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  • Joanna

Patience is a virtue

It’s a well known phrase but something that all too often is undervalued and under practised in life.

My recent conversations with people who have lived and worked overseas have highlighted how important being patient is when adapting to a new environment, both with yourself and others. Allowing yourself time and space to listen and understand the differences and adjustments you need to make. Getting things done in a different culture might take more time, with more conversations and a different way of doing things than you are used to. Especially if you are operating in different languages.

Ivy Liu and Joris Nijman both highlighted how important patience is when doing business in China. You need to make sure you’ve spoken to the relevant stakeholders, acknowledged their role, input and questions and given them time to consider an idea, before asking for a decision to be made. This is far more effective than just trying to push your agenda and expecting a decision to be made in a meeting. Once the stakeholders are all onboard, you will be able to move much faster and cleanly on implementation.

It’s not just when moving country though that patience is useful. As a leader it’s a very important skill and it isn’t one that needs to come at the cost of moving at pace or accepting sloppy work. Patience to ask more questions, to check understanding, to give others a chance to process, reflect and come back with queries and clarifications. This skill builds an environment where people are confident in questioning and then knowing what’s expected of them, that allows for mistakes as part of the learning process and people feel more engaged as they are given an opportunity to input and shape direction. There will likely be fewer mistakes, crossed-wires and reworks further down the line. There are so many phrases and stories I could use such as the tortoise and the hare or “go slow to go fast” but you get the idea!

It is hard to overcome the desire to do it yourself because it will be quicker in that moment, or to just tell someone what to do. However this doesn’t allow for someone to learn, to understand the challenge, to experiment and be able to approach things on their own the next time. This will ultimately save you a lot more time in the future.

So how do you build this in if you’re an impatient person? I know that it is certainly a learned behaviour for me. Some things I've learned are to check yourself and consciously try to pause. Try to be clear on expectations and timelines and check in before things are due to see where they are and if there are any issues or questions. Build the time into your calculations and expectations. And if it doesn’t work, take that as part of your own learning and adjust the next time. There will be occasions where the “Just do it” command style is required but this is generally only in an emergency situation and should certainly be used sparingly. Even then a pause to check everyone has the same understanding and are heading in the same direction will be a valuable tool.

Where have you had your patience tested? When have you had the benefit of working with someone who’s patience gave you the chance to grow and achieve a better outcome? I’d love to hear your experiences.


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