When you’re trying to be the best leader you can, it’s important to outline where and when you were successful in the past. Here’s a question that will help you clarify the “when” of your past successes:
WHAT EXACTLY happened before, during, and after my past successes?
Chris’s Leadership Success Story:
Chris used this question to improve his leadership. A successful business leader, Chris loved his work. It gave him an outlet for his creativity and allowed him to meet new, interesting people in a variety of work settings. So it was a good fit considering his attention deficits. However, Chris continued to make poor decisions due to memory issues. Although he had a great sense of humor and a likable personality, he was easily distracted, impulsive, disorganized, and needed excitement, thrills, and other forms of stimulation. All of this created tremendous stress.
When I asked him when he was successful in the past and what happened before, during, and afterwards, Chris was speechless. After a lot of thought, (and many prompts from me), Chris admitted that he wrote lists almost every day. Those lists contained not only “to-do” items, but also “not-to-do” items (things that tend to distract him from needs to be done). He also recalled limiting external stimuli by silencing his cell phone and shutting doors and windows during work hours. He also posted reminder notes in strategic locations such as near the door, on the car window notepad, in his wallet, or on his key ring. All of this increased his leadership success.
Jody’s Leadership Success Story:
Jody also struggled with distractibility, inattentiveness, and impulsivity. She reported that, before, during, or after a problem, talking to herself positively allowed her to be successful. For example, before doing something, she remembered thinking, “What will happen if I do X? What do I want? If I do this now, what will happen later? How can I get what I want?” Before completing a task or making a decision, she would weigh the pros and cons. She also asked others for feedback. For instance, she asked herself and others, “What might happen if I do that?” or “Who has done this before and thus could help me?” This prevented a lot of mistakes from increasing her stress. During her peak energy periods, Jody did her most important and most difficult work. After facing a challenge, she would ask herself, “What is the smart thing to do right now? Is this really such a big deal?” or “Will this even matter in a few days?”
She recalled that she rewarded herself with a dinner at a restaurant or a massage whenever she remained calm, focused, and attentive with her employees. She recognized and celebrated every little success. She said, “For example, after a great day, I might say to myself, ‘I remembered my list. I prepared for that meeting well in advance, and I stuck to the agenda. I was smart enough to walk away when I felt things getting out of control. I stood up for myself and told people how I felt without saying anything I might regret. It could have been a lot worse. I handled that pretty well. ’ ”
Julian’s Leadership Success Story:
During Julian’s successes, he paid attention to his body’s response. For example, he said, “Sitting in a traffic jam, I could feel my adrenaline starting to pump throughout my body. I looked at my little serenity prayer card on my dashboard, which reminded me of the value of patience and tolerance and embracing change. I reminded myself that a traffic jam wasn’t worth risking my health. So I tuned in to the music on the radio and relaxed. I laughed at those ignorant drivers gambling with their life by impatiently switching lanes, speeding up just to slow down again, and tailgating each other.”
After stressful events, Julian said that he sometimes came home and vented with his wife about the day. Now, instead of creating a negative atmosphere the minute he walked in the door, he starts off the evening by sharing good news. He also recalled asking himself, “What did I do today that helped me stay calm, composed, and relaxed?” All of this reflection helped him identify the before, during, and after of his past leadership successes. It helped him see what he needed to do more of in the future.
In addition to identifying the times you were successful in the past, you must also pinpoint the places in which you were successful. For example, do you lose your temper at work the way you do at home? Probably not. Do you manage conflict more effectively at work or in public than you do when you’re at home? Most likely. Do you have methods of managing your time and tasks at work that you seem to forget when you’re at home? Again, I bet you do. You can find solutions by looking at what you do at work or in other public places that lead to success. Pay attention to what you do in these places that produces good results.
You can find leadership success by thinking of areas in your life where you are most successful. For instance, thinking about our work, hobbies, community involvement, skills, or talents can give you answers. Look at what you do in these areas that could help you overcome your challenge(s). Maybe you’ve learned something from your job that would help you reduce your stress level at home, when overloaded with stress. The next question can help you identify those successful instances.
