August 20, 2012
When It's All Uphill by Sheryl Eberly
I pulled a muscle recently and am dealing with nagging pain as I wait for the specialists to figure out what the solution is. Pain brings limits, and I’ve begun to get annoyed with the limits. I’ve also had to reflect on how unattractive and ineffective it would be to settle into a habit of being annoyed.
Leaders experience “pulled muscles” of many kinds, and they have bad days. They might even have bad stretches – periods of time when they feel beleaguered due to challenges at work or at home. Confidence runs low and hope is faint. Things just aren’t working, frustration sets in, and the leader wonders if he or she has what it takes to lead.
Have you been there? Do you recognize any of these states of mind or moods? Is there ambivalence about how you should behave as a leader when you’re going through a bad stretch?
And what are your options if you’re in the middle of one?
You have a range of choices, don’t you? You might go to work and dutifully put on your best game face, attempting to be your normal self. Or you can tell it like it is, letting your mood infect your entire workplace. Or maybe you choose to pull back, either calling in sick or going to work and keeping your mouth and door shut, leaving your employees confused over what the chill is all about.
But these choices seem extreme, don’t they? There have to be alternatives to complete denial and potentially unprofessional conduct. Certainly you’ve come up with better practices.
Here are 6 Good Practices I’ve identified as I talk with leaders:
- Ask someone for help. There’s no need to be a lone ranger. Develop trusted peers and regularly tell them about your reality. Ask them for their observations about you and your situation. They can help you find an alternative path.
- Know your feelings won’t last forever. Emotions go up and down. As sure as you’re down today, you’ll be feeling better tomorrow. Don’t give too much credence to good or bad feelings.
- Isolate your problem. Don’t broad-brush your world. Just because one project didn’t work out, doesn’t mean your whole strategic plan is wrong.
- Think about what you’re thinking about. You can choose a better attitude. Optimists believe when good things happen, a pattern is developing, and when bad things happen it’s out of the ordinary and probably is now behind us. A pessimist believes the opposite. Figure out which one you are and choose the one you want to be.
- Be quiet. For at least 15 minutes a day, sit in a quiet place by yourself and be still. Let all your negative thoughts go for a bit. Just breathe deeply and stay quiet. Repeat tomorrow.
- Develop in a new domain. If your work is mainly cerebral, take a golf lesson or learn how to cook. If it’s hands on, join a book club. You get the picture: develop a different side of yourself. It can be wonderfully liberating to be a beginner at something.
Help me add to the list! Certainly you have ideas to share. Write and tell us how you manage to be the kind of leader you want to be when the going gets tough. And if you can advise on pulled muscles, that’s welcome too.