Leading others is challenging in the best of times. During hard times, it can be even more challenging than ever, often causing otherwise great leaders to falter.
In conversations with leaders all over the world, many have shared with me how during hard times they:
- Struggle with showing up OR how to show up the right way,
- Aren’t sure how to communicate with their teams and communities, and
- Worry about how to be a source of strength in the midst of chaos and the unknown – especially when they’re feeling the same fear, anxiety, and stress.
But hard times are not the time to hide. Hard times are not the time to go silent. And hard times are especially not the time to carry the load alone.
As leaders, we are called to step up and show the way for others. But that doesn’t mean we have to do it all alone.
One of the biggest misconceptions many leaders have (especially new or inexperienced leaders) is that they, and they alone, should be the sole source of ideas, creativity, innovation, strength, motivation, inspiration, courage, safety, and on and on for their teams.
Are you feeling that way right now? Like the whole weight of the world is resting on your shoulders – and you must carry it all alone?
If you’re like many of the leaders I’ve been talking to recently, you could probably use a little pep talk right about now and some tips and strategies on navigating these topsy-turvy times.
So today, I’m sharing 3 tips that I’ve framed as mantras that you can adopt to help you lead…even when you don’t feel like it. I hope you find these helpful on your leadership journey!
3 Mantras for Leading…Even When You Don’t Feel Like It
Mantra 1: “It’s okay for me to ask for help.”
You don’t have to do this alone. Let me repeat that – you don’t have to do this alone. Yes, you might be the one in charge, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach out for support. Just make sure you’re reaching out to the right people and resources.
Do you need help with anxiety or panic attacks? Consider listening to some guide meditations or reaching out to a therapist who’s offering telehealth options.
Do you need a second set of eyes on your financials? Check in with your bookkeeper or CPA to get an objective look at things.
Do you need help navigating hard conversations with your team (including how to talk to them about reduced hours, lay-offs, etc.)? Reach out to a leadership mentor (like me!) to help you frame those conversations in a way that communicates what’s necessary, but keeps everyone’s dignity and emotional well