Let’s face it, it’s hard to be on your leadership game every day. In fact, it’s shortsighted to even think it’s possible. The work of leading a company is a constantly moving and shifting target. It’s supposed to be that way because “current reality” is something you only have partial control over. That’s why you often find yourself fighting those inevitable fires. Put one fire out over here and another ignites over there. Such is the work of leadership.
Even in the best-run companies, there are times when the fires seem to ignite faster than you can stomp them out. You feel like Davy Crockett at the Alamo hopelessly outnumbered and fighting off Santa Ana’s Mexican army using your rifle as a club. Leadership battles wear you down. Too much current reality wears you down. The question is: What are you going to do to find your strength? If you continue to forge ahead when your batteries are warning that “10% remaining until shutdown,” you will find yourself making bad decisions, communicating in ways that tear down rather than lift up, and most likely being the source of new fires.
Here are some no-compromise strategies to find and keep your leadership strength:
- Maintain perspective: When fires ignite, the alarm goes off, sirens sound, and firefighters charge in to fight the blaze. There’s drama, tension and high energy in the area of the fire. Business fires are no different. Someone made a mistake. A good customer is fuming. Money was wasted. Someone compromised the company’s values. Your best strategy is to assess while defusing the situation. Get the facts and seek to understand all sides of the story - because there are always two or more sides to every story. Your job is to ask questions and listen before initiating a solution. Finding strength is often the result of avoiding being sucked into the drama.
- Get it over with: Is there an unpleasant task waiting for you to address? It could be a long-overdue employee termination, a painful budget cut, addressing a breach of trust or implementing an essential new policy - or a policy that you allowed to be compromised. The stress of procrastinating on unpleasant tasks saps your strength faster than most realize. You don’t sleep well while obsessing over them. You spread your stress around by seeking solace from others in your inner circle. The moment you recognize that you’re procrastinating, engage and tackle that unpleasant task and get it over with. It will save your strength and focus your attention on the recovery and moving forward.
- Learn to let go: I’ve coached too many leaders who surround themselves with efficient leadership teams but just can’t let go of the controls. Building the right systems and accountabilities with effective information-flow checkpoints for your leadership is what sets you free to focus on the work of growing the company. When you hold onto to the work you hired others to do, you depower and frustrate them - and you sap your strength. You can’t do it all. In my dedication in my new Wake Up! book, I wrote, “This book is dedicated to my amazing team at Strategies ... You help me do what I cannot do alone.” You should find strength in your team. Trust them to do their work. Get out of their way. They need you to keep your eye on growing the company.
- Assess the good stuff: Sometimes the fires and problems can be overwhelming and leave you feeling beaten up. But you are never truly defeated until you give up. I’ve had my share of setbacks, and one of the most powerful and effective strategies I’ve ever used is to step back and assess all of the good stuff that I’ve done and the wonderful things my team and company have accomplished. Remember what it feels like to win. You’ll instantly begin to feel your strength coming back.
- Get away: Leaders are notorious for self-sacrifice. They work countless hours and days without a break. You’re not doing yourself, your loved ones, your company or your customers any good when you’ve allowed your strength to get depleted. Take a break and get away. Unplug from the business for a few days. Go ride a bike, walk in the woods, lay on a beach - just get away. And here’s a thought to help you: Whatever is happening in your company isn’t going to get any worse while you’re gone. All the problems will patiently await your return. Recharge your batteries and you’ll be in a much better mindset to tackle those issues. In fact, while you’re away, your mind is free to quietly process the best solutions. Give yourself a break before you break.
Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO
About: Neil Ducoff is the founder and CEO of Strategies. Since 1993, Strategies has been transforming salon and spa businesses into dynamic, profitable, and sustainable team-based cultures. Neil is a business trainer, coach, keynote speaker and award-winning author. For more information on Neil and Strategies, go to www.strategies.com. You can email Neil at [email protected].