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28 Oct 2010

Business Examples of Patience’s Merits

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Patience's Merits

A question posted by Expat 21 asked for examples of patience in the workplace, especially those demonstrating a contrast between American and other cultures.

While I find non-American cultures more patient, the examples I have aren’t that distinguishable by cultures except in their acceptance of patience-oriented approaches and the rules under which they might apply them. However, these rules don’t alter the basic strategies and tactics behind the employment of patience; they will only make application of patience more or less accepted.

With that said, Rahm Emanuel’s well documented quote,  “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before,” summarizes the business implications of patience. However, this means partnering patience with our knowledge, experience or insight about the future that others lack; we are waiting for the “crisis” that we know is over the horizon.

For example, I worked on an IT project involving the rollout of client management software (CMS). From my experience, I pushed for certain functionality that I knew sales executives would want. However, the CMS team discounted the functionality, had other priorities and didn’t incorporate it. I could have pushed harder, irritated the team and achieved only a partial list of what was needed. Instead, I waited for the rollout because I knew sales managers would request the functionality. When they did, I had their entire support to get the team to do what I originally proposed and much more.

Another example for me was the reorganization of an 80 person call center. They had already gone through three reorganizations in four years. I had advised patience to the new executive because her people were “shell shocked” and hadn’t been able to establish sound interpersonal working relationships; they needed a period of stability. She went along with her reorganization anyway; she felt pressure to do something. However, the reorganization reinforced anxieties, undermined executive credibility and made achieving goals difficult. She left after only eighteen months.

Management by walking around” and “teachable moments” are key general examples of techniques employing patience. People are more receptive to instruction when they approach us than when we approach them. We can encourage it by making ourselves accessible but we need patience to make this work.

Some macro-business applications of patience deal with such things as branding, investment, public relations, training and marketing. In each of these cases, patience is required to see a return. Often the urgency of the moment disrupts these initiatives before the return on our patience is realized. It’s personal discipline combined with the corporate and social culture that will determine how much patience is accepted; however, the basic strategies and tactics remain fundamentally the same across cultures. It’s similar to warfare; weapons, training and supplies might be different, but the basic principles remain the same no matter who is fighting.

Related Post: Blue Heron Instructs on Patience

Series Navigation<< A Blue Heron Instructs on PatienceBusiness Examples of Patience’s Merits (Pt 2): Ethical Behavior >>

1 Response

  1. This was a great post. I enjoyed reading your examples.

    To summarize, it sounds like the main idea here is similar in personal life to “don’t give advice unless asked for it.” In other words, the timing and desire have to be right for the client. Be patient enough to move at the client’s pace, and in the direction of the client’s desires. It’s OK to suggest new directions, but not to push. When the client is ready, he will ask.

    I also liked your idea of “teachable moments.” As a teacher, I often used the problems and challenges students encountered along the way as “teachable moments.” I found it extremely effective, and much appreciated by the students.

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