— August 18, 2017
Are You a Slave to Optics?
I was talking to a Talented Non-Millennial Sales Guy who was sharing some “observations” about his Millennial support person.
“He’s awesome. Always gets his work done. But he thinks he deserves a promotion and I tell him…dude, you get into the office at 9:00am and leave by 5:00pm. How are you going to get promoted that way?”
I double-clicked, “Does this guy miss deadlines, fail to get his work done and make your performance suffer?”
Sales Guy responds, “well no…he’s awesome. But it’s the optics. When I was in his role, I got to the office at 7:00am. It just doesn’t look like he works very hard.”
Stepping in Your Own Bear Trap
Nearly every high performer I work with agrees on one thing: they’d like to be working less.
The 10-12 hour workdays over a 3, 4 or 5-decade career wear you down to a nub.
But then you go on perpetuating your own problem – like defending outdated, irrelevant “optics” about time logged – that keeps everyone, namely YOU, stuck in the same purgatory.
You’ve stepped in your own bear trap.
“Optics” really means:
“I prioritize my actions based not on what’s most important, useful or being true to myself, but on how you will perceive it.”
“Fear drives my behavior.”
When fear drives your behavior, you’re drifting.
Drifting extinguishes your fire and creates a malaise sandwich between two slices of resentment.
When you drift day after day, month after month, year after year…
Living by Optics = Opposite of Freedom
Acting in accordance with what’s most important, useful or living in your truth isn’t always “optically pleasing” to others and naturally invites unfriendly fire.
Case in point, the talented Millennial who works 8 productive hours and yet still takes crap for not slogging it out under the fluorescent sun gods just so others can approve of his physical whereabouts.
So when it comes to optics, you’re always forced to make a decision based on what you value more:
- Your freedom, or
- What people think of you
Break Free From Optics, Break Free From Drift
Going back to the Talented Non-Millennial Sales Guy, I asked him whether he liked his 12 hour days and inability to take a vacation without “checking in” on his work before his family wakes up (and after they go to bed).
He let out that resigned sigh which told me everything I need to know: It decimates his freedom and feeling of agency in every part of his life….yet he doesn’t see that it could possibly be any other way.
Talented Non-Millennial Sales Guy is not alone.
“Optics” drives an inordinate amount of behavior, particularly in the workplace.
Which means not just individuals, but teams, divisions and entire organizations are stuck in the hypnotic rhythm of drift.
And the long-term consequences are devastating.
But the good news is about all of this is: it’s 100% your choice to stay stuck in your bear trap or free yourself.
Final Thought: A Game To Play
Next time you feel like doing something that’s in accordance with what’s most important, useful or in alignment with your truth…but you DON’T do it…check in with precisely what the reason was that stopped you.
Play this game for a day, or better yet a week. A theme will emerge of where your greatest fears come from, and how they are keeping you stuck.
Once you’ve identified your #1 enemy, you’re one step closer to slaying that dragon.