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Mission Impossible: High Versatility All the Time

“Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it.”

Salvador Dali

The other night I was in  yoga class and I was struggling through an especially difficult sequence of postures. As the sweat dripped onto my mat and my muscles quivered, I was feeling desperate for a break. Five seconds, that’s all I need! I was on the verge of turning grumpy, and my facial expression showed it. My instructor looked at me and noticed that I was unhappy. However, instead of giving in to my negative emotions, I quickly turned my frown upside down and smiled. This was an instant relief to her, and it helped change my belief about my ability to get through the situation.
By the time the class ended I was proud of my efforts and my decision to turn a challenge into a success. My instructor was also relieved that I didn’t act like a curmudgeon.

This experience made me think about one of the central principles that TRACOM promotes to the organizations and people we work with: Behaving with high Versatility is a good thing. When we have high Versatility we are happier and more productive, our co-workers are happier and more efficient, and the company benefits from more effective individuals and teams.

This is all well and good, but all of us experience periods when we just can’t put forth the effort to be highly versatile. Maybe that special someone on the team is making us extra crazy, we’re tired from a long week, or we’re just having a bad hair day. Regardless of the reasons, being highly versatile all the time is a tall order. Sometimes behavioral laziness rules the day.

And this is O.K. Sometimes. As Mr. Dali noted, the goal is not to be perfect all the time. A more realistic and achievable goal is to monitor our behavior and keep trying to improve, even though there may be times when we relapse. The Japanese have a concept called kaizen. Roughly, this translates as “continuous improvement.” Meaningful change rarely happens immediately, especially behavioral change. But remember, when it comes to Versatility, it only takes a little more effort on our part for others to notice a difference. If I decide to work on my Feedback skills, I can take small steps to improve. I can stop interrupting people when they’re talking to me, and I can show people that I understand what they are saying to me. These are two specific and realistic goals, and they will make a big difference in how effectively I communicate with others. With enough practice, they will become almost second nature.

So the next time I find myself in a challenging situation, I will make a deliberate choice to either behave with high Versatility, or not. But whichever choice I make, I will commit myself to continuous improvement in the long run.

When he’s not busy doing yoga, Casey Mulqueen is TRACOM’s Director of Research.

 

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