New Year – a time for reflection. What will 2014 bring for senior executives? Well, it has to true that if you approach the year in the same way as you did 2013 you’re highly likely to get similar results. If you didn’t find 2013 a totally positive experience, full of personal growth, read on…
An important aspect of our approach to work is what we might call our outlook or attitude. You can describe this as how we choose to see things and how we choose to react to situations and people.
The choices made by many executives leave them feeling somewhat flat, pessimistic, anxious or simply too burdened to be really happy in their roles.
You might argue that these feelings are realistic and normal. After all, there’s all that pressure to hit targets, all that responsibility and all those decisions that have to be taken without enough information. Then there’s so little feedback on your performance – that’s bound to lead to some anxiety.
But I sense that many senior people spend too much of their time thinking about negative things – about all the things that aren’t going right, such as a star associate leaving or a client making you re-tender for work. Then there’s all the things that could go wrong – that’s an endless list!
In my one-to-one coaching work I find it helpful to think about each of my clients as two people. There’s the person and there’s the voice in their head!
The voice in their head says things like:
- “The others are better at me at X, Y, Z”
- “I should be more knowledgeable or skilled to do this work better”
- “I ought to get more profitable clients, otherwise my position in the firm will be weakened”
- “I might mess this negotiation up and get blamed”
If you’re wondering what I mean about the voice in the head – it‘s that voice!
All these ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ and focus on blame and faults create a negative spiral. It takes the spring out of your step. Frankly it can make you less fun to be around! And much less of a successful leader, with fewer committed followers.
So what is the alternative? Here are some suggestions – all of which have made a huge difference to senior people I have worked with.
- See the glass being at least half full – not half empty! Focus on what’s good and one your strengths.
- Take yourself less seriously. When you hear that inner voice whispering in your ear, don’t beat yourself up, but have a little chuckle to yourself.
- See all that wonderful potential in your associates. Praise people whenever you can. Say ‘well done’ to yourself. As Michelangelo said: ‘Inside the slab of marble is a beautiful statue – my job is simply to chip away all the unwanted stone’.
- Lead by example. If the leaders are going around being miserable, it’ll be contagious. The whole firm will become infected
- Challenge all the assumptions you’ve made about who is good and who isn’t – about who likes you and who doesn’t. Most of these assumptions are likely to be stories you initially made up and have sought to reinforce. Be open to the possibilities that there is more good and more potential out there.
- Have a vision for your team. Everybody wants to know where you’re sailing the ship – particularly those more junior than you working in the equivalent of the engine room.
As Ben Zander, conductor of the Boston Philharmonic, says about teaching: ‘If the eyes of your students aren’t shining, as yourself the question – how am I being that stops their eyes shining?’
Finally, remember that you do have a choice!
Here’s to a better, more rewarding, more positive, more uplifting 2014 with many more possibilities!