Monday, February 8, 2010
Be the Catalyst
Catalyst: a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction by reducing the activation energy, but which is left unchanged by the reaction. (http://www.chemistry.about.com/)
If you work in the sciences, I'm sure you're quite familiar with catalysts and how they can be used to move a process along faster and at a lower temperature. And since the catalyst is unchanged by the process itself, you can use it over and over again.
Regardless of the industry in which you lead, doesn't that sound like something you'd like to have at your next business meeting? Imagine it, an entity that lowers the political temperature of the room and speeds along the process by creating a different path for finding the solution. Wishful thinking? Not at all. In fact, as a leader, that catalyst could be you.
As you attend your meetings this week, pay attention to situations where tempers flare, discussions get stuck, or agendas go off the tracks, and notice how you and others engage/don't engage. Do you sit back and wait for the reaction to finish itself out without you? Do you enter the reaction, but find that you're not making an impact? What would you do differently if you were willing to play the role of catalyst in that reaction?
Here are some things to consider:
* You have to be willing to set your personal agenda aside. The catalyst isn't trying to direct the outcome. Rather a catalyst is allowing the current process to find it's best path to reach the desired end goal as defined by the group.
* You may have to give up the glory for the greater cause. Many times, the catalyst isn't even remembered at the end of a reaction. In fact, if it truly becomes a changed reaction, the group deserves the glory for following the new direction, not any one person. Over time, others will notice that meetings are improved just by your presence.
* You need to be very grounded and centered. The catalyst is unchanged at the end of the reaction, and thus you need to be in a mindset that is open and present, but strong and enduring. If you are distracted or unsure of yourself, you will not be able to meet the demands of the catalyst's role, and may get used up or burned up by entering into the reaction.
Look for your opportunities and give it a try. You may find that you are effective in this role in some situations and not in others. Just like a chemist, you have to know when a catalyst will improve the reaction, and you have to use the right catalyst for the other elements involved and for the desired outcome. But as a leader in your organization, you likely have some good instincts about this already.
Here's to good Chemistry in your workplace this week.