Small Actions

Small actions can lay a pathway for bigger attitudes.

When I was a young Chartered Accountant (yes, really!), I worked for one of those Big Four firms. Back in the day, the rule was that you weren’t allowed to leave the building without your suit jacket on. In the Perth summers of up to 40 degrees celsius, that was pretty brutal!

Another rule, I suspect unwritten, was that as a man wearing a long-sleeved shirt and tie, I wasn’t allowed to roll my sleeves up. Sleeves must be down to the wrist at all times! I dutifully complied, not giving it too much thought. It was just what you did.

One day we had a manager transfer into the Perth office from the UK. His name was Kevin. And guess what? Kevin rolled his sleeves up! I remember I walked past his office one day and was shocked to see him breaking protocol. How could he get away with this?

The next day, it was the same deal. Sleeves up to the elbows. And the next after that. No one seemed to be telling him off. Hmmmm…

A question started to burn in me. What if I rolled my sleeves up? What might happen? So I experimented just to see what would happen. And wouldn’t you know if? Nothing happened. Besides a small feeling of rebelliousness and satisfaction 🙂

From that day onwards, rolling my sleeves up became my default style. And many years on, that’s still the case.

Beyond adopting a different style, Kevin’s unwitting act of rebellion gave me something much more powerful. The small act at the beginning of my career ignited in me a willingness to see conventions and test them. Just because we do it one way, who’s to say there’s not a better way? 

This approach has opened doors, taken me in directions I’d never have dreamed of, and made life super-rewarding. And it’s been a particularly useful approach in my work in supporting change leadership, which, by definition, requires us to find new ways.

We live in a time where plenty of the old ways of doing things are up for examination. 

What rules might you test today?

For more posts like this, check out:

Ping Pong Balls and Change-Making

Be An Experimentalist

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