I’d like to say that I’m well prepared, but in reality I’ve often been getting ready for all of the things I worry about. I worry about big things: Ebola, water shortages, and world unrest. I worry about small things: my car breaking down on long drives, my grown children’s wellbeing and my aging canine companion’s health. Worry seems to be an old habit, a trusted friend that has been with me since the time I was a child who had headaches (even back then!) that were identified by our family doctor as self-generated from worrying too much.
Preparation is a good thing, but now I know that worry isn’t worth the effort. I want to say goodbye to this worry habit that no longer serves me. So I’ve been working hard to replace it with perspective. I can’t do a lot about the crazy big stuff in the world, but I can turn off the news for a few days. I can keep my car in good repair, help my children when they need it and take my dog to the vet regularly. I can also spend daily moments reflecting on all that is good in my life.
I’m getting better at losing the worry. The worry still comes but I can choose to deal with it differently than I have in the past by putting it into perspective. So what does this have to do with leadership? A lot, as it turns out.
Putting stuff into perspective for yourself and those you lead
Part of the job of a leader is to translate what is happening (like major organizational change) and put it into perspective for themselves and others. It starts with taking care of your needs, and then helping others with their concerns. A few ways to do this:
Stay centered and grounded: Take care of yourself; because the better you feel the better you’ll be able to convey perspective through the rocky times. Do what works for your own wellbeing: sleep well, eat healthy, exercise, and get away from the ongoing speculation at work in order to think through your perspective.
Surround yourself with listeners and challengers: Close friends are great assets to have at times when it’s difficult to acquire perspective. Even better are the friends who will listen well and challenge your (sometimes twisted) thinking when all you can think about is future disaster.
Clarify, listen, and challenge the worriers: People need you when there are big changes afoot. Your calm presence will go a long way. Since there are usually many unknowns, explain what you know. Calmly listen when others speak about what they are afraid of and challenge those with “disaster theories”.
Have a story ready to tell: When the company I worked for dismissed thousands of employees, someone calmly helped me to put things into perspective by telling of his close calls with death in a war. This showed me that our organizational situation was not “life or death”. It may seem a bit dramatic but it helped me (and others) to put the current circumstances into context. Find stories you can tell about getting through tough times to put the current situation into perspective.
Rocky times will smooth out when you take care of yourself and calmly help those you lead to gain perspective about the future.