I am a huge baseball fan. And, I was thrilled about Opening Day. It’s a day filled with hope, expectation, and a chance for redemption for the past. You still remember what happened in the past, but last season’s performance and personal stats, and the team’s win-loss record is unimportant. It truly has no bearing on this season. Everyone gets to start over. For those few, brief hours of the first game of the season, last years’ ERA, or batting average or fielding percentage has NO bearing on this year’s…
Of course, by the end of the first game, the players performance is under the microscope again. Even after months away, an off-season of training and (hopefully) improvement, we are either hopeful for the players we like or worried about those who disappointed us last year. For some, positive expectations of success allow us to forgive the slumps/errors that occur in the course of the season. For the players we like and believe in, sure he had a bad game, but wait for tomorrow! For others, however, once a bum is always a bum, even when he hits the game winning homer!
This happens all the time in the world of work. Our past matters, our reputation (what other’s think of us) is real. For many, this is what drives our success. We do good work, others see it, believe it and a virtuous cycle continues. But I know plenty of folks who struggle with their reputations among their colleagues/leaders. I know a lot of people who made mistakes in the past, stopped making them, but still pay for them. Long after the “offense” colleagues are still remembering what happened as if it were yesterday and as if it happened regularly. For those folks, some expect them to strike out with the bases loaded every single time they are at bat. And, every single time that happened in the past is recalled and rehashed to whomever will listen!
I want to be clear that I am NOT talking about cruelty, harassment, and/or unethical/criminal behavior. I am talking about the run of the mill conversations and interactions that were borne of differences, dislikes, misunderstanding, and honest mistakes. Neither side was “right” and neither side were “wrong”. Essentially, two people had a bad experience with each other. But, depending on what happens next, what starts as a single experience (albeit painful) becomes THE experience going forward. It is like recalling only the strikeouts that happened last week despite the 5 hits this week. Both sides play this game and both teams lose.
What I know is “what happened” in the past between individuals can rarely be remembered with objectivity (unlike baseball where statistics are rooted in math!). Each person has “a story” of what happened, what was said/done, and what the other person really meant. But the stories differ and there is rarely one truth. When there is no dialogue, when each side believes that if there were a game tape it would PROVE they were right, things can get ugly. And, then yesterday, last month and last year’s behaviors become a distrustful lens through which tomorrow’s actions are seen.
Wouldn’t it be great if, in the world of work, all of us—leaders, employees, and customers could start fresh? What if, in the world of work, ALL that really mattered was what happens going forward? It does not mean the past didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean there wasn’t an impact of past behavior. It just means we and others could imagine what success looks like, describe it to each other, and look ahead? What if, in the world of work, we could stop rehashing what happened last year and get on with making this year better? Yeah, likely a pipe dream but I keep hoping. To learn more about The Bailey Group and make this year better for you, click here.