Quit Making Empty Promises


In the midst of an especially crazy day . . . or week . . . or month . . . many a leader has promised him or herself (and likely a bevy of followers) that once we reach X-milestone, things will calm down . . . if you can just make it to Y, things will even out and get easier . . . once we finish the Z initiative, we’ll have a chance to catch our breath. While those promises to yourself and others may be uttered with the best of intentions, in reality they only lead to a greater sense of frustration and exhaustion.

Why? Because the calm . . . an easier pace . . . down time, is not going to just magically happen. When the current project concludes, there will be three more to take its place — projects that you as the leader probably initiated! At the recent Global Leadership Summit author and speaker Danielle Strickland noted that, “There is no changing the future without disrupting the present.” Read that line again. Isn’t that what we are about as leaders — changing the future for our organizations, or those things we are most passionate about?

If disrupting the present is the means to achieve our goal (and when you see it in black and white, it really is hard to deny the truth of that statement) then saying “just hang on until . . .” quickly becomes an empty promise. And an empty promise is one of the quickest ways to suck the energy out of an effort, regardless of how important the project may be. So how can a leader keep themselves, and their team, motivated in the midst of what may feel like ever-increasing demands?

  • Acknowledge that disruption is not episodic.

It is the path required to get to a goal that you care about. Don’t set yourself or your people up for disappointment by thinking you just have to “get through it.” Disruption is an on-going means to an end, rather than a singular unpleasant experience.

  • Shift your focus to “within” not “after”.

How can you find some measure of balance, identifying opportunities to recharge your batteries, in the midstof the disruption rather than thinking those things will suddenly become easier after you reach some mythical milestone? If disruption is the new normal, then you need to model how to thrive within such an environment, not just sputter your way through looking for a finish line.

  • Reframe disruption as progress.

The definition of disruption is “disturbance or problem which interrupts an event, activity or process.” That feels bad. The definition of progress is “forward or onward movement toward a destination.” That feels good. ( . . .even if that movement interrupts an event, activity or process . . .) How you view a situation makes all the difference.

Want to change the future? Quit making empty promises.

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