The Left Drawer and File 13

A mentor of some years ago, had a wonderful approach to stress.  When a memo or email arrived in my inbox that required his attention, we would discuss the subject and arrive at a simple conclusion.  Its a good thing or a bad thing.  If it is was a good thing, we moved forward, if it was a bad thing, it went into the left drawer of his desk.  I had always believed that this was to follow up with the President of the company.

Many years later and many memos' later, he retired.  Some of the emails that had disappeared into that magical drawer were highly combustible.  I had many times expected to hear more and experience more stress and pain resulting from the pile of thoughts in that drawer.  During one of our final meetings, I had to ask him how he had managed to negotiate so successfully through the memos.  His response was rather startling.  He would do nothing.  Every 30 days, he would let the memos, "cool off" in the drawer.  If the memo was never referenced again, it found its way to FILE 13.  If it was referenced, the author had time to reflect and was more understanding of our position and the subject was eventually dropped.

In this day and age of social networking, email, IMs and SMS, too many thoughts and actions are impulsive and not thought fully through.  Organizations too focused on being nimble and pro-active sometimes lose their focus.   A key to navigating the waters of NOW, is to put yourself in the speaker's role. What are their concerns, what are they trying to tell you.  It is the difference between a healthy exchange, and a ruinous one.  Your boss maybe trying to point you into a certain direction.  The staff maybe trying to communicate to you a level of pain.

This is a two step process.

1.)  The pause that refreshes.  The left drawer let both parties, calm down and truly reflect on what is being communicated.  File 13 took the emotions out of the exchange, and let the truly valid discussions remain.

2.)  Listening.  You should not react to a discussion until you have placed yourself in the speaker' role and understand their perspective.

Editor's Note:  This post was first published on 1/17/2011.

About Sprawlgeek.
A Seasoned Technology Visionary possessing a deep understanding of technology and business processes.

Doug has accumulated over 35 years of experience in the technology and media markets. His broad career has ranged from leading Research and Development work for a 300+ million dollar company to an E-Government startup. His efforts have been recognized by major trade associations as well as Tier 1 clients.

Doug is now a private consultant and continues to provide his insights to the industry.