4 Steps to Reclaiming Your Career: The Leadership Challenge

Leader Searching

Do you ever have those days where you wonder is there something better out there?  It’s those days when everything seems to be crashing in on you.  Looming deadlines, phones ringing, employee issues popping and what feels like unrealistic expectations.  You begin to doubt your team and secretly whether or not you can lead them to accomplishment the tasks at hand?  It’s called complete sensory overload.  AND, it can consume you fast if you don’t recognize what lies behind it.

We live in a corporate world where change is inevitable and priorities change faster than a blink of an eye.  It becomes the leader’s responsibility to manage themselves though the change first and then bring the team along with them.  This requires a deep sense of your own thoughts, beliefs and trigger points. 

I work with many leaders who claim to struggle with delegation, time management, funding and sometimes the right people in roles under them.  When you start to break down the underlying message in 99% of the cases, it truly is about trust; self-trust and trust in others.  When you don’t trust your own ability to see options outside of the obvious you feel trapped.  You also begin to project that outwardly because it simply feels better to believe that it’s others capabilities worrying you vs your own. 

What does it cost you to believe this way?  It costs you peace of mind, empowerment and the worst outcome – lack of engagement.  It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The more you stay in the negative energy of “I can’t,”  “I lose,” “it’s your fault” or “we lose” you actually are attracting more of that stress to you.  You unconsciously seek out issues because it is all you can see. You are limiting your creativity, your options, and underlying ability to reconcile and bring synergy to the tasks at hand. 

Stephen M. Covey and Greg Link talk in great detail about this in their book Smart Trust.   When you begin to open your eyes and see the opportunity in your overwhelm you can communicate, collaborate and engage people more effectively about what you need and want.  And the ultimate light at the end of the tunnel, you can do it quickly and powerfully.  You create, as Covey & Link put it, “prosperity, energy, and joy.” 

There is always going to be change and stress.  A wise person once told me, pain is inevitable…suffering is optional.  There are four-steps that I teach leaders to help put some perspective behind the stress that they feel. 

Step 1: Assess it:

What are you really overwhelmed with?  What does it feel like?  Is it a heart racing, palms sweaty feeling?  Is it a punch in gut kind of feeling? 

What is that feeling really telling you?   Is it saying “I’m not smart enough to make this happen?”  That is in internal struggle.  That kind of internal message is rooted in years of conditioning.   It may not even be apparent to you where that smidge of doubt started.  We live in a world full of rules from the time we are little.  It teaches us to avoid mistakes because there are consequences.  So, we strive for perfection and then we are less likely to feel anything negative.  But setting that kind of expectation on ourselves or others around us can be detrimental.  Perfectionism is a facade.  Now is the time to assess the judgment we place on ourselves and others.  Let’s look at the external judgment for a minute.  Instead of being hard on yourself, you may project outwardly (even if you don’t say it outwardly). It may be an external struggle that says “Who do they think they are?  They don’t care at all about what I go through every day just to make this place run.” 

Whatever you are feeling about the overwhelm, you need to start naming it.  And the most important thing you need to do is figure out what makes you feel valued.  When you get to a place of overwhelm there is something that you really value and it feels like it’s being ignored.  It’s your trigger.  Once you can actually name it, you can begin step 2.  This is a good exercise to run with your team, as well.  If they are in a rut, you need to understand what makes them feel valued.  You can see my blog “Hello Leaders! Your Mission For Today Is….” for more help with an exercise.

Step 2: Unravel it:

This phase is about understanding your patterns.  Where did they begin, how have they served you in the past and how are they serving you now.  You're ready to really delve deep and understand where your thoughts, beliefs and self-perceptions started. We often move through our careers and life in general experiencing positive and negative events but never really connect the dots behind how those events create our self-image and behaviors.  It's moving from unconsciousness to consciousness.  It’s about understanding that any change involves fear. It’s just easier sometimes to stay on your current path.  BUT, having clarity about why you want to change can help you overcome the fears and is the foundation of your success.

You can begin this step by challenging yourself to understand whether or not you want to change the current situations. Ask yourself: 

  • What is painful about your current situation?
  • What would you gain by changing it?
  • If you are to make a change, what would you have to give up?
  • How will you be a different person when you make the changes you desire?
  • Why do you want to be that other person?

Step 3: Own It:

Once you can put your finger on that message inside you and whether you want to change it, now it’s time to begin making some real progress.  You know your values and you know what may be getting in the way of allowing you to lead from a place of integrity.  Create a review of your career. 

  • When in your career did you feel completely valued?
  • Where were you getting everything you wanted and needed?  You were passionate and on fire! 

That’s the place you need to get back to, not only for you but for the people that interact with you daily.  If you’re firing on all cylinders, then you are more likely to engage others from a new place and they will in turn be right there with you!

Another great exercise is putting the situation in perspective.  What is really happening?  There is a difference between “truth” and “true”.  Truth is the lens you put on your situation.  It is what you believe to be the real situation.  For example, the company decides to create a new strategic initiative and requires that you support it with time and effort from your team.  As a leader you may look at it and say – “my team cannot take one more assignment.  We are at complete capacity.”  You begin to feel overwhelmed with more one thing to do or maybe even angry that they can’t see what is already on your plate.  That is your “truth,” but the reality is the only “true” thing is that there is a new project.  If you can open up your mind and perspective, you could see that this is a perfect opportunity to develop someone on your team.  Or, you could work with your team to re-prioritize the workload.  You could communicate with intent and confidently about what you need from the organization to make it all happen.  You could be excited about the potential this new initiative could bring.  It’s all about how you see it. 

Ask yourself these questions –

  • How true is my belief about the things that are overwhelming me?
  • Where did that idea really come from?
  • What is the cost of the belief to myself and those that I lead?
  • What is another way to look at it?
  • What would be the complete opposite way of thinking about this situation?

Whether or not you fully believe the answers to the questions is not as relevant as the ability to see a full range of options.

Step 4: Share It:

Communicate, communicate, communicate.  If you want people to understand you and the decisions you make, you need to be transparent.  Building credibility is about connecting and people believing in you.  Leaders have to make tough decisions all the time.  It’s the nature of the job.  It’s about making the best decision you can, given the information that you have at the time.  Your team is not always going to like a decision that you have to make BUT if they know your intentions and trust you, they can respect it.  If you want to build a meaningful career and gain followership, the secret sauce is in how much you communicate and how authentic you are when you’re communicating.  People can sense your true intentions.  If you make it a point to have daily (or weekly) communication around the challenges you face and recognize the wins of a team, together you can you drive towards success.  Try this exercise for just one month with your team…you won’t regret it!

Part One: Take a people inventory

  1. Make a list of the people on your team.  What strengths do they bring to the team?  What is it about them (the characteristics) that makes you enjoy leading them?
  2. Take that same list and now look at the areas of opportunity.  What is it about them (their characteristics) that creates hesitation for assigning them certain work?
  3. Have a very in-depth conversation with each about aspirations.  Could you assign work differently so each person is playing to their strengths 90% of the time?  What development could you offer them to close any gaps on the opportunity? 


Part Two: Take a personal inventory

  1. Now, rate yourself against the characteristics.  You are always the teacher and the student.  What can you learn from each of them?   What part of you do you want them to see the most?  


Part Three: Take Action

  1. Share what you’ve learned with your team.  Get their input on how you could tackle changes that happen in the business priorities.  Ask them how they would like to interact with you more.  Ask them to give input into how the work gets down.


This is an exercise in living up to your own values but also allowing your team to live up to theirs.  This is an exercise in living up to your own values but also allowing your team to live up to theirs.  It all boils down to trust and credibility.  Trust is built when you understand your own intent and mindset so you can be more authentic with your team. When you are all on the same page, the team and engagement is full of contagious energy that ultimately will drive business results.  Most importantly, it will change you as a leader.  It will help you manage change, stress and your own behaviors differently.  It offers new insights and a sense of peace that’s been waiting to re-emerge for a very long time.

If you would like to get deep into this process and truly understand how your patterns have driven your leadership mindset, reach out to me today.  You are so close to having it all and making an impact!  It’s just few mindset shifts away!!


Source: www.ndcoaching.com