When the top executive of a company requested help in re-motivating her critically essential employees, I felt honored to join her in the discussions about practical strategies for stimulating enthusiasm, coordinating a renewed interest, and re-establishing a positive focus. The conversation started in a rather typical manner with identifying the key personnel and the loss of confidence and personal investment they were expressing to her. However, the meeting began to change direction. The concerns verbalized by this executive began to turn to a more intense, critical and frustrating tone. Her voice became louder and tense. What was initially to be a review of how to develop her prized leaders and re-establish the company spirit, rapidly deteriorated into an angry attack on the
incompetence of the important, (and usually highly praised), managers.
I took the risk of interrupting her and asking why she had suddenly become so upset. She, at first, looked at me like I was being inappropriate and appeared ready to now "nail me". But then, thankfully she paused a moment, fighting off apparent tears, and said, "I can't take this any more".
Knowing this person was usually very emotionally controlled, and seldom deviated from her agenda, I cautiously (knowing that I was there to coach and strategize versus psychologically counsel) opened the door for her to elaborate on the apparent frustrations interfering with her ability to get focused. What became evident was she had lost her own motivation, interest, and spirit for the business.
Why did this happen to such a successful executive? What had so dramatically affected her enthusiasm? Why would such an organized, self-disciplined, intelligent leader lose perspective?
Well, as we all know this is not as unusual as most of us would like to believe. We are only human. We are vulnerable to the pressures of the downsizing, economic setbacks, and surviving with less personnel and more demands for production. The toll is not always obvious, however, until it is physically, mentally and spiritually crippling our own lives.
Despite the frequent protest that we can handle everything ("we have always proven this!"), or posturing stoically for our critics and blocking out our "normal" vulnerabilities; we need to step back, gain perspective and be honest to ourselves.
Though this is a particularly difficult time for most businesses, it is not new to have economic down turn, lower profits, or disgruntled employees. The veterans of the economic battles of the past can testify to that. So how do we cope with the tough reality of OUR lost confidence, and disappearing enthusiasm? How can we lead others if we lose the fundamentals of our own leadership qualities?
We could ignore the real and sometimes devastating affect this has on us (which would be like ignoring that your greatest competitor has located across the street), or re-assess what WE, not everyone else, is doing to cause our own (and sometimes the company's) problems.
How well do you "lead" yourself? Sometimes when we are angered by other's incompetence it is NOT THE FAILURE OF THE KEY EMPLOYEES, but rather the inability to guide them and recognize the positive contributions they are making during a critical time when you (the leader) have gotten caught up in the negatives, and pessimism which seduces even the best executives and managers.
What have you done to expand your perspective, balance your activities, enjoy your loved ones, and refresh your spirit?
HOW TO LEAD YOURSELF FIRST
- Don't wait! You must act now. Take out a piece of paper and write down what you have done in the past month for your husband/wife, children, friends, colleagues, etc. Doing for others will provide MORE ENJOYMENT FOR YOU and distract you from the normal, but powerful, temptation to become so lost in the problems of work, so that you often become part of the problem at work.
- Now write down WHAT YOU WILL DO in the next week (as small as it may be) for the important people in your life. (What happens to you when you see the positive responses from your children, spouse, employees, etc.?) Set specific times to do these things. Then DO THEM. No excuses.
- Next write what is really IMPORTANT TO YOU. Look at the things you have said you would do but haven't. Things special to only you. It is enormously refreshing to return to business after you have satisfied a desired need in your life.
- Write down WHAT IS GOING WELL. Don't say "nothing". There are always some things that are
positive even if they are small or diminished by the seemingly heavy weight of the things going wrong. If you only focus on the negative, then the feelings, attitudes, and behaviors will reflect this. How will these things affect the way you treat people at work? How will this affect your morale and motivation? If you focus on the things that are going well, how will your focus affect others? Now, tell others what they are doing well, or what you appreciate about them. Watch what happens!
- Lastly, PLAN YOUR COURSE. Don't look at the pitfalls and roadblocks. Open your mind to the
important direction you want to go in your life. Your work responsibilities are certainly part of this, but without getting a broader perspective on what makes your life satisfying and enjoyable, you are going to lose the opportunity that faces you now. How many times have you regretted the lost opportunities? We all have a tendency to procrastinate sometimes.
However, remember you are only this age today and if you have the health and ability now you must take advantage of it. Write how you will get to where you are going. Make it achievable and with a timeline you can remain dedicated to. If you don't know where you are going or when you are going to do it, you will never start doing
something to take care of yourself, and you will never get to where you what to be. Don't let your greatest dream forever remain only in your mind.
REMEMBER: to think is not to do, to do is not to complete, and to complete is not the end. There is no end. We are in a lifetime of beginnings. There is never a time to say something doesn't work, or everything is done. There is no, "it doesn't work", and there is no "it's done, this is just the reminder for us to think of what is the next step.
In order to lead your business, or to lead your employees YOU MUST FIRST LEAD YOURSELF. Be a real leader, lead yourself with a positive perspective by knowing yourself better. Successful leaders know what they need. In business and in your personal life, it is essential to keep motivated, refreshed, and positively focused.
When you follow the basic rules above, you will be more content and ultimately a better leader at work and a more successful person in all other areas of your life.