Folding towels

Folding towels
This image was created with the assistance of DALLĀ·E 3

Back when my wife was on maternity leave with our first child, I was working from home. Our new dynamic meant adjusting to being in the same space all day, every day. The transition wasn't without its challenges, and one seemingly trivial incident became a profound lesson for me.

One afternoon, my wife entered my makeshift office with a simple complaint: she didn't like how I folded the towels. Now, there were a couple of ways I could've responded. A humble admission and a request for guidance might have been wise. Instead, I chose the path of defensiveness.

"Why does it matter how the towels are folded?" I retorted, somewhat annoyed. "They're just tucked away in a cupboard, out of sight." I continued to argue that my contribution to household chores, especially as a working husband, should be appreciated, not critiqued. The conversation quickly escalated from a minor comment about towels to a full-blown argument, consuming the better part of the day.

But what did we gain from this? Absolutely nothing. No towels were folded, no work was done, just a day spent in futile disagreement.

This domestic episode is reflective of scenarios that often unfold in the business world. During tough times, when the pressure mounts and tensions rise, focus can easily shift from the actual issues at hand to the emotions and minor disagreements surrounding them. Instead of channeling efforts into productive problem-solving, valuable time and energy are wasted on tangential issues, much like our day lost to a debate over towel-folding techniques.

How can you reset your team when you see this cycle of negativity starting? How can you ensure that your team is choosing their battles wisely, communicating effectively, and maintaining focus on their primary objectives? Sometimes, it's not about the towels at all, but how we handle the conversation about them.