Where was I during my leadership successes and what was different about those places?
I often ask myself this question when I get stressed out. First of all, I notice that my attitude goes bad. And, in my line of work, you can’t afford the luxury of many negative thoughts. So I replace self-defeating attitudes such as, “I can’t do this. That won’t work, so why bother trying?” with more upbeat can-do attitudes. Where am I when my attitude is positive? Around technology that helps me work effectively. For example, computers, voice mail, and e-mail can help me maintain my “can-do” mentality. But, I have to keep my calls short and targeted, ask callers to leave detailed messages, control long-winded callers, and leave detailed messages for others as well. I also send myself email, text, and voicemail messages reminding me of tasks that must be completed. I ask my assistant to sort my mail and condense reports. I take a walk when I lose my focus or fall short of energy. I get rid of something I don’t need and seek ways to reduce clutter. Finally, I move on to something else if I’m struggling with a particular project. I can use all of these strategies at home as well as in the office to achieve leadership success.
Ivy’s Success Story:
Ivy recalled that she was leading a team at a larger corporation when she successfully managed her time and stress. They offered a lot of professional development courses in such areas as time management, organization, presentation, and people-skills. She also had access to information management software. These helped her keep her schedule, organize her phone calls, and handle other memory-related tasks. She programmed reminders into her computer’s daily calendar and cell phone so an alarm would ring to prompt her to action.
Next, I asked Ivy to identify the times she experienced less stress, when she was successful managing the stress of leading others. I asked her, “What was going on then? What did you or another person do that created stress, but you have discontinued or decreased in frequency? Look back and recall what worked better. If it’s a personal or professional relationship that you would like to improve, maybe you spent more time nurturing the relationship or bonding—networking, building rapport, or having fun together?” This next question will help you establish the times you found solutions to your leadership challenges:
WHEN have I been successful in the past (time of day, day of week, week of month) and what was different about those times?
Ivy reported that she was successful managing her stress level in the past when she planned and paced herself. She would schedule the most grueling tasks for times when her energy was the highest. Since her energy dropped later in the day, she saved that time for mundane tasks like reading the newspaper or opening the mail. She arranged her schedule to balance her checking account, shop with her children, or exercise earlier in the day because they required much more energy, concentration, and patience.
One of Ivy’s shortcomings included planning and organizing long, complex projects. But, she was successful when she teamed up with a more organized colleague—someone who was less innovative but better at administrative tasks. She said, “I guess I was most successful when I set aside 15 minutes each morning to review short-term tasks to long-term projects, estimating times for each of them and prioritizing them according to their urgency and importance. “A” tasks are those that are most important, most urgent. “B” tasks are those that are less urgent but still important. And “C” tasks are those “wanna–do” tasks that don’t necessarily have to be done.”
If you want to learn more about improving your leadership, check out my book, “Leadership Success in Spite of Stress”. This blog post was taken from chapter 9 of the book. Are you striving for leadership success in spite of personal and professional stress? Long hours, tight deadlines, family obligations, no time to exercise, eat, sleep well, or reflect. Does this sound familiar? In Leadership Success in Spite of Stress, executive coach and leadership trainer, Barbara Jordan offers her 20+ years of experience coaching business leaders and professionals struggling with demanding work schedules. She’ll help you seek balance for a fulfilling personal life and successful career.
This book will help you work smarter. With the checklists and self-assessments contained in this book, you will pinpoint the exact thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, conclusions, and behaviors you need to eliminate to find the time for yourself and your personal life as well as the efficiency and confidence necessary to work more successfully. The hands-on, practical information in this book shows you how to evaluate your thinking and behavior and challenge those self-defeating beliefs sabotaging your success. Get out of your own way and, finally, meet that long sought-after goal that seems beyond your reach! To learn more about the book, click below: