You’ve Got This!

Panorama Of Empty Baseball Field At Night From Behind Home PateI have been hearing “industry experts” report that we are facing “unprecedented levels of change” for more than a quarter-century. Such pronouncements can cause a great deal of stress, and likely more than a few sleepless nights, for conscientious leaders committed to helping their organizations succeed. But . . . what if the experts are looking at it all wrong?

I lead a 165-year-old organization, and as I look back over our history it appears that significant amounts of change have been going on ever since 1853. Unprecedented means, “never done or known before.” People, we have done change! Yes, the circumstances are different, the speed at which occurs may be faster, but change is not an unprecedented thing . . . and when we act like it is, all we accomplish is to increase our angst, foster uncertainty in our staff and undermine our ability to respond most effectively.

Change is a process and there are specific steps you can take to increase your likelihood of achieving your desired outcome (I recommend John Kotter’s work as a good starting point). Here is what the industry experts don’t tell you — effectively managing change is far more about you than it is about any external factors that may be “unprecedented.”

Consider it through the lens of baseball. When you step up to the plate to bat, you may face all kinds of pitchers. Some throw right-handed, some left. Some pitch at speeds you may have never seen before, others have a change-up that can catch you off guard. The strike zone may be a moving target depending on the umpire, the sun might be in your eyes or the wind blowing dust in your face. The catcher may crowd you and the spectators may be creating distracting levels of noise. And even with all of these variables — some of which you may not have encountered before — your batting average is largely a result of what you do and not the uncontrollable factors swirling around you. Don’t allow yourself to get psyched out by the spectator (who may even see himself as an expert) shouting, “swing batter swing,” or by the reputation of the pitcher, or a host of other variables. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this.

Change becomes overwhelming when we focus more of our attention on what we can’t control instead of what we can. Yes, pay attention to what is going on around you, adapt if you need to, and then bring your focus back to what you can impact . . . the specific steps you can take. What you focus on grows. Focus on what you know and what you can control.

Unprecedented? Not so much. You’ve got this!

Solid Leadership

Digital composite of Business man walking up mountain peak in thHave you ever noticed when you are feeling overwhelmed by a challenging situation, competing demands, or simply too much to do (or maybe all three!) it can at times feel like “mental vertigo.” Your mind just keeps spinning and you feel a bit off-balance from the stress of it all. It can become a vicious cycle that leaves you feeling dizzy and hesitant to take a step forward. But you are supposed to be the calm, cool and collected leader . . . so if you find yourself in such a situation, what are you supposed to do? Find something solid to move toward.

You may not have the answers to everything that caused your mind to whirl, but there is always something you can do to plant your feet on solid ground . . . and doing something is often the only way to stop the spinning. Stressing about the mountain you have to climb doesn’t make it any smaller (in fact, usually just the opposite), so find a foothold and take a step. The funny thing is, once you start moving forward, you usually find your balance and a path appears.

You’re likely not the only one in your organization dealing with mental vertigo. Helping your people maneuver up, down and around the many tasks before them without losing their balance is a key task of a leader. You need to serve as the solid footing, or at least a steady guide, to keep your people moving forward. How? Show them how to take a step toward something solid. Encourage them to break a task into small pieces and to move ahead.

Solid leadership is about forging a path and guiding your team, through the whirl of circumstances before you. It doesn’t mean you never feel off balance. It simply means when you do, you take a deep breath, find something solid to hold on to, and then forge ahead. It is not some mythical aspiration where you will always have the answers. It is about having a clear strategy for how to move ahead when you don’t. When you figure out how to remain calm and level-headed when the world is spinning around you, your people will too. That is solid leadership.