Lean In…

A best friend at work taught me everything I know about martial arts. I remember because it seemed so out of character, and because it was so interesting. I have never tried martial arts. I have thought about it but have never gone for it. I know people who have – and they are always positive and enthusiastic…maybe there’s still time…or maybe there’s not!

I don’t really know if my friend did martial arts themselves or whether they were just an enthusiastic observer. Either way I recall my friend describing irimi – a technique that involves blending yourself with an attack in order to become one with your opponent’s movement and leaving them with nowhere to strike.

Irimi is a mental state as much as physical, and like many principles of martial arts, it can be applied more generally. Anyone who steps into a developing situation; someone who get things done; these people are – in effect – applying irimi. An irimi practitioner will never wait to be told what to do…when there’s an issue, they step forward as it approaches. When there are no issues, they seek ways to improve things; anything that needs improving. …whether asked or not. They lean in….

I found myself thinking about my friend and her irimi description last week. I was on the East Coast again, but I was visiting sites I had not been to before, in a state I had not visited before. I was discussing projects and opportunities I have not worked on before with people I knew by name but had not partnered with before.

Irimi involves an ability to stay calm and focussed when faced with a challenge…as opposed to the more common panic and lack of control. Calm and focus sounds better – but it is not always as easy. We all face problems and challenges…although fortunately these seldom involve an actual physical attack. But do we lean into these situations? Do we seek to influence outcomes? Do we improve everything we are involved with? Do we look to move forward? Do we eliminate beliefs or perceptions that may hold us back? Are we always seeking to help and add value?

Far be it from me to say that I applied irimi last week, but in every situation I worked to stay calm and focused…and I physically leant into any discussions. I kept my arms unfolded and always rested them on the table. I engaged everyone I was talking with by eye. I listened intently.

There was absolutely no physical threat of course…but I felt I was facing a challenge nonetheless…I felt I wanted to influence our ability to seize and delivery our opportunity. I wanted to understand how things were done currently (and why) and then seek to identify and encourage change.

There are very few areas in which I would class myself as an expert; but there are some areas of our work in which I do have experience. Last week I was discussing areas where I have very little experience or expertise.

But I leant in. I knew my questions – let alone my ideas and suggestions – would likely be full of inaccuracies…but I stayed calm and focussed and listened intently. I recognised that my view and my experiences would be different…but I was confident that they are related.

I made it clear that my passion and commitment was to understand and to help. I accepted any correction with thanks; I took note on every comment and detail. I clarified and I reflected. I engaged in what was being advised; I adapted what I was thinking. I flew home Friday excited, enthused…and convinced.





About Steve Street

I have worked in R&D within the Pharmaceutical industry for over 30 years. Up until April 2012 all of my career had been with one company, but that has now changed. I left that company and took up a new role on May 1, 2012 - still very much within the Pharmaceutical industry and again based in the UK. I have been blogging every week now for over 10 years but only on an external site since January 2012. Email updates of the blogs can be requested using the ‘follow’ option within Wordpress. The blogs are only ever my personal view of what I see, think and feel. I am delighted if you agree and find value; happy if you disagree with my views and overjoyed if you feel motivated to comment. Most of all I am simply grateful that you read. Cheers Steve
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2 Responses to Lean In…

  1. Kathleen Trupe says:

    Irimi sounds interesting and helpful, indeed. Your post brought to mind a US Marine Corps motto, “Improvise, Adapt, Overcome”; use what is available, adjust to new conditions, succeed!

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