by Kenden

Is there a connection between toilet training and international work?  Yes, and the connection is "ENABLING ENVIRONMENT".  Read on...

One of my clients wrote in an email to me (yes, she gave permission to use this quotation):

“I have often asked myself why I sometimes feel unmotivated even when I am working on issues that I am passionate about...and have recognized that when I feel powerless to change my enabling environment (or do not empower myself to change it!) that I start blaming myself instead and get caught up in a cycle of lack of motivation and then berating myself for this lack of motivation and lack of sheer willpower to just push through it, and, ultimately, do not produce the work as well or as efficiently or with as much joy as I could.”

Best Practices on Toilet Training, Anyone?

For those of you who feel far away from toilet training – this is a breakdown: Around 2 years old, a child begins a transition from diapers to using the toilet.  This moment is often erroneously referred to as “toilet training”.  However, a child does not need to be trained to use the toilet, rather the caretaker needs to be trained on how to create the enabling “toilet-transition” environment for the child to teach him/herself and thrive. 

This “toilet-transition” enabling environment includes the following key steps, among others:

  • Familiarization with the toilet
  • Practice wearing undergarments
  • Increasing “diaper-free” time based on the child’s own schedule

The connection to international work is this – very often I work with clients who have two complaints:

  • I am bored with my workload and my work environment: non-productive and lengthy meetings, not seeing any concrete results for my work, toxic office relationships
  • I am no longer in the “I WILL DO ANYTHING” phase of my career: no longer compelled by the steady stream of delegated tasks that are not possible to achieve, from a time (“please prepare and finalize that 50 page report which I forgot to tell you about by tomorrow morning”) and/or quality perspective (“please ensure that the proposal meets all quality requirements outlined in the manual”). At first these tasks makes one sweat with anxiety and then, little by little, it just kills motivation and passion.

The connection to toilet training is this: ENABLING ENVIRONMENT.

Unfortunately, too many international workers get bored with their work and lose their motivation and passion, because a lot of international work is happening in a dis-abling environment which negatively impacts you.

What is a “dis-abling” environment?

  • Lack of connection with the real purpose of the organization’s work;
  • Toxic one-to-one relationships and team dynamics;
  • Individuals promoting the bureaucracy rather than the mandate;
  • Uninspiring leadership and not enough quality mentoring;
  • Unhealthy physical environment – no plants, bad lighting and not enough fresh air and exercise;
  • Too little focus on real collaboration and results.

Let’s go back to toilet transition.  One of the things that is clear with young children is their truth – i.e how things feel to them.  Young children cannot lie – so they tell adults their version of the truth with their behavior.  Transitioning to using the toilet it is no different.  If we adults do not create the enabling environment for them to first learn, then practice the new skill, and then transition (at their own pace) to the new behavior – they fight every step of the way.

So if your environment is not enabling you, you are probably fighting/ blocking your own progress and might be expressing it through:

  • Chronic dissatisfaction
  • Not really giving your work 100%
  • Feeling negative about your work
  • Not feeling very well physically/mentally/emotionally
  • Feeling tired
  • A general lack of joy
  • So if you can relate, then here is my request: 

1.  If you are experiencing boredom or a loss of motivation (or any other emotion for that matter), can you treat it as a signal to yourself that something needs to be changed to make your environment enabling, rather than neutral or disabling?

2.  Can you focus on the ideal enabling environment to deepen your learning about what you need to thrive? 

Here are some questions that might assist your self-learning:

  • What would an enabling environment look and feel like to you? 
  • If your life depended on changing your work environment, what would you do?
  • How does your work environment fit in with your plans/way of life/values?
  • What are the possibilities from here?

P.S. What can you learn about the international workspace from observing a 2 year old child engaging with their environment?