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It Is What It Is!

We hear this phrase, but what does it mean? People may say this and shrug their shoulders as if to indicate, “Oh well, get over it”. Really?

In this time of unease and fear, people want to be heard and understood. How can you use the concept of “It Is What It Is” to gain perspective and lead your people?

The phrase was first introduced by Erick Fried an Austrian poet born in 1921, in a love poem titled, “What it is”
excerpt below.
It is nonsense says reason
It is what it is says love …

Years ago, I said “It Is What It Is” and my coach asked if I understood what the phrase meant?
– I said, “Of course”!
– Coach said, “OK, tell me”.
– I fumbled and pulled a response from my mental database of TV quotes. As Sgt. Joe Friday from Dragnet would say, “Just the Facts Ma’am”.
– Coach said, “Absolutely correct”!
– I said, “REALLY”?
– Coach said, “Yes. “It Is What It Is” refers to a situation or fact that is irrefutable and true. When we add our positive and negative values, emotion, and judgement, we impact our perception of that truth.

I nodded excitedly and recalled coaching leaders to focus on and detail what “IS” as it related to human resource issues or interviews. When we add a positive or negative spin, our interpretation and assumptions may not be factual.

I quickly grabbed a piece of paper and drew a picture that helps me maintain a grounded approach.

– _____________________________ IS_______________________________+

This visual may help you discern the “IS” from the self-evaluative positive or negative on either side. It can be used when problem solving, interviewing, or evaluating a situation to ensure you are identifying what or who “IS” in front of you.

Below are some examples
IS – There are 24 hours in a day.
+ I can get a lot accomplished!
– There are never enough hours in a day, I never get anything done. I wish I had more time.
IS – It is raining.
+ I love the rain! I save money watering my lawn and garden, and everything looks clean and smells fresh.
– I hate this dreary weather. It makes me depressed. It is difficult to drive, and I need to wash my car.
IS – We must shelter in place because of COVID-19.
+ I am healthy. I can spend time with my spouse, kids, and dogs. I am learning something new.
– I hate being inside and cooped up. I just want it to be “normal”. I don’t want to change my life and/or my job.

The “IS”, is a fact or the observable behavior exhibited in a situation. For example, the employee start time was 9 a.m. on 3/30 and the employee arrived at 10 a.m. on 3/30. The employee may have overslept, which could be perceived as negative. Or, the employee stopped on the way to work to buy donuts to help connect and reinforce the team, which could be perceived as a positive.

Our experience of the situation is based on the lens that we use to view it.

Have you ever met someone who is a ray of sunshine? They make lemonade out of lemons and always seems to have a positive outlook about any situation. They are upbeat, lighten the mood, and positively impact others around them.

Have you ever met someone who is the image of Pig Pen, the character in the Charles Shultz cartoon? They have a dark cloud swirling around their head, and every comment is negative. Their mood is grey and sullen, and each interaction brings you down.

Are you leaning to the positive and hopeful, or are you leaning to the negative with a grey cloud swirling around you and darkening your mood?

Today, we are living amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are “shelter in place”, we are concerned, we hope we are healthy, and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Many people will have to redefine their new normal. This normal may include a new job, a new financial threshold, a new way of doing business, a new team, and on and on. Some will look at this with hopeful anticipation, and others will view with doom and gloom. “It Is What It Is”.

Are you using this time to reinvent and learn skills that you can use in the next phase of your business, career, or life?

As a business leader, you may now be forced into a future that is not your choosing.
– Are you ready? I don’t have a choice; “It Is What It Is”.
Are you taking it one day at a time and pivoting as necessary? All I have is one day at a time. Pivoting includes. assessing opportunities, making decisions, and learning from them.
Are you using self-discipline in this time of crisis? Are you taking the time to think through your options before jumping to conclusions? Remember, you cannot take back words and everyone is more emotional. In a time with less structure, are you getting up, getting dressed, working out, and sticking to the routine that keeps you sharp and healthy?
Are you taking a leap of faith into your future? Are you willing to “do what it takes” and learn new skills to advance and grow?

The last “What the Hecht” blog titled “Leap of Faith” defined this term as, the space between where you have been and where you are going. The place of not knowing. When I published the blog on February 29, I never anticipated we would quickly be in the place of not knowing. Now is the time to reflect and prepare so that you can leap to the other side and land in the direction you desire.

This is the time to use a technique I call the “Three Lists”. These lists help you track, reflect, and plan. In a time of crisis when tension and emotions are high, this technique provides space to make decisions and move in right direction.

List 1– What do you have to do now, and in the next few days or weeks?
Write it all down. In a crisis your mind may get “fuzzy”. This list focuses on the “IS”, what you NEED to do to maintain equilibrium and sanity.

List 2 – What do you need to refine or develop for future business?
Many businesses have been thrust into a new paradigm with no planning. Consider WFH- work from home; you are doing the best you can right now with no advance planning. When you have time, you may develop processes, policies, work groups, and technology solutions to be more effective in the future.

Here is another example. Dine-in restaurants are now reinventing and offering delivery or drive-up service, these may have been created “on the fly”. In the future, the business owner may maintain these services as a revenue stream. To ensure flawless execution the business may streamline processes, hire additional people and resources, and plan outcomes.

List 3 – Who do you want to be “on your team” in the future?
Times of crisis bring out fear in people, some handle it better than others! There are people who show compassion and “step up” as needed. There are others who are self-focused and display anger and judgement. Who do you want to be on your team? Take note!

Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” When someone really shows you and tells you who they are, take them at their word.

In this challenging time, we are inundated with negative news, sickness, layoffs, and fear. But there are many positive moments to bring relief, joy, and peace. Printers are creating masks using 3D printing, auto companies are creating ventilators. These creative alternatives are keeping people healthy, safe, and employed. People in India are seeing a blue sky, perhaps for the first time in their life. People are connecting in ways they never thought possible and developing more intimate relationships via technology. We have much to be thankful for.

To your health, joy, and abundance. “It Is What It Is”!