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The Struggle is Real - But It Does Get Easier: A Journey to New Ways of Working

This is a guest post by Samantha Carlin, Project Associate at Walnut Ridge Strategic Management Company.

I know the feeling: you look at a new tool, process, or template for the first time and your head starts to spin. What in the world is this thing? The words on the page look like a foreign language; the questions to answer are unfamiliar; the mode of thinking is new. So at first, the prospect of filling this thing out and learning this unfamiliar way of working is daunting and overwhelming. You’d probably rather skip it.

New Process Can Be Intimidating

I get it, I promise. When I started working with professionals at GOJO (the company that inspired Meeteor's business concept) and its affiliates three years ago, even a meeting agenda made me feel completely at sea. The agenda template had language such as “prework” and “norms” that I’d never heard before in my professional career. My previous jobs were light on the formal processes, and had no lexicon like I found in this new organization. I was used to, comfortable with, and (mostly) successful at simple status-update and task-sharing meetings. So when it came to conceptualizing and predicting the “desired outcomes” of a meeting, and recording LDAs (Learnings, Decisions, Actions), I was lost and intimidated. I often wanted to hide under my desk, fearing I’d fail, wishing I didn’t have to fill this weird and scary thing out at all...

From Hesitation to Adoption

As I began attending meetings fueled by these company agendas, I started to grow more comfortable and see the light. With this agenda, meetings had a specific purpose commonly known to all; they were directed, they stayed on task and, importantly, nine times out of ten, they accomplished what they intended. And to boot, the minutes were easy to read-- I could find my name in the notes and see what I had to do, and by when. These once intimidating and bothersome LDAs, it turned out, were much easier to use than deciphering my own handwritten notebook scribbles, and they aided me in being more productive after the meeting.

From Adoption to Mastering

Once I saw and experienced the positive results from this tool and way of working, I wanted to dig in and learn to master it so I could have successful meetings, too. I also realized that adopting the process was key to taking up company culture and becoming part of the team. . To get started, I lifted language from old agendas other people had written, and edited the words and content to be my own and reflect the meeting’s objectives. Colleagues were also there to coach me and reroute me if necessary. As time went on, I eventually got in the groove of writing the agenda and appreciated it more and more.

From Mastering to Internalizing

But it was spending some time outside of the organization that really convinced me of the tool’s value. While I was volunteering on a committee for a non-profit, the agenda was a simple Word document with discussion topics, but no overall objective, and no way to systematically organize the minutes. I found myself, surprisingly, feeling unsatisfied with the meetings-- they seemed to meander. When staff changed, so did the format of the agenda and minutes, so it was necessary to reorient myself to a new style all over again. After the meetings, I had no idea what my tasks were when I got home and had to cull through the minutes to figure it out.

As a volunteer, I was passionate about the organization and really wanted to do what they needed to support their cause. At that point, instead of wishing to hide under my desk to avoid the agenda I’d once feared, I was thinking: If only we could use that agenda I use at work! (Admittedly, I didn’t go the extra step to introduce the tool or ways of working and thinking to the non-profit organization-- doing so would have been inappropriate; I would have been overstepping my volunteer role.)

New Process is Worth the Effort

I like to say I “drank the kool-aid” on the tools and processes at my company. I think what really happened was that, after overcoming my initial insecurity of failing at something new, I learned a way of working that is both enriching for my own thinking, and increases my (and hopefully my team mates’!) productivity.

This is all to say that, really, I understand your struggle-- it’s hard and scary to learn something new and adopt a new process or tool or template. The thought of trying and failing can be paralyzing-- so why even bother? Your specific answer to that question will be for you to discover on your own professional journey.

For me, incorporating the agenda process as a key way of working was necessary to be effective in company meetings and assimilate as a team player in the organization. While getting up on the new method was tough at first, the time and energy invested up front to overcome my fears and learn the new tool and ways of working has been worth it for the cultural understanding achieved, productivity gained, and time saved in the end.


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