I’m not one to quote Ronald Reagan often, but I love this visceral metaphor: “I know it's hard when you're up to your armpits in alligators to remember you came here to drain the swamp.” And I sure have been up to my… (something!) in alligators lately. The past year or two have brought us so many opportunities to walk into companies, engage with leadership teams, and truly serve them. They hire us for a number of different reasons, but what we know is that we’re there to drain the swamp. The #1 thing we can do to serve them is help them see and feel the depletion that, like the swamp water they swim in, is invisible to them (and not even smelly any more!). They’re running on fumes and they think the solution is to just run faster.
We know better. We know – at some level – that we’ve got to help them drain the swamp. But, see, what Sara and I have remembered in the past few weeks is that draining the swamp takes a deep remembering that there is such a thing as dry ground. We are the ones who’ve come in to drain the swamp, but at times we’ve let ourselves be snapped at by the same alligators – time pressure, intense cultures, oppressive working norms, communication silos – that plague our clients. And we, like them, sometimes hopped around just trying to save our hineys from those gators. We forgot our real job.
Such is the nature of helping with change. Whether you’re supporting a child to learn something new, helping a leadership team make better decisions and shift their culture, or working with your partner to build a more fulfilling relationship, you step into the swamp. Your job is to drain it, but to do that you have to remember why you’re there and hold tight to the vision of dry ground.