make us all feel welcome--introductions, icebreakers, and a discussion of "agreements" that would serve as ground rules and guidelines for all the sessions in the program. The facilitators also pointed out the "parking lot," a large flipchart designed to capture topics that didn't quite fit into the current discussion. By designating a place to capture those tangents, interesting-but-not-relevant discussions can be "parked" and picked up later when time allows. I'd like to try that model the next time I facilitate a similar workshop--by giving the discussion a place to rest, participants can focus their attention on other topics without worrying about forgetting the "parked" discussion.

The bulk of the morning was focused on the Fish! philosophy of workplace management. Though Fish! has been around for a while, it's always nice to have a reminder of the four main ideas:

  • Choose Your Attitude
  • Play
  • Make Their Day
  • Be There
(The fish is secondary.)

"Play" can take many forms at work, but the important takeaway is the notion that you can--and should--find a way to play and have fun at work. This leads into "Make Their Day," which says that a little extra attention can make a permanent difference in somebody's life. Attitudes can be infectious, and and we all can "Choose [Our] Attitudes" to make sure that we have a positive outlook, and can then share that with our coworkers and the communities we serve. Finally, we all have the option to "Be There"--being present in the day, in the moment, and in the actions we take.

The general tone of the philosophy boils down to the notion that if you love your job, it's going to show, and affect others in positive ways. That we're more productive when we're happy, and that it can help us avoid stress. People are always watching each other, and just one positive agent in the room can radically change the tone of the entire discussion.

Particularly resonant for me was the final point, "Be There." In the last few years, I've more-and-more tried to live mindfully, staying in the present moment as much as possible. Sometimes, it's a lot trickier than it sounds. There's always more work to be done, projects piling up, and a work-life balance to strive for...but when the lists get overwhelming, I'm learning to pause, take a deep breath or three, and dive back in, chipping away at the pile bit-by-bit until I'm happy with the work I've accomplished.

I'm sure there will be more lessons, more reflection, and more to discuss at the next five sessions of LMDC. For now,'s time to be present.

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