No matter what you do for a living, there’s a better than average chance you have some kind of protocol in place. Protocol sounds stuffy, overbearing, maybe even a bit on the militant side. Visions of dystopian futures grow pretty easily in the shadow of that towering word. But protocol is an integral part of a functioning workplace. Rather than considering protocol to be this tyrannical agent of law and order, consider it the language of the workplace. How so? Protocol is basically a promise from one department to the next. With protocol in place (and properly executed), we can trust in the machine moving forward. It’s that “properly executed” part that can get tricky. So, what can you do if the thought of completing tasks related to company protocol makes your eyes glaze over, body freeze up, and mind search for something (anything) else?
Walking Through Hell to Get to Heaven
As a child, I was often frustrated by a tradition my parents held on holidays. They were religious in their own way and believed that “to get to heaven, you needed to walk through hell.” To illustrate this concept, my sisters and I needed to eat a hardboiled egg (which we loathed) and listen to my father read a passage from the Bible prior to hunting for Easter baskets. Likewise, we needed to eat breakfast and listen to a Bible passage before opening our gifts on Christmas morning.
Trust me when I say we didn’t absorb a single word out of my father’s mouth about the true meaning of Christmas. Wolfing down Cheerios with colorfully wrapped gifts begging to be torn open not ten feet away, our minds were focused on one thing. But I silently ate my cereal to the very last milk-soaked crumb, because I knew it was inevitable. There was no reality where I got to open my Nintendo Entertainment System without a stomach full of cereal and an earful of the Lord.
While the spiritual teachings may have been a bit too much to impress on my heavily distracted and sugar-addled nine-year-old mind, I can say I walked away with some sort of respect for doing what needed to be done… regardless of whether I enjoyed doing it.
Recognizing the Pain You Assign to Company Protocol
That lesson no doubt contributed to my work ethic as an adult. Is it a bit dramatic to compare your work responsibilities to fire-and-brimstone hell? I guess that depends on the task. But if you’re not completing the tasks laid out by your company’s protocol, then you associate pain to those tasks. Enough pain to consistently ignore them.
Risking hyperbole, let’s take a look at that lesson again through the eyes of an adult. Do I believe the only path to heaven is one that cuts straight through the center of hell? Not always. But hell often finds its way onto my itinerary when I’m staring down the barrel of a task I don’t feel like doing.
Leveraging Fear of Your Responsibilities
In my professional life, I tend to jump headfirst into the tasks that make me the least comfortable. Why? Because I know as long as they’re hanging over me, I can’t truly relax. My heaven is on the other side of this little piece of hell. And there’s only one way to get there. The sooner you take that first step, the sooner it’s over.
Sometimes, it’s like jumping into a freezing cold swimming pool. You’re miserable for a moment, then you adjust. Other times, you never feel comfortable. But the point isn’t to find a way to like the work in front of you. It’s to find a way to make sure that the work doesn’t haunt you. And that means knocking it out as soon as it’s in your face. As strange as it sounds, fearing your work tasks may be to your advantage. Because the more pain it brings you, the more effectively you can leverage that pain to motivate you to do something about it.
The Myth of the Maverick
Reluctance to take on an inevitable task can be so strong that it inspires romantic notions of the maverick. The western world holds a tenacious admiration for the maverick. You’ve seen enough movies and read enough books to know the type. They flout regulation in favor of their own way, falling upward with a cocky smile that reassures us that they’re right; it’s the rest of the world that’s wrong.
A life without rules and regulations is romantic when viewed from a safe distance. But even in legends plastered across silver screens, the maverick is always someone of extraordinary ability. When real world people with real world ability cavalierly attempt to step over the rules like a private investigator slipping through a police cordon at a crime scene, the results are very rarely glamorous. Maybe not the message you expect to hear from the company setting out to redefine the real estate industry, but it’s the truth.
Yes, there are good times to break rules. And you can be a maverick in your free time all you want. But when you attempt to be a maverick at the sake of company protocol, you’re not the only one crashing and burning when things go wrong. Mavericks don’t make reliable team members. Keep the people counting on you firmly in your mind, and resist the allure of the lone wolf who saves the day with a risky play.
Accepting the Inevitability of Company Protocol
To address the urgency of your protocol responsibilities, it helps to understand their inevitability. You recognize these tasks need to be done. And you’re the person who is going to do them. Probably the most famously cited example of this strategy is the story of the conquistador, Hernán Cortés. It’s said that, to inspire full commitment in wartime, he burned his own ships upon landing. This limited his army to two clear options: succeed or die trying.
There’s something to be said for the power of inevitability. It’s a feeling I felt often as a kid. Sometimes, it was even kind of exciting. I recall riding Space Mountain for the first time. During the countdown to launch, I clearly thought to myself “I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle this.” But at that point, there was nothing to do but hold on. Today, it remains one of my favorite Disneyland rides.
But I’d be lying if I said you’ll get the same thrill from committing to company protocol. No, your thrills are waiting beyond the battlefield, beyond the roller coaster track. Often, accepting the inevitable feels more like a resignation than an embrace. But again, your objective isn’t to like your tasks. It’s to complete them so that they’re no longer hindering you.
Finding Your Inner Machine
If you’re struggling to accept the inevitability of your tasks, it can help to remove yourself from the equation. When I was a tensed up seven-year-old statue silently screaming at the start of Space Mountain, there were no brakes to hit. I’d made my choice three minutes earlier when I got into my seat.
I had to find that frame of mind when I visited the dentist a year later to find out that I’d developed my first cavity. Going under the drill absolutely terrified me. But the ride had already started; my ships were burnt to ashes. I used my imagination to detach from the situation. I wasn’t a child in a dentist’s office. I was a “robot undergoing upgrades.”
Laugh all you want, but it worked! The dull pain that penetrated even through the novacaine wasn’t happening to me. It was happening to a robot who would now be stronger and more efficient.
No one’s expecting you to start blooping and beeping through your company’s protocol. But my child self hit on an effective way of powering through the undesirable but inevitable. I detached my ego. When I laid back in the dentist’s chair, it wasn’t about what I wanted to do. It was about what needed to be done. Pretending I was a robot helped me let go of what I wanted so I could do what was needed.
Mastering Controlled Detachment
If you don’t want to pretend you’re an android in an office, how do you detach enough to push yourself through company protocol? Daily meditation can help. Through meditation, you can develop a state of being without attachment.
The link between meditation and a religious devotion to protocol may not be immediately apparent. But by making meditation a fundamental daily practice, you are acclimating your mind to controlled detachment. And having the option to remove ego when faced with undesirable responsibilities can help you make adherence to company protocol automatic.
One Step Closer to Heaven
Another reason people tend to shirk their responsibilities is that they’ve put them off so long that they’ve become mountainous in scope. I’ve mentioned leveraging fear of responsibility. But there’s also a danger of taking things too far in that direction, allowing yourself to be crippled by that fear. Some people freeze up when their snowballing tasks become abominable snowmen. But at the end of the day, work is just work, no matter how important.
So, what do you do when looming responsibilities start to overwhelm you into a state of despondence? There are actually a couple of courses of action you can adopt to reduce your challenges to their proper size. The first is to simply take a step forward. That’s it. Just walk right into the challenge. Take one step. Then a deep breath. Maybe a sip of water. Then another step. And another. And remember, with each step you get closer to completion.
Using Systems to Demystify the Challenges of Company Protocol
Another method, one that I personally favor, is creating systems that make sense to me. My first day working on a new task is the most difficult. Why? Because I haven’t had time to put my systems into place yet. Let’s get very specific and look at my responsibilities in new agent onboarding protocol for JohnHart Real Estate.
Whenever a regional manager sends out a welcome email, it is my responsibility to reach out, introduce myself, and ensure the first steps of their agent bio are initiated. Nothing too daunting there. But some days bring more responsibilities than others. Therefore, there are moments when a task as simple and celebratory as welcoming a new agent to the team feels overwhelming.
So, very early on in accepting this responsibility, I drafted up a series of telephone scripts for the most common scenarios. These scripts help me hit the ground running because I don’t have to think about the task too much. I don’t even need to think of what to say. It’s all right there in front of me in black and white.
I also created a spreadsheet that keeps me abreast of important information: the agent’s name, their onboarding regional manager, the status of their bio, and any helpful notes. This spreadsheet is constantly up on my computer, even on days when I’m not calling new agents. Because I never know when one may call me or return a completed bio questionnaire.
Recognize Your Pain
Early on, I identified my pain points. I didn’t like stumbling through an unplanned conversation or voicemail. I didn’t like typing out repetitive emails. That’s why I created scripts and templates.
Do things always go as planned? Of course not. Sometimes, agents have questions that require me to think on my feet. But nine times out of 10, my scripts and templates do the heavy lifting for me. So, what about your responsibilities could be streamlined through developing systems that make sense to you? Use this kind of thinking to demystify those big bad responsibilities so you can coast right through them in a quick, yet thorough and organized manner.
The Unquestionable Certainty of Now
The present moment is another certainty that can help you with completing all of the tasks your company protocol requires. You know the conditions at present. But who knows what tomorrow brings? I can’t count the number of times I was grateful that I completed my tasks in the moment because of some unforeseen emergency falling on me the next day… sometimes even the next hour. When it comes to crucial company protocol tasks, a golden rule to adopt is: if you can, do. “Now” is an advantage. “Then” is an uncertainty.
Actionable Steps for Adhering to Company Protocol
It’s difficult to quantify these concepts into actionable steps. Different people prefer different approaches. Therefore, the following steps can be done in any order that gets the job done for you. Don’t like a step? Then skip it! You’ll know it’s working if you’re knocking your responsibilities out with consistency.
(1.) Acknowledge the inevitability of your responsibility: you have to do this.
(2.) Recognize your fear – and accept the only way out of it is to move forward.
(3.) Take a particularly daunting challenge as an opportunity to practice controlled detachment.
(4.) When in doubt, step forward.
(5.) Explore the idea of a system that could make your task easier, quicker, or more enjoyable.
(6.) Recognize that now is the only thing that’s certain and find the confidence in this.
Choose Balance Over Absolutes
For those out of practice with adhering to company protocol, the techniques outlined above may seem harsh. It’s important to keep things balanced and in perspective. These rules are not absolutes to apply to every facet of your life. They are extremes to consider when your responsibilities seem ever-elusive. Today, take a close look at what company protocol expects from you. If you’re neglecting to meet even a slight fraction of these responsibilities, try applying some of the above techniques. Your team will thank you!