On Our Minds

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Maintaining Trust

“Trust is the glue that holds everyone together and the lubricant that keeps everyone moving forward.”
- General Colin Powell

One volatile outburst can completely demolish a well-built reputation and can erase any trust that your colleagues and coworkers have in you and your ability to lead – especially during times of challenge and change.  It can literally take mere seconds to eliminate the trust that you have been earning from others over a lifetime.

Every human experiences a range of emotions on a daily basis.  However, it is important that you learn to successfully harness your emotions when you are in a professional environment.  When you are seeking to lead others it is of paramount importance that they trust you and see you as a role model.  Flying off the handle at bad news or negatively reacting to stressful situations with tears or anger communicates to others that you are not in control and that you cannot be counted on when times get tough.

The next time that you feel your emotions start to rise, think before your react.  Take a deep breath and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why am I so upset? What is it about the situation at hand that has your emotions flaring?  Are you disappointed in an underperforming colleague?  Have you been blindsided by news you didn’t expect?  Or, are you actually upset by other components of your life and this situation is merely the tipping point?  You must understand the reasons behind your emotions before you respond.
  • What can I do to calm myself down before I respond? Some emotions can be controlled merely by taking a deep, calming breath. However, most situations do not require an immediate response.  When you have the opportunity, take some additional steps such as removing yourself from the immediate situation and taking a long walk or retreating to your office to write out a calm, well-thought-out response prior to engaging.
  • Does the situation require any response? Sometimes the best response is no response at all.  Have you just been insulted?  Walking away is preferable to throwing a quick barb back.
  • If I react emotionally, what will be the consequences of my behavior? Before you start to spew emotion, think about how much damage you could do if you don’t restrain yourself.  Then let that knowledge motivate you to harness your negative emotions.

Learn to control your emotions so that they do not control you.  Don’t allow one angry outburst or misplaced tears to diminish the trust that others have in you and tarnish the professional reputation that you have worked so hard to build.

Are You Missing Out on Leadership Opportunities?

When your schedule gets too hectic does leadership take a back seat to your ever-growing to-do list?  At these busy times do you feel so distracted that you tend to shut out your colleagues (and even your family) in an effort to maintain control over your life?  If so, you could be missing important leadership opportunities.

Think about the greatest leadership role models in your life.  Chances are they all have one common quality – the ability to make time for you and your development no matter how busy they are.  While they might not be able to sit and chat with you about your latest project over lunch today, you know that when they say that they will make time in their schedule tomorrow, they mean it.  And when you sit down face to face over coffee tomorrow, you are certain that they will be focused on your needs and not what they left back at their desk.

Good leaders know that no matter how hectic life becomes, leadership should remain a top priority.  At the busiest of times, step back and take a look at the big picture.  Maintain a sharp focus on where your leadership is needed and what you can do to provide it.  Simply shifting your perspective will provide you with the opportunities to influence outcomes and inspire others that you have previously been missing.

Leading an Indecisive Boss

Have you ever worked for an indecisive boss?  Someone who constantly procrastinates – leaving you without the information necessary to perform your job requirements?  Here are three simple ways that you can lead her to make more timely decisions:

  • Provide deadlines. Whenever you need information from your boss within a specific amount of time – say so.  If practical, send her an Outlook Task reminder, including the due date, to keep your needs fresh in her mind.
  • Follow up.  A few days before you need the information, follow up with your boss to make sure the decision is still on her radar screen.   Remind her again that you need the information by a specific date in order to do your job.
  • Provide a suggested course of action in writing. There will be times when you have to take matters into your own hands.   If you have a boss that continues to procrastinate beyond stated deadlines, provide your own solution.  Send an e-mail that says, “I need to you make a decision by Friday at noon.   If I do not hear from you by then, I will proceed as follows …”

When you have an indecisive boss, it is imperative that you be proactive.  Merely sitting back and hoping that your boss will change only ensures that she won’t.   Instead by taking a few simple actions, you can either lead her to decision, or at least ensure that her indecision does not further impair your ability to be a great performer.

Find Balance, Find Success

As leaders we can be so busy doing that we forget about being.  Let’s face it, our lives are hectic.  We juggle careers, volunteer activities, family commitments; the list could go on and on.  Sometimes it seems as if we have so many balls in the air that they all could fall at once if we don’t remain focused and balanced.  This is the time that having a strong sense of what our life’s priorities are is so important.

Right now, take out a pen and a sticky note and write down the top three things (in order) that are most important to you.  Now post it at your desk or in a place where you will see it every day.

The next time you are feeling stressed out from attempting to juggle too many things at once, take a look at that sticky note.  Now ask yourself if those three things are still playing a significant role in your life?  If not, you need to rebalance.  Once you find your balance, success will follow.

Projecting a Leadership Presence

To be a successful leader – to truly influence outcomes and inspire others – it is paramount that you project a leadership presence on a daily basis.  Leaders gain the confidence of others by showing that they are in control of themselves and their immediate environment.  Your leadership presence is not a facade that you create.  It is your actual belief in your abilities, which is expressed through your words, deeds, and behaviors.

Here are a few simple – though often overlooked – ways that you can project your leadership presence:

  • Dress the part. While you do not need to spend a fortune to ensure that you are wearing the latest fashion, you do need to make sure that your outward appearance is neat and appropriate to the standards set by your company.  Looking as if you just rolled out of bed or literally wearing your pajamas to work is no way to inspire the confidence of others.
  • Clean up your workspace. Your immediate environment says a lot about you.  Take a look at your desk.  Does it project a sense of organization and competence?  Or, does it scream disheveled mess?  Even worse, does it communicate to your colleagues that you have just given up?
  • Slow down! Constantly rushing from one meeting to another and arriving exasperated projects to others that you are not in control of your own schedule.  Being over-committed does not show others how important you are, it shows that you cannot competently keep up with your current demands.
  • Control those emotions. Flying off the handle or breaking down in tears each time something does not go your way gives others the impression that you cannot be counted on during the difficult times – when leaders are needed the most.

As a leader, co-workers look to you to provide the example to which they aspire.  Start setting the best leadership example today by projecting a leadership presence and see just how influential you can become!