Resuscitating Canaries

There are a couple of processes at work that I think of as canaries. They are the first things that start to slip when I (or a teammate) is no longer working at their best. The actual task is different for each person but usually it’s something that is supposed to be done regularly; it might be a little boring for the person who does it. The biggest thing is it’s too important to stop doing all the time, but the consequences of letting it slip on occasion are small and/or delayed.

I’ve used this system for years to notice when things are off, but I realized in the past couple of days that instead of using the warning as a heads up to get out of the current situation and figure out what changed in the environment and how to address it, I’ve been focusing my efforts on trying to keep my canaries alive.

If I work a little longer, surely I’ll get to that report. Maybe I’m just a slow writer, I’ll get a coach. Maybe I can just skip it this one time and no one will notice, or maybe I can delegate it to someone else. Maybe if I felt worse about it the guilt would make me do it (this one has worked 0 times, but it’s still on the list!)

My favorite is: maybe I could do some resilience training so I don’t wear out so fast (you know, get stronger canaries).

When canaries died in the coal mines, I do not believe the minors tried to resuscitate the birds so they could keep working, or traded them in for birds who could handle more carbon monoxide. They knew that wouldn’t work. The canary wasn’t defective, it was doing it’s job.

What would it be like to treat our own canaries the same way? To notice when a routine task is starting to feel like a monumental lift and instead of trying to push through we went to get some fresh air.







4 responses to “Resuscitating Canaries”

  1. Harirai Avatar

    This makes me very interested to make a list of my personal canaries! That’s such a nicer way of thinking about my so-called “defects.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Chrissie Avatar

    Very thought-provoking. Gonna mull on that a bit now….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. seriouslyseekinganswers Avatar

    Sounds like me at a couple of my past jobs.

    Liked by 1 person

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