When I was wrapping up my high school career, The Paper changed my life. I had a few ideas about what I wanted from a career at that point, but nothing really was jumping out at me. It’s cliche to say, but seeing how those newspaper men and women did their job made me want to be a part of their world.
You could say a movie made me want to be a journalist.
There was an energy to the news room. People running around like headless chickens, shouting over each other what should be on the front page. There were the kooky conspiracy theorist writers, the practical editors trying out headlines, and managers jockeying for political position in this fictional publication.
I couldn’t wait to be a part of it.
Of course, real life has a way of bursting your dreams when I set foot in a real news room. Then again, it was in a town of less than 100,000 people in the-middle-of-nowhere-Texas. It was not The Times.
There are many times when the reality of our work doesn’t meet up to expectations. The feature writing workshop that doesn’t result in the rich backlog you were hoping for. A retrospective that ends in a soft process improvement without success metrics. Team members that ask for transparency around deliverables when you thought everyone was in agreement in yesterday’s planning session.
It’s tough to bring the energy of a big-city newsroom into the office every day. So, how in the world do we slough that sluggishness off and bring the best for our teammates?
Develop perspective, not amnesia.
It would be super easy for me if I could just keep looking forward and forget all of the shortcomings I have presided over. When I was a journalist, there were some issues that I immediately wanted to rip up and forget they ever happened. Instead, I forced us all to pick up the newest issue at staff meetings and make everyone say one thing they loved and hated about it.
The misspelled headlines, poorly cropped images, and orphaned lines of type were visible reminders that we can do better. We would discuss them without blaming or yelling, and talk about how we were going to do better that day.
Mistakes should fuel our desire for improvement, not cripple our attitude.
My friend Allison says that acknowledging the past allows us to retain our dignity, because we did the best we could at the time. By talking about it, we don’t just provide lip service. We understand ourselves more and resolve to amend our perspective with this new information.
Shake things up, but only in small ways.
Many of us are unafraid of changing how we work, which is so encouraging for the future of how we build things. Rather, we say we want to. Unfortunately, regardless of the industry or aspect of life, we just don’t really want to change. The reasons for this are vast and are documented all over the Internet, so let me pose an alternative approach.
Pick a small piece of your day, and tweak it slightly.
This could mean taking your virtual Kanban board and writing everything down on cards for the team to see during stand ups. Use an anonymous survey for retrospectives one time to see if the answers change. Save the email admonishment and instead invite the disgruntled teammate to play a game of ping pong.
Small shifts may not look like much on the surface, but they can be the spark of energy your team needs that day.
Write about how things are going.
I didn’t start this blog just to get followers, although I’m appreciative for every one of you who check this space out weekly. Part of me needed to start keeping track of how things were going in my work. You could say I’m the biggest fan of my blog.
Reading my work is great to see how I’ve changed as a writer, but in reality I need to remember how I approached a situation.
Now, there’s no rule telling you how much to write. My bud JB uses an app called DayOne to jot down some thoughts at the end of most days. It helps give him perspective, and also track his progress on certain hot buttons in his life.
Doing these things may not be the exact jolt you need today, but this is only a few of my ideas. How have you given yourself or your team the shot in the arm when energy is down?