I am blessed right now with a relaxed schedule and feeling quite comfortable and calm. Yet in some ways, I know that this is the calm before the storm. I know as I get busier in the coming weeks, that I will want to carry forward this sense of calm or find a way to get it back. And so, I’ve written a letter to myself so that I can read it whenever I need a reminder of how to get back to here.
Whether you are a leader of a large organization, the point person for a small team, a parent, a board member or volunteer leader, you will find the same applies to you. Put your name at beginning and read it to yourself. I bet you will find it resonates for you to.
Consider writing your own letter to you now. What do you need to remind yourself of?
You’re the leader of the bunch, just keep smiling and everything will be ok! Actually, it takes more than that. When you are running the show, you need to stay positive, which involved more than just plastering a smile on your face.
Staying positive means that you lead from a place of knowing. A great leader knows that there is an answer or a way out there. It just may not be figured out yet. So when you are working through a problem or an issue, know that the answer is waiting to be found. It might take some work, it might be challenging or even painful, yet the answer is waiting to be found. I remember expanding programs once and staff were concerned about how we would fit all of the newly hired people into the existing office space. While I wasn’t sure either, I assured them we would find a way to make everyone fit and have that fit be workable to everyone. I then asked for their suggestions. By including them in the solution, they felt valued and that their concerns could be presented.
Being positive means that you are grateful for what you have and that you stop at to acknowledge that. During a staff shortage, acknowledge the great team you’ve got and what they are doing to pull extra weight. Doing a particularly busy time, recognize what you have been able to accomplish. And when you’ve just lost a big contract, take time to take an inventory of what programs you continue to offer.
Being positive means watching your inner voice and your outer voice are saying! What is the self-talk that is going on in your head? Is it positive? Does it sound like you are convinced yourself that things will work out and that there are options. And how does that translate when it comes out of your mouth to the people around you? Pessimistic and negative comments are breeding grounds for disaster. If your employees hear your worries and fears, they will question whether a positive outcome is even possible. This doesn’t mean you lie or withhold information. It might look like saying this: “Here are a couple of options about what might happen…I am optimistic that with everyone on board, we will be able to make Option A work”. This gives your team something to work towards.
Being positive comes from an authentic place. It is about being real and honest but also setting the direction of where you and your team are going. It’s ok to say, “We are going here. I am not sure how we are going to get there, but I know that together we will make it.”
I was at a meeting yesterday and the usual chit-chat between leaders before we started quickly led to the discussion of how busy we are and how there is never enough time to get everything done.
Scarcity – never enough. When coming from this place, we quickly go into the thoughts of “How am I going to get this all done?”, “Where am I going to find the people to do the work?” Or, “I wish there was more money for things.” We focus on what we don’t have. We bemoan the fact that we need more – of so many things to accomplish what we need to get done.
Leading from a place of scarcity sets the stage for conversations, meetings, moods and work styles. Think of this scenario. You have half an hour before your meeting starts. What can you get done in a half an hour? As you look at your inbox you become overwhelmed, scanning through emails that you need a few minutes to respond to. You shift over the piles on your desk and roll your eyes at the mess there. Maybe you should actually spend a few minutes preparing for the meeting, so you grab your notes and it reminds you that you were supposed to send someone an invite to a planning session. You quickly send that email off and look at the clock. Only 20 minutes left. Not really time to get anything done. Oh! Why aren’t there more hours in a day!
Before you know it, you’ve lost the 30 minutes and really not get very much done except to feel more scattered and anxious about what you need to get done and wonder once again where you are going to find the time to do it in. As you head into the meeting, your fearful some one will ask you to do something and add one more thing to your already heaping ToDo list.
Sound like a family story for you? Here what happens. What you focus on is what you get. So focusing on scarcity means your going to notice it everywhere. It will pop up in meetings, during conversations and in your email. You will say, “See everyone is struggling to get employees” or “I told you there wasn’t enough time to get that done”. Just like if you start looking for a blue car, you are going to see blue cars everywhere. It becomes your focal point.
Instead, try to focus on the word abundance, productivity or getting things done. You begin to notice what you do accomplish rather than what you don’t. You will see times that you were extremely productive. In the personal growth world, people are often encouraged to keep a gratitude journal. This is some place to acknowledge the great things in their life. The same concept works in the leadership world. Be grateful for times of productivity. Take great pride and celebrate the things that are ticked off of your ToDo list. At the end of the day, notice what you did do! “I got through a tough meeting today and still was able to respond to the request for that report”. Or “I kept my inbox at status quo rather than having it grow.”
In Canada we just celebrated Thanksgiving, a time to be thankful for what we have in our lives. Leaders can also stop and be grateful for the time that they have and acknowledge it. Notice when you do have time, money, staffing and resources. By focusing on abundance rather than scarcity, you will start to see more of it!
Do you have a number of things on the go? Are you trying to figure out which project you are working on at any given moment and struggling to make sure you don’t let anything slide of the side of your desk?
We all experience this as leaders. It would be nice to think that we could just take on one thing, work on it, stay focused and when it’s complete, move on to the next thing. The reality is though that it doesn’t happen that way.
So how do you stay on top of everything that you have to do? By being intentional! Intentional means doing it with purpose. Start by asking yourself, why am I doing this? What is the point in this project?
For example, a performance review on one of your staff is about helping them grow. It’s purpose it to provide feedback and engage them in their continued growth by setting a plan to learn and evolve. The purpose in looking at your budget statements is to get a sense of how you are doing. It keeps you on track, identifies efficiencies and hot spots. The reason you reorganize your piles is so that you have a clear picture of what you have to do.
Setting that intention helps to motivate us. I know there is a reason that I am making a number of follow up calls, responding to emails and reading a report. I get connected to that and I can intentionally then focus on the task.
Do this: Make a list of the projects that you have on the go. Beside each project, indicate in a word or two, what the purpose in that project is. Why are you doing it? And it’s not because someone told you to do it. That’s the cop out answer. Really dig deep. Why are you involved in this project?
When this is done, you will be in a better place to organize your projects, prioritize them and make a spot for them in your busy schedule. It might also help you gracefully step out of some things you are involved in or delegate them to someone else.
Intentionally focusing on your work connects you to the reason you are doing this type of work. It connects you to the task itself and the important parts for you to do it and helps you to focus on it.
I lead a full life full of love, adventure and growth. Check out my latest thoughts here.
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