“If things are getting better, why don’t I feel better about things?”
Admittedly, my best leadership articles often flow directly from questions that leaders ask in workshops, webinars, or one-to-one: No fancy fare or clickbait-y headlines. These are just leadership questions that need answers.
This question came from a young woman who had taken on a senior executive role in her organization before the global pandemic.
You may be a long-time reader whom I’ve had the privilege of working with personally.
Maybe we just haven’t had that opportunity yet, so this is my way to assist, advance, and encourage you in leadership scenarios you now face.
Quality leadership is a deep abiding obsession for me (in a good way). As an ever-learning practitioner, I want to keep getting better at it. I try to live up to what I write about, teach, and coach.
I write about what it means to lead, communicate, and coach well and the necessary inner work that has to take place for that to happen.
Now back to the question and my shot at the answer.
Effective Self Leadership When Life Gets Upended
As the pandemic-fuelled crisis subsided, my client realized feelings of emptiness and even vague apprehension. She’d weathered the storm quite well throughout the prolonged crisis but was having trouble shifting gears and moving on.
I, too, have sometimes felt that way in recent times.
The pandemic was a wake-up call that life is way too short and fragile to be wasted for many of us. Lockdowns meant we had time to reflect and reassess our priorities, particularly our relationship with work.
We can’t ever avoid the trough of the change curve, but everyone has a distinctly different emotional response to what’s going on.
Fact is, we all get our fair share of life-altering events thrown our way. These could include illness, accidents, business/career failures, relationship failures, and the death of loved ones.
We usually can get through most of these disruptors with relative ease. We adjust, draw on our support networks, and move on.
But what happens when you get a pileup of two, three, or four or them?
Then things can rapidly become disorienting and destabilizing for us.
What’s different about the last two years?
The pandemic represents a massive, collective life quake.
For the first time in a century, you, me, and the entire planet is going through the same disruption at the same time.
Two years of mind-numbing uncertainty, stress, and isolation have had a “piling on” effect that made edgy people edgier, angry people angrier, and crazy folks get even crazier.
How else does one explain the recent rise in hate crimes, mass shootings, and folks being all-around more angst-y.
As a leader, how do you bring clarity, hope, and direction to those you serve through your leadership?
The best way to help your teams, colleagues, and clients who may be in crisis is not to be in crisis mode yourself. So instead, it’s back to the “inner work of leaders” thing.
Some ideas and strategies for effective self-leadership:
- Adopt the “Just fly the plane” strategy from one of my favorite books the Checklist Manifesto.
(What to do in case of engine failure) I wrote about that here.
In times of extreme crisis, as pilots run through worst-case scenarios,
they need a reminder to focus on the most important job they have, flying the airplane.
- Don’t try to “boil the ocean” by taking on too much.
Pause for a moment and take your bearings.
Just consider how extraordinary and gloriously unlikely your
circumstances may be right now.
Better yet, you get to do this! (the alternative sucks)
- Make room for the human side (yourself and others)
Trying to be stoic doesn’t help deal with the realities of change.
Be honest with yourself about how change is affecting you.
Make room for a wide range of emotions from others.
Allow yourself to envision some of the possibilities that change can bring.
- Catch the vision of what could result from all the change.
Thinking forward and daring to dream even a little bit sparks hope in the human spirit.
- Celebrate the smallest of wins!
Take things (and days) one at a time.
Focus on the things that truly matter and bring you joy
Find ways to help and support others less fortunate.
Our choice to lead means an opportunity to take on more responsibility.
Why? There’s something worthwhile that needs doing. You have the skill and the will to do it.
When a long-term challenge happens quickly, it helps to have some short-term strategies to get you through to the good stuff.
You’ve got this!
Until next time- Lorne
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