“Wouldn’t it be great if failures did seminars.” said Jim Rohn. Not in some macabre way but in a way that we could ALL realise the mistakes that many of us make and we could help one another avoid them earlier.
Rohn goes on to say that when it comes to life and leadership, it’s easy NOT to.
- It’s easy not to grow as a leader. After all there are deadlines to meet right?
- It’s easy not to invest in your mental health. Push yourself that little bit harder.
- It’s easy not to work out, have more than one cheat meal, take extra ice cream.
- It’s easy to stay longer at the office and miss the School Spring Concert, how many kids dressed up as trees do you need to see?
- It’s easy to take your partner for granted, they will always be there doing that, right?
- It’s easy to think you’re not prepared for the promotion or there’s someone else more suited and qualified than you.
- It’s easy to carry around the words of authority figures who frame your life even though they themselves have passed on.
- It’s easy to make up a story that keeps you safe, small, protected and unable to realise your beauty and potential as a human.
Jim Rohn was right, It’s easy NOT to.
I get it, not super inspiring right!
But wait, if this whole ‘living up to your potential’ thing was easy wouldn’t more and more people be doing it. If ‘helping technical experts become people leaders’ was easy there’d be a host of people in your work right now ready to do your job.
So why aren’t they?
Because it’s easy NOT to.
How is it easy not to?
There are three big ways you will fail to realise the leadership opportunities ahead of you. They are more tactical in nature and relentless in regularity.
They are, distraction, disappointment and discouragement.
On their own they can appear innocuous and even not much to consider. Together they can deliver a knockout punch you don’t see coming. The art is knowing what each of these challenges looks like and knowing what to do about them.
Distraction – The realisation you are unfocused and off-track.
This is more than a focus problem, although that’s a very real challenge in the digital, multi screen world we are part of now. It’s more a case of heading in one direction than setting the course for a new direction because of the “latest idea or thinking” you’ve discovered.
I once worked in an environment that was ‘fad’ driven – every 9-18 months we had a new way of doing life and leadership. We leaned into what Jim Collins called the fly-wheel and the doom loop. Except for us it was the doom loop. We never settled on anything long enough to gain traction and momentum. Then inside all those changes we all had to shift our focus, our energy, our language and our activity. It was a mess that took several years to become apparent.
Focus is a leadership currency for the 21st Century. More and more, leadership is exposing the importance of making a clear commitment to a few things you can do brilliantly and then doing nothing else. That take significant courage and enormous discipline.
The Antidote to distraction?
Write down the 6 most important things you must be/do in the next 12 months and map your attention, time, energy, and finances towards those objectives. Enlist the help of a mentor or group to help you stay on track and be ruthlessly authentic about your performance and how you can improve.
Disappointment – the gap between expectation and experience.
Leadership is a contact sport. Almost all of the highest highs and lowest lows of leadership are with people. Sometimes with the same people 🙂 Just the other day I attended an event that had people in it that were once colleagues that now go out of their way to avoid engaging. People you once led with are people who now avoid you. To be fair, it’s not all them, I’m at fault too. To be sensible and mature, it was eminently resolvable, but only if both sides wanted that. But people are people and we aren’t perfect.
People challenges do not go away. Period. Not that people are by themselves bad, I tend to believe the opposite. People are great. And, people are not their behaviour. And yet as I look back on over two decades of leadership, getting disappointed is EASY. Feeling let down is EASY. People not living up to your expectations is EASY. The likelihood of disappointment happening is 100% guaranteed. The critical issue is what will we do when it happens?
The Antidote to disappointment?
I pray for my son every night. One of the lines I pray is “That he’d take full responsibility for his attitude and actions.” I can’t see any other way to do life and leadership other than taking responsibility for your own self. Brene Brown adds to that by saying that when we ‘dare to lead’ we must ask ourselves “The story I’m telling myself is….” Just that line alone can create the shift and reframe back to what you are responsible for and able to change. I can’t change you. I can change me.
PS: Carrying unresolved disappointment and offence towards others is leadership’s most futile activity. You literally carry a burden that others know nothing of, and most likely do not care about. Your energy is better spent resolving the issue in a way that serves you and your future. Forgiveness is freeing, mostly for you.
Discouragement – When it looks bigger, harder and further away than it is.
I studied a part time degree some time ago. I worked full time and did two subjects a semester for six long years. The first two years were great, I was loving the energy and experience of a new challenge. The last two years had me motivated and focused on getting it done. The dark nights of the soul were the middle two years. I couldn’t see the beginning or the end, that was tough. The work didn’t get harder. The environment did. That made the work harder.
Discouragement can wear you down when the circumstances seem to be against you and at times, insurmountable. At these critical times who you seek counsel from, what they say and how you lead yourself and others, is critical.
Antidote to discouragement?
Discouragement can come in many forms. People, circumstances, setbacks, problems, mistakes, and simple weariness. What matters is that you measure your discouragement as a moment, not as a whole. Perspective is your greatest ally when it comes to that sense of not having done enough or made enough progress. Look back and see how far you’ve come. Remind yourself of why you started and who will benefit. This too will pass.
Courage isn’t the answer to discouragement. Perspective is.
- Are you distracted? Focus on the six most productive activities that only you can do.
- Are you disappointed? Release forgiveness and reframe a story that empowers your future.
- Are you discouraged? Courage isn’t your answer, perceptive is. See higher and further.
This is for leaders. I am for leaders.