Today's Reading

I was stunned—not just at Diane's sudden change in direction but at her rude behavior. I didn't know what to say in that moment, but it didn't matter because Diane launched into what she was thinking and what she wanted to do. None of it made any sense to me. I had questions and concerns, but I couldn't get a word in edgewise, and we were coming up on her 2:30 p.m. hard stop. That's when I noticed a physiological disturbance. I use this term to describe my body's reaction to a highly emotional experience. The disturbance started in my gut. As I got more frustrated with Diane, I could feel the negative energy rise into my chest. My frustration grew into anger, and as the roiling energy reached my face, I could feel it flush.

Suddenly, I heard myself boldly (and loudly) interrupting: "Stacy, Diane, excuse me. It seems Diane knows exactly what she wants; there's nothing I can do to help her, so I'll let you two finish the call." Then I hung up.

Again I was stunned. I had just hung up on a potential new client and abandoned Stacy. Yes, Diane was aggravating, but I had never done anything like this before. I was beside myself. I paced around my home office to let off steam. I was infuriated—at Diane and myself. Before I knew it, I found myself in my kitchen with the refrigerator door open, declaring "I am so hungry!"

The blast of cold air from the fridge induced a moment of mindfulness. I realized nothing in that refrigerator could possibly satisfy my hunger.

Everything I'd learned about motivation came to light. I suddenly understood what happened during that short phone call. My choice, connection, and competence had been eroded:

* I didn't perceive that I had any options—in fact, just the opposite. I felt Diane unfairly controlled the situation, which eroded my sense of choice.

* Diane and I obviously did not align in any meaningful way—in fact, just the opposite. She made no attempt to collaborate or show appreciation for my efforts, which undermined my sense of connection.

* After all my efforts, I didn't have the opportunity to demonstrate my subject-matter expertise or discuss my great ideas—in fact, just the opposite. I felt inadequate and dealt with the situation by hanging up, which destroyed my sense of competence.

Staring into my fridge, I came face-to-face with the truth: I needed to master my motivation. I realized how my motivation had fluctuated during my Diane debacle because my sense of choice, connection, and competence had fluctuated.

When Stacy first asked for my help, I freely and consciously made the decision to engage with her and her client (I created choice). I was energized by the value of being of service and felt grateful that Stacy had reached out to me for help (I created connection). I was eager for the opportunity to teach the client what I knew about her organization's issues, explain how our approach could make a difference, and learn something new about her situation in the process (I created competence). By creating choice, connection, and competence, I felt optimal motivation.

Within minutes after Diane joined the call, I lost control of my emotions, felt powerless, and in the end failed to self-regulate (choice was eroded). My image and ego were crushed, I felt isolated and ashamed, and I realized I'd done more harm than good (connection was eroded). I was devastated that I had failed to practice what I teach—I questioned the validity of my knowledge and skill, wondering if I was a fraud (competence was eroded). By not creating choice, connection, and competence, I felt sub-optimal motivation.

I hadn't yet learned to master my motivation. But recognizing what happened was a major learning moment. Acknowledging my alternatives, I wrote a confessional email to Stacy—creating choice. I asked for forgiveness and offered to serve behind the scenes in any way I could—creating connection. Stacy took me up on my offer, and I coached one of my colleagues as she took on the account—creating competence. (Stacy gave me permission to share this story and has become an advocate for teaching others how to create choice,connection, and competence.)

This excerpt is from the paperback edition.

Monday we begin the book CHANGE BY DESIGN, REVISED AND UPDATED: HOW DESIGN THINKING TRANSFORMS ORGANIZATIONS AND INSPIRES INNOVATION by Tim Brown.
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