Ever have one of those days? Like the adult version of the children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. Yeah, one of those days. Well unfortunately, this blog is not going to tell you how to avoid days like that. They happen. That’s life. And when you are a leader, the weight of those days can feel even heavier because the consequences of our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days can have an impact far beyond ourselves. What we may fail to recognize in the midst of our most challenging days, however, is that while we may not get to stop them, we do get to decide how we respond to them — and the impact of that can have a far-reaching impact on our organizations, and those we would hope to lead.
So, how should you respond when it feels like things are going from bad to worse?
1. Identify what you can control.
Part of what makes “those days” so frustrating is the feeling that there is nothing you can do about it. When you start to feel like one or more people or situations are doing something “to you,” stop and consider what you can impact. Maybe it is taking steps to make sure the current situation doesn’t happen again. Maybe it is changing course in how you reach your goal. Or maybe it is deciding to live out your values in how you handle the situation, even if others aren’t taking the high road. Identifying what you can control gives you a place to plant your feet and regain your bearings.
2. Recognize that you and your organization are more than the current challenge.
When a difficult situation, or a series of them, is urgently screaming for attention, it is natural to place our entire focus there, which allows the current situation to loom larger that it really is. Stepping back, even briefly, to recognize that you are more than the current challenge can provide context. That is not to say that you should unrealistically downplay the current situation, however reminding yourself that you have successfully navigated challenging situations before can provide the boost you need to move forward.
3. Take a step.
Wallowing in “ain’t it awful,” or freezing for fear of making the wrong decision, does nothing to move you beyond the situation before you. We are all human, so wallow momentarily if you must, but then take a deep breath, consider the variables and options before you, and take the next best step. There is rarely a single path forward, and you can course correct as you go if needed. Take a step.
As a leader, you will have tough days. The ability to keep your bearings and press forward in the midst of challenges doesn’t just help you and your organization today. It sets the example that your people can follow when they, too, have days like that.