10 minute read
Epigraph for section - "When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened." Sir Winston Churchill
SECTION 1 INTRODUCTION
THE VICE GRIP
They say it's lonely at the top, but it's lonelier in the middle.
Managers don't make big, strategic, company-wide decisions. Those are made by executives with the "C's" in their title - CEO...CFO...CTO.
As a manager, you implement those big, strategic, company-wide decisions , and those decisions are often unpopular.
They also say that "sh*t rolls down hill", but that's only half the story. Front line employees can shovel crap your way, too!
Explaining an unpopular decision that you didn't make is hard. It's like explaining why Mom wont let cell phones at the dinner table. You want to support the new rule, but you're not crazy about it either!
You're caught in the middle. Mom made an executive decision, and you're expected to support, implement and defend that decision.
If you don't, you risk experiencing Mom's wrath. If you do, you experience your kid's wrath. The kids aren't complaining to Mom, they complain to you.
The most important leaders in a company are supervisors and their managers. That's where decisions are implemented, not made. It's where strategy is executed, not developed. It's where problems get solved, not identified.
The post-Covid workplace is fraught with change. New policies. New strategies. New programs. It's a challenge, because we're creatures of habit.
Change creates uncertainty. Uncertainty creates doubt. Doubt creates stress. And stress leads to burnout. It's a vicious cycle.
For managers, the post-Covid workplace is like raising teenagers.
Adolescence is a tough time for teenagers. Change is happening to them and around them. Employees feel the same way.
In adolescence, teenagers struggle to find meaning and purpose. Employees feel the same way.
Like parents, you're rebuilding confidence, reinforcing values and helping employees adapt. It's a tough, ongoing challenge.
Sh*t rolls down hill, but you step in it too.
Executives expect you to execute. Employees expect you to empathize. Your family expects you to be present. It's stressful.
Stress is an emotion, and emotions are contagious. You carry your own stress, but you absorb the stress of those around you, too.
Every time you deal with an anxious employee, spouse or friend...you're exposed to their stress!
Stress is more contagious than Covid, and there's no mask to protect you or vaccine on the way.
The most valuable leadership assets a company are caught in the middle. You're caught in a vice grip of stress coming from above and below.
As you sit in the meeting, your mind races. The things you're NOT accomplishing on this endless Zoom call begin to weigh on your mind.
Your worries are top of mind. "Is Jane looking for another job?" "Why did my boss ask me for time this Friday?" That vice grip tightens.
Maybe you've made a decision you're now second guessing. "Did I give the right direction?" "Did I over share with my boss?"
The Zoom call drones on. The same points are repeated over and over.
You check your mobile device. You're calendar is packed. Your "to-do" list reminds you of your lack of progress. You need more caffeine.
You turn off your camera and head to the coffee pot, but your new rescue dog starts barking.
You forgot to mute the microphone, so the pup is now a meeting participant. You apologize, turn the camera back on and quickly hit mute.
Your minds turns to the upcoming 1-on-1 meeting with your boss. You think you know where you stand with them, but you're not sure.
As the meeting runs over, you stifle a yawn. Sleep hasn't been easy. Your new Peloton exercise bike is gathering dust. Your pants are getting tighter.
Your mind bounces from the boss to a couple key decisions hanging over your head. You've put them off as long as you can. The boss may ask about them.
You get a group text message from a friend. Its a meme meant to be funny, but you fail to see the humor.
Your significant other is worried about you. Your friends are pissed at you. Even the new rescue dog is losing patience with you.
Replies to the meme start to flood in. Your friends must be on Zoom calls, too.
Is this what leadership is all about?
THE LEADERSHIP PARADOX
You're a manager, so you're paid to manage things and lead people.
The term "leadership" is actually misleading. It's misleading, because much of a leader's time is spent in their own company.
Think about your typical day. What percentage of your time is actually spent giving direction, feedback and coaching advice? 🤔
Managers have management duties. Duties like planning, budgeting and forecasting take much of your time, and that time is often spent in private.
More time is now spent in semi-private Zoom meetings. These are waist-up meetings where you can wear pajama bottoms, hit mute and get lost in your own thoughts.
Again, managers spend much of their time in their own company.
A manager's typical day is split between management duties and leadership duties. These functions are closely related, but they're distinctly different. They're sibling rivals competing for your valuable time and attention.
Leadership is the process of influencing people by providing direction and motivation to achieve business results.
When you're influencing people, you're leading. You're enlisting followers. You can't be a leader without followers.
When you're analyzing data, creating a schedule or a Power Point, you're managing. You're engaging with an inanimate object.
Most meetings are full of management activities and not leadership activities. Unless you're influencing behavior, the meeting is a management exercise.
The fact is, leaders spend more time thinking about leadership challenges than engaging in leadership behaviors.
"Self-coaching" is a practical necessity.
It's a practical necessity because much of your time is spent in your own company. When left to your own thoughts, who else can offer advice but you?
You have an inner-voice. The inner-voice produces your attitudes, beliefs and ideas. It's also explains how you interpret and perceive life's events.
Research shows that your inner-voice produces 1,000's of thoughts each day. These thoughts trigger your emotions, and emotions influence what you do.
The problem is, many of your initial thoughts are misguided. A misguided thought triggers a misguided emotion. And before you know it, you do something you regret.
We all have thinking traps. These are habitual ways of thinking that misrepresent reality.
Have you ever misread someone? Been needlessly worried? Made a bad hire? Overreacted? We all have! The culprit? Thinking traps.
Self-coaching is a practical necessity because, when in your own company, who else is going to challenge your thinking? No one.
When in your own company, who else is going to encourage you to slow down and think rationally, instead of emotionally? No one.
When in your own company, who else will deliver that much needed pep-talk? No one.
Like your inner-voice, you have an inner-coach. Your inner-voice isn't bashful and doesn't need encouragement, but your inner-coach does. You have to develop and nurture your inner-coach.
This first section is about you.
You're in the vice grip, caught between the executive's vision and worker bee's reality.
You're asked to manage and lead, but there seems to be little time to do both well.
You're entrusted with the employee's well being, but you can't care for others if you can't care for yourself.
Your team needs the best version of you. They need the confident, rested, focused and most engaged version of you.
You're caught in the middle, but it's manageable.
You can even thrive and cause your team to thrive, but there are certain leadership hacks you need to make routine.
- Take thinking breaks, so you can organize your thoughts
- Think in the 3rd person, so you can be more objective
- Schedule worry breaks, so you don't carry worries throughout the day
- Challenge your self talk, so you avoid thinking traps
- Give yourself 3rd person feedback, so you don't over rely on the boss's feedback
- Limit distractions, so you can focus attention
- Give yourself a pep-talk, because if you don't give yourself a break...who will?
These are a few self-coaching techniques designed to get the best version of you.
If you're lucky, your company has a strong leadership development program. Unfortunately, most don't.
Most managers develop leadership skills though on-the-job experience - otherwise known as trial-and-error!
This section will help develop your inner-coach.
Like your favorite coach or teacher, your inner coach needs to be honest, patient and optimistic. Your inner coach should have high standards and positive expectations of you.
You're inner coach needs to be willing to hold your inner-voice accountable.
You're inner-coach needs developed and nurtured. The leadership hacks in this section will help you get started.
And don't forget, once you log into MentalNotes.com you have access to live, chat-based coaching. If your inner-coach needs some realtime support, we're here to help.