October 14, 2019
Empirical studies on patience have demonstrated the positive effects it can have on creativity, product quality, collaboration and productivity as well as the long-term sustainability of companies. Being patient means listening, observing, waiting for information to come, consulting other people and seeking relationships that provide new resources to make good decisions. Patience is good for ourselves and others.
In a workplace environment where we value speed, tangible results and immediate decisions made, it may appear that there is no room for patience. Even though research shows that very few decisions in the workplace should be considered truly urgent, business culture seems to embrace the idea that “he who hesitates is lost.”
Considering important judgements, negotiations and innovative ideas that may come up, it is important to practice patience so that we do better business and promote positive psychological and physical health in the workplace. To develop patience, we must know ourselves and be clear about our guiding principles, capabilities and limitations.
To practice patience, we must start with the following two practices to problem-solve and understand ourselves.
Understand the problem
Identify the problem. What is upsetting you about the delay? There could be many reasons, dissatisfaction with the team, the loss of money, negative impact on others. No matter the problem, identify the source of the issue so that you can begin to deal with the problem.
We’re all human
Examine our human reactions and practice different responses. Analysing the outcome and its consequences is a learning opportunity and may even reveal some positive consequences to something initially seen as a setback.
In general practising patience can:
- Result in more realistic expectations and calm behaviour.
- Limit the task build up, lack of attention and disorganization.
- Denotes maturity, fosters a consistent identity over time and encourages people to assume responsibilities.
- Builds character and promotes steadiness, perseverance, strength and humility.
- It has positive effects on physical and psychological health.
And in relationships with others:
- It creates a better work environment because it prevents brusqueness and unnecessary arguments.
- It builds trust by facilitating understanding and collaboration, and it allows time for mistakes to be corrected or actions to be improved.
An example of the positive impact patience can have on innovation would be Microsoft Corporation founder and CEO Bill Gates. Gates goes away twice-a-year solely to think about the future of his company on a retreat he calls Think Week. One of Gate’s early “Think Week” retreats lead to the conception of Internet Explorer, which changes the way we used the internet forever.
We’ve heard that patience is a virtue and although organizations themselves can’t be virtuous, there are places that encourage patience through their culture supported by incentives, training programs, codes of good practice and other mechanisms. Although we are accustomed to highly competitive corporate environments, patience provides room to take a step back and better understand our circumstances, therefore we can thrive and meet objectives that benefit us all.
Image: From “Penelope then during the day she wove the large web, which at night she unravelled The Odyssey”, Thomas Seddon 1852
Antonio Argandoña Ramiz is Emeritus Professor of Economics and Business Ethics at IESE. He received his PhD in Economics (summa cum laude) from the University of Barcelona in 1969. A Professor of Fundamentals of Economic Analysis (retired), he has taught at the Universities of Barcelona, Malaga and Navarra.