What comes before the flow

This essay originally appeared in our E-business Coach newsletter.

It was a typical Tuesday in every way for folks at the office. Neither did the remote employees notice anything different. But work on Wednesday would be fundamentally changed.

Monday, busy. Tuesday, busy. But Tuesday afternoon….

That’s when he spoke what he’d been unable to see before. Maybe he suddenly felt what he’d been unwilling to feel before.

Did the realization hit him all at once? Maybe he’d lain awake the night before and finally pieced it together. Then he took the rest of the day to put words to it.

By whatever process or inspiration, he named on a Tuesday afternoon the essential obstacle. The big block. The core thing that wasn’t working, that must not continue.

He spoke it out loud and declared it. And everything was different because now it was named, that big metaphorical ball of crud the team had wrestled from one side of the hallway to the other for years, huffing and squeezing past it to do their jobs haggardly.

People on the team had known its presence. They’d described it differently from their vantage points. But it required the leader’s affirmation. It waited for his capacity to finally see and name it. The team’s collective understanding couldn’t undo it.

I witnessed this like a flash of awareness at the broad level of company. It was a shared experience and also deeply personal for the leader.

In the months before, an anxious boil had been building. People murmured of quitting. Water rising behind a dam.

In the weeks after came a rush of decisions and feelings of flow. Water washing away the debris. Laughter at mistakes instead of mockery.

I’m groping to put my finger on the reason for this company’s mega shift. From where does the courage arise to a tipping point? One day there’s enough to pause, turn, and look squarely at what’s harried us for so long.

I’m hopeful that courage seemed to arrive just in time for a company in a rut with team that’s coped for too long.

If this story feels familiar, I wish your company a revitalizing flow.

Here’s to a washing away of debris — whether you’re building something new or reviving something worth growing again.

if I don’t have cake soon,

I might die.