This past January, I was given the amazing opportunity to participate in GLACUHO’s Professional Development Institute. This weekend was one of great perspective-building and growth for me, and I know for many others. Though I have pages of takeaways, one quote that was perpetually circulating was one by Western Illinois University’s John Beirnbaum. In reference to the amount of poking, prodding, and pushing we do in our positions, he challenged us by saying:
“Is the juice worth the squeeze?”
Take this literally. Translate this to your position. Will the end result be worth the destruction to achieve it? In a similar vein of “choose your battles,” this phrase allows us to take a step back and consider not only the outcomes, but the effect of paving the trail to get there. I once served on a hiring committee for a higher level administrator position when I was a hall director. Once all interviews were completed and references were checked, we met as a committee to discuss who would be the best candidate. The committee was leaning one way and I felt strongly about leaning the other way, so I kindly shared my reasoning behind why we should consider going with another candidate. The committee chair was also an academic department head. He responded ever so eloquently with, “Crystal, it’s important to remember that not all of us are at the top of the totem pole.”
I nodded my head, quietly packed my bag, and dismissed myself. I was offended, irate, and ready to recruit an army… but I didn’t. I had every right to be upset because his words were hurtful, but he spoke the truth. It was rude, but it was true. My opinion wasn’t going to change anything. It simply wasn’t within my sphere of influence.
If you aren’t familiar with the sphere of influence concept, the diagram below is my own interpretation. You’re in the center. You’re the boss, applesauce. You’re the chief and you have a few areas around you that you are in complete control over. Then, there are a few more things a little farther away from your position that you aren’t in control of, but you have significant influence over. Shake stuff around, if you must, but tread lightly, my friend. Outside that are areas that – frankly – are beyond your control. When faced with issues in these areas, it is usually within your best interest to suck it up, buttercup.
You and I will never work with perfect people or in a perfect environment, so we need to keep phrases like this around to keep us humble and grounded. I’m not saying you should never fight for anything because sometimes the juice is worth the squeeze. I once worked at an institution that didn’t handle a sexual assault case appropriately. I stepped on my supervisor’s toes. I stepped on the police department’s toes. I even stepped on the VP’s toes. I did not put myself next in line to win “employee of the year,” but was the juice worth the squeeze? It was.
I have a background in social work, I have Belief in my top 5 strengths, and I have a pretty strong personality. I’m not usually one to back down and I am always game for doing what’s right, but life is a lot easier if we do an exceptional job at taking care of our area and trusting others to take care of theirs. I know it’s a hard pill to swallow. I’m still working on getting mine down.
I’ll end with a quote by Larry Eisenberg that is always on display in my office where I can see it:
“Resign as general manager of the universe.”