Stepping on toes can (sometimes) be a good thing

If you knew me as a child, you would not have envisioned that I’d grow up to have a strong drive for excellence in my professional life. I don’t know where that drive for excellence came, but it showed up in full force (from my inward perspective) the moment I started working in high school. There was something very self-satisfying about wanting to do good work. About making progress. About representing the company; being a part of the company.

Sometimes my drive for excellence doesn’t play well with others. And I’m sure I stepped on a bunch of toes, but never intentionally. Sometimes my toe stepping was not being mindful of how others might feel when I would (to borrow two popular phrases) just do it and git-er-done.

I recently toe-stepped (that’s what it felt like to me) on not one, but two people on my team, at the same time. We were not making any progress on our website. When progress was made on a few things, it would take another long while to make progress on the next thing we wanted done. (Just for the record, the no-progress was not caused by the co-leads. They had no control over our web-guy, who seemed to work only when it was convenient for him.) Adding a little perspective here: They are co-leads of the website committee. I have overall responsibility for all of our committees.

Quite frankly, the lack of progress (of which the root cause was so very much that non-responsive web-guy) was causing me a lot of frustration and grief. A lot. I was determined to see if I could take care of some of the things the web-guy said he would do for us. I couldn’t do anything during work, so the minute I got home from work I jumped on the computer and did some crash learning on here’s-how-to-make-this-work. I stayed focused. I pushed dinner aside. My family that wanted to have a conversation with me? I shooed them away. I was intent on making some progress on our website. And then I looked at the clock, and oh my word. It was after midnight and I had to go to work the next morning. I quit counting how many after-midnight evenings I spent on my computer (did I mention the Saturdays and Sundays?).

All through that effort (ordeal), I chose not to ask the two co-leads to stay up as long as it took to get things done on our website. I chose not to ask them to spend their weekends to help us make progress. However, I also did not come right out and tell them, “Look, I really want us to make progress on our website, so I’m going to do what I have to do to help move things forward. Are you okay with that?”

That was my mistake, and that’s why it felt like toe-stepping to me. I did not get their approval—their buy-in—on what I wanted to do and get done. All through that effort, I felt like I was stepping on toes. But . . . I was making progress at the same time, so I just kept ignoring my awareness of toe smashing. (You know; for the greater good and all that.)

That intense effort was over. And I knew I had to say something to the co-leads. So I did; I sent them a message. I basically apologized for hogging all the work, and I explained why I did what I did (and I shared another self-disclosure). I felt better after pressing Send, and I’m glad I did that.

And then I shared my message with another colleague, who wasn’t in on the huge effort. I felt she needed to see the message I sent to them. Her response? Well, in my mind, she rewarded my behavior by saying:

That’s why you’re [chapter] president – you’re a take-charge kind of gal! We WANT that in a president.

And therein lies the reason why I suspect I haven’t fully learned (embraced) the lesson that stepping on other people’s toes is never a good thing . . . because sometimes you get compliments for being excellence-driven, and let’s face it—the compliments can make a person feel good.

So yeah, if stepping on toes gits-er-done, without being downright mean, or purposely selfish, rude, or hurtful, then yes; I say stepping on toes can (sometimes) be a good thing. Would you agree? 2_Quote_donMiguelRuiz