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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Unlimited Refills for Life

My daughter, Macy, is recovering from an awful case of strep throat. Again. The doctor at Urgent Care scraped the back of her throat a few weeks ago and confirmed the diagnosis. She was prescribed penicillin and she missed an entire week of school.

A week after being on the antibiotic, Macy felt well. She was back in school and seemed to be thriving. Because the penicillin upset her stomach, she asked me if she still had to take it. Even though the doctor specifically told us to run the full course, I hated that she was still feeling bad in any way, and I told her to stop the prescription. I mean, she was cured, right?


A week later, Macy complained of a sore throat. She was re-diagnosed with strep throat and she missed another week of school. This time, the doctor put her on a different antibiotic and made us promise that she will not stop taking it until it's gone. Lesson learned!

While this could be a post about bad parenting (!), it's really about the metaphorical prescriptions we stop taking. We stop doing things that work and we're surprised when our lives revert to the former status quo. For instance, I teach leadership classes at local companies. Recently I visited one of my steady clients and had a chance to work with many people I'd worked with in prior trainings. We reviewed some key concepts and tried to see how they could enhance their effectiveness.

No surprise to me, several participants said that they'd forgotten about the concepts since the first time around. One said that the tools worked... when he remembered to use them. Another said she was happy to have the refresher because many of the ideas had gone to the wayside in the ever-changing, stressful work environment. I immediately thought of Macy, her prescription, and subsequent relapse.

Effective communication tools are a prescription with no end-date. Like my daughter's penicillin, we can't take them until we feel better and then stop. Whatever we were trying to "heal" by using new communication skills will resurface when we go back to business as usual.

Teams that stop showing respect to each other will suffer low morale and higher tension. Colleagues who stop assuming positive intent with each other, and instead revert to jumping to conclusions, will stress relationships and negatively impact workplace productivity. If the prescription calls for "responsible communication" it's one we take for life.

On a more personal level, I know what sets me up for success: Morning mantras, sleep, running, spiritual reading and green smoothies always make me feel great. Sometimes I get on a kick and do all of those several days or weeks in a row. I end up feeling fantastic! ...And then something happens and I stop taking my "medication." *Sigh* You think I'd know better by now!

What "prescription" worked for you, but you stopped taking it? It's time for a check-up! I am giving us all unlimited refills.