In one of my first performance reviews many years ago, my manager told me “you are great, your only problem is that you are too impatient.” I hadn’t really thought of myself as impatient, and (to tell the truth) it didn’t really ring true for me. So I asked what he meant and he said I wasn’t patient enough with:

  • The organization. We were implementing performance management (back in the very beginning of it’s life) and I had had a really tough time getting approval to expect managers to talk to their direct report once each year–imagine!
  • The leaders. I truly respected many leaders in the company. But, I had little tolerance for the politics or disrespectful or incompetent people. And, “Personnel” was the land of misfit toys back then.
  • The Rewards. My salary was below my job grade because I had been promoted as a very young professional. In hindsight, it’s amazing they gave me the job they did. But, I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t pay me now for my contribution.My pay catching up with my perceived contribution was a recurring theme through most of my corporate life.

Are any of these familiar to you? At least the categories? If not, with what or whom are you impatient?

What is Patience?

The dictionary definition is “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Lack of acceptance. Lack of control of emotion.

I’ve Learned A Lot

I have learned to have some patience. I am particularly patient with:

  • My clients. That’s a good thing because they often don’t have patience either.
  • Organization change. Organizations are shaped by the sum of all the people. When you put a bunch of people together with different histories, standards and ideas, it’s bound to move irregularly.

Here is how I coach myself (and you):

When you are full of resistant emotion to your current reality:

  1. Get above “the battleground.” Literally, stop and lift your view to see the battle and the war. The current battle is your reality. Really look at it. Accept that it’s your current reality. Now, see the “war”–the longer view.
  2. Breathe into your emotions. Not at all easy, but worth the effort. See if you can set your emotion aside. If your emotions are in control, work to at least experience them and see if they subside with some self-coaching. Who said that the situation was supposed to go your way? Who says that all these people should be like you?
  3. Reconsider your timeline. Who said your timeline is required or expected? Literally, draw a reality timeline for the situation. Lay in how long the person or organization has been operating this way. Lay in your interventions. Now, look to the future and consider whether you and the organization have some time left.
  4. Find your next move. Then, consider possible alternative “moves” you might have to have an impact.

In the same company mentioned above, when I resigned one of the top executives visited me in my office (for the first time) and asked “why are you leaving?” When I told him of my frustrations, he said “Mary, you have made such a big difference. Think about where you started with us. How could we have ever met your standards so soon?” He was right.

I’m not saying that I have tremendous patience now. But, I know that it is a serious vulnerability of mine. And, even in the most emotional situations, I can call on my trusted advisors to help me settle into a more productive mode. I can’t always manage my emotions, but I can observe them and work my way out of them–most of the time, over time.

I will leave you with a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, an Austro-German lyric poet.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions.”