I’m a fan of most Steven Spielberg movies. I like a plot with an expected good ending that is full of close calls. When the moon is full and the sky is clear, I look up to catch a glance of ET on the bike with Elliott. I can’t, however, handle anything Steven King; all those scary characters end up under my bed or in a dark place I must go, usually at night…all alone…it’s creepy. I can’t stroll by a sewer in my neighborhood without thinking about a nasty balloon-toting clown from the movie It.

For me, it’s not the beginning or the credits rolling that are most enjoyable; it’s what I call the In-Between, when I’ve lost track of time and place because I’m completely in the moment. I can only look forward to, or reflect upon, the In-Between because the most telling feature of being in it is not being aware you are. I know when I’ve just come out of it, but when I’m in it I am so fully in the moment that neither the past nor the future exist for me.

Maybe the In-Between is part of (or a cousin to) flow – that state of mind where things come more easily, as if all the potholes, road bumps and other distractions have been magically cleared and it’s smooth sailing and I get this feeling that everything is as it should be, and the outcome was always going to be that outcome.

Change, I contemplate, is harder for those not comfortable in the space between an end and a beginning. Change can be the moment just before flow that is uncomfortable and feels unfinished and sometimes raw. The process of getting to a changed state is the preparation, like the previews before the movie, during which you still notice your surroundings and can hear people talking and opening candy wrappers. (I love the previews. I think watching them serves my inner cheapskate: I feel like I’m getting something for nothing! I choose to experience the coming attractions, chatter, and crinkling wrappers as a welcome part of the main event.)

Once I heard a story about a FEMA director whose boss said, “That guy loves disasters”. It’s not that he wants them to occur, it’s just that when they do, he’s the person you want to show up because watching him manage all the moving parts is like watching Simone Biles do a backflip on the balance beam. In the zone, these individuals make difficult things look effortless, giving bystanders the impression they could do the job just as well.

At work, the In-Between is the strategic planning, the debating, the budgeting, all the things we work out, agree on, prioritize and assign with dates and measurables before we get to start the show. If we want great results, we must expect that people with responsibilities in any of those areas choose a positive mindset and embrace the notion that change, the unknown, and discomfort are all part of the process to getting to the next step – the future. If we get it right, people will feel flow in their work but if we get it wrong, work feels…well, like work. I take responsibility for setting the expectation that we create processes and procedures that result in more flow-inducing work than not. One way to do that is to match people with jobs they are great at and love (i.e., giving the Spielberg fans exposure to ET and King fans a nice scary It.)

It only takes a little time and a few words, like “What part of your job do you love?” and “What feels effortless to you?” to find out who is likely to spend more time in flow and who feels stuck in that scary sewer.

– Becky Sharpe, President & CEO