A New Stressor

Andy Warren, 2014-04-30

I tend to be amused when I run into something that causes me stress because I like to think – foolishly – that I’ve learned to manage stress and even avoid it by dealing with the underlying source of the stress. Last week I was in a meeting for 3-1/2 days. More workshop than meeting. I was there because they expected to get down to close to technical details and it was a chance to just learn more about this particular business. It turned out to be far more discovery than anyone expected and at a higher level than expected, which made me an observer struggling to stay engaged with topics far beyond what I was going to be involved with. It’s surprisingly hard to pay consistent attention in that situation, at least for me.

I tried to evolve a strategy on the fly. Part of it was working on my observation skills, assessing who ended up not meeting my first impression expectations for example. I watched how the meeting worked (and a couple times didn’t work) and though about the mechanics of all day vs 1 hour meetings. Note taking didn’t seem to work well because there just weren’t that many aha moments or action items for anyone. Going down the hall for coffee worked pretty well. The stress diminished once I realized I wasn’t going to be able to exit the meeting with a holistic picture. I’d have facts and ideas, but not correlated.

A strange week, and a stress lesson only partially learned.

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