You might be wondering why we should even discuss maintaining momentum when harassed by hardship. After all, it sounds…you know, hard! Can’t we talk about something lighter? Something fun? The simple fact is that all of us are going to experience challenging times during various stages of our career. You know the likelihood for dramatic change increases each year.
Even if you look at nothing more than the fact that according to Credit Suisse, the average life expectancy of an S&P 500 company is under 20 years, down from 60 in the 1950s. Disruption isn’t new, but it happens much more quickly now in our technologically advanced, interconnected, global world. There can be multiple forces coming to bear on us with lightning speed. What was stable yesterday is turbulent today.
To be clear, no one wants to experience difficulty or hardship, but there are great benefits that come from going through these challenging times. Erwin McManus said “Greatness is never born from easy circumstances. We can become stronger when the world becomes harder.”
I would rather you be prepared and not experience this than to be unprepared and get blindsided when the unexpected happens. I doubt that your alma mater’s MBA program offered the popular “What To Do When Everything Is Falling Apart” course or the equally popular “Keep Your Team Engaged After You’ve Told Them Their Employment Is Ending” – no, these life experiences come at a cost much higher than tuition for a semester. Jon Gordon says you can’t outsource motivation – it’s up to us, the leaders, to find a way through.
Preparation in advance is key. I don’t want you struggling aimlessly when it happens. Often, you don’t have any control over the timing or the degree of impact to you or your team. How you respond in the midst of these challenges can determine whether you and your team progress or regress.
Don’t Waste Time Complaining
So what are we to do when things get tough? Jeff Bezos says “Complaining isn’t a strategy.” and Alan Mulally said, “Whining isn’t a plan.” The trouble with complaining is that it places your focus on things you can’t control. Is that really where you want to dedicate your time and effort during difficulty?
You must maintain focus on the things you can control: your attitude, your expectations, your effort.
Can I tell you another mistake many leaders make when things get really tough? They become unavailable. This is almost as bad as whining and complaining!
Be Available For Your Team
Jon Gordon, in his book, The Power of Positive Leadership, says “Communication builds trust. Trust generates commitment. Commitment fosters teamwork and teamwork delivers great results.” And here’s the thing: you don’t just do it in group meetings. Your team needs time with you one-on-one. And it won’t be easy to make time for this. When there is tremendous turmoil, you will think that your greatest value will be shutting yourself away and delivering the necessary results. Have you ever required guidance from a leader only to have no access to him or her? It’s frustrating, isn’t it!
I know that there are times and reasons why this isn’t always possible, but make responding to your team members, your direct reports, a priority. When your team knows that you are going to provide the answers and direction they need, you will be trusted. When you are trusted, you aren’t going to have to ask for your team’s best efforts, because they are going to give it to you.
When you aren’t there to talk to your team, they will fill the void…and it won’t be with positive thoughts on exciting outcomes. They will assume the worst and act accordingly. Jon Gordon says that “where there is a void in communication, negativity will fill it.” This means that you have to counter negativity with positivity, and copious amounts of it!
Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, says “the most important characteristic of a leader is optimism.” There is a high cost to thinking negatively. It directly affects your physiology. It takes no more effort to expect a positive outcome than it does to expect a negative one. If you subscribe to the notion that you can create the future you envision for yourself, then I would suggest starting to practice focusing on seeing things turn out positively for you and your team. Share your optimism.
Paint A Positive Picture
Paint a picture of a successful outcome even if it’s not the outcome everyone prefers. Why can’t the future be better, brighter than the present? There is no reason why it can’t! But don’t think you are just going to talk about this one time and everyone will grab ahold and run with it. You must keep it in front of your team continuously. Assist them in developing or improving those things that you know will propel them. Believe in them when they don’t believe in themselves. Encourage them to stretch during this period.
Go The Extra Mile
Take on an impossible project. Demonstrate value through the process – you never know how things work out. The future is not set. There is an equal chance that all of this is going to work out in your favor. You might feel like you are justified in slowing up or taking it easy now. After all, you don’t deserve this right? When it is most challenging, I would encourage to give your best. You have no idea how this might help you in the future. Companies need employees who have excelled in the midst of the struggle.
This is not only difficult, it’s likely to be met with resentment, mostly your own. I mentioned the commercial changes occurring in the organization where I work. My goal is to make sure I do my part to make the transition successful. It’s not my first rodeo. I’ve been through this before. And I’ll tell you this: I’ve learned some things, mistakes that I won’t allow to be repeated. I care about EVERYTHING my name is associated with. Making sure the business achieves the goal they had in mind when this decision was made is my top priority! I care about my reputation and that of the company.
There Is Something In This For You
Here’s what I want for you, more than anything: realize that there is something in this for you. What? What are you talking about Mark? Didn’t you hear me? My job is being eliminated. My division is being sold. I’m training my replacement. What could possibly be in this for me? Well, experience number one. I hope this is something you’ve never had to deal with before. And if it is, I hope you learned from the last time and can do things differently to produce a better outcome this time.
The second thing I want for you is to realize that it’s unlikely this is the last time you will have to deal with hardship. It’s likely to persist, possibly accelerate. Your ability to address it and thrive in the midst of it is essential to your future. Don’t you give up or throw in the towel. You give it your best. Rise to the challenge. Commit to the struggle. Envision a bright future and go make it for yourself.
This is your moment to shine.
Great Quotes From This Episode:
“Greatness is never born from easy circumstances. We can become stronger when the world becomes harder.” – Erwin McManus
“Complaining isn’t a strategy.” – Jeff Bezos
“Whining isn’t a plan.” – Alan Mulally
“Communication builds trust. Trust generates commitment. Commitment fosters teamwork, and teamwork delivers great results.” – Jon Gordon
“The most important characteristic of a leader is optimism.” – Bob Iger
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
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