Yes, And-ing Unforeseen Obstacles in Dangerous Territory

Imagine yourself on a week-long trip to the beach. The sound of waves crashing, seagulls cawing, dolphins chattering all around you. You make your way back to the beach house to comfort, and safety… or so you think.

At DuMore, both Allison & Jim have a personal ritual – an annual week at the beach with family!  It’s something we both look forward to at least once a year.  Since DuMore doesn’t own our own beach retreat (yet), our families must choose a rental home sight unseen.  Sure there are pictures on websites, but there’s always a number of surprises awaiting us when we open the rental house door. This is particularly true if you’re traveling with younger children.  

Allison recently spent a week away and was joined by her stepdaughter and her family, including two little boys, ages 8 and 2.  Entering the rental, everything seemed fine at first glance. Beautiful view, adequate space for everyone, easy beach access, and a wonderful screened porch overlooking a lagoon and rookery with about 12 different species of birds.

But, what at first glance seemed like a perfectly fine and safe environment, quickly revealed obstacles and dangers they had not anticipated.  None of the home’s cabinetry had door handles or knobs – meaning every single cabinet was easily accessible to the 2-year-old.  The kitchen, wet bar, and bathroom cabinetry were quickly opened, their contents plundered through and distributed onto the floor or a nearby box or basket.  Scrabble and Domino tiles were flung everywhere. Monopoly pieces (choking hazard) had to be quickly gathered up and hidden away.

And the glass! So much glass! Coffee table, dining table, end tables, and doors – all glass!  And not glass that was encased precisely into the frame of a tabletop – no, glass that was just laid atop a table, meaning sharp and hard glass corners off the side of each, some of them at the level of a 2-year-old’s forehead.  

And that beautiful rookery lagoon?  It was also the home of gators! Yep, real life alligators onsite.  Sure, they were a marvel to watch lazily float down the lagoon, but we made sure to keep the kids out of the backyard, even though it was fenced in.

Add to that list the number of jellyfish on the beach, blue crabs in the water, the potential splinters in all of the wooden walkways, 2 sets of open stairs to climb to reach the front door, and you’ve got a full-blown safety watch on your hands.

So many unforeseen dangers that required serious navigation to make sure the little guys were safe.

New territory and navigating unforeseen obstacles!  It reminded us of a story recently told to us by a dear client.

This client, let’s call them “Jamie”, began a new job a few weeks ago.  The new position happens to be at a previous place of employment for Jamie so the assumption was that they would “know the ropes”, and the job itself seemed like a “dream’ one.  However, upon arrival in their new position, Jamie quickly uncovered unforeseen dangers in this new territory.  And, as was shared with us over coffee, they navigated through these dangers through the power of “yes, and”.

Jamie described an organizational chart that had been completely disrupted between the time they interviewed for the position and the day they started.  Members of the leadership team had left during that time period – leaving everything in disarray. The most senior executive was the only one left to guide the mission, but they also were new to the team, meaning they were still learning their new role with many unforeseen obstacles popping up daily for them as well.  Important documents like calendars, policy and procedure handbooks, job descriptions, financial balance sheets, and budgets were all MIA. Nothing had been left behind by the departing members of the team that would help Jamie and the executive know how to run their department. So basically operating blindly.

Jamie shared that putting on their “yes, and” thinking hat for the first 12 weeks on the job was what helped problem solve and get creative in the end.  And to accept this new reality, filled to the brim with unforeseen obstacles.

Here’s how Jamie shared:

“There are no guidelines to help me understand my role and the roles of others.  YES, AND………I get to make connections internally with colleagues outside of my department who can help me by sharing best practices or internal resources for guidance.”

“There are people coming to me asking for my help because they know that I worked in the organization before and they are desperate for my expertise in the functional areas I do know well, even though they are not on my team.  YES, AND……….finally people are treating me with respect because of skills, knowledge, and efficiency, i.e. I get stuff done”.

“Because of the departure of other members of the team prior to my arrival, I am currently responsible for tasks outside of my job description.  YES, AND………. I have had the courage, to be honest with our senior executive and we came to a mutual agreement as to how long the extra service is expected and compensation for the same.”

Jamie could have left the job immediately upon assessing these unforeseen obstacles.  However, they knew that long-term, the reward for navigating obstacles via “yes, and,” would be to their best benefit and would help strengthen the team and the organization, making them a s/hero!

Allison’s family took risks by renting a home fraught with obstacles. So the family had to “yes, and” those sharp angles and scary wildlife by making the little guys aware of the dangers and being intentional in our navigation, like only visiting the beach at low tide when the jellyfish were clearly visible, making crab watching a sport, and making sure everyone was wearing their shoes on the wooden walkways.. The reward was a relaxing few days watching children experience the ocean, wildlife, marshes, and great seafood! Jamie took a risk and stuck to a job that they could have easily abandoned in those first few weeks, knowing, however, that they could navigate to a better end by being in the moment and figuring out what’s next through “yes, and”…..