Positive Impatience

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Four BusinesspersonsI heard these words used first by Dr. Catharine O’Connell of Mary Baldwin College in reference to students who skip high school and enter college early.  My wife and I are blessed/challenged to have such a child.  Our 15 yr. old daughter already has 60 university credit hours completed.  Most of the time we do not push her, she pulls us.  She is how we came to hear the words of Dr. O’Connell, during a visit to Mary Baldwin, one of only three colleges in the nation that allows students as young as 13 to begin college.

According to Dr. O’Connell students with positive impatience are aggressive in moving forward for beneficial reasons. They have a dissatisfaction with the status quo that is often the norm for traditional organizations, such as, high school.  Students with positive impatience do not want the approval of the system, they want to improve the system.

I have found positive impatience to be a common trait among capable second chair leaders. It is frustrating for a second chair to follow a first chair who has settled into the status quo.  If you are a first chair working with frustrated second chairs, here are a few signs that you might be holding back the positive impatience of your staff:

1. You are uncomfortable with staff challenging current processes.

When your staff voices a recommended change and your “go to” thought is, “Here’s why that won’t work,” then you’re uncomfortable leading leaders with positive impatience.  Allow second chairs the safety to challenge current processes.  Even if their recommendation does not deserve implementation, you will have communicated that you recognize that all current processes have an expiration date.

2. You are aggravated by necessary conflict.

Leaders with positive impatience are going to disagree at times and that disagreement will produce necessary conflict.  Such conflict un-earths assumptions and once assumptions are discovered leaders can re-normalize around a better understanding of differing perspectives.

3. You are the final word on all “gray areas”.

If at staff meetings all heads look at you for the final input on “gray” matters, then you are holding back the positive impatience of second chairs.  Most of the time the “gray areas” are the result of second chairs pushing the organization beyond its current limits.  Leaders need the experience of “making the call” on gray issues, so they can learn to exercise their positive impatience with wisdom. Instead of all heads looking at the first chair, all decisions should be owned by the leader who makes the call.

Stretch yourself as a first chair to work with second chairs who want to be aggressive in moving forward for beneficial reasons. Remember leaders with positive impatience are not satisfied with the approval of the current system, they want to improve the system.
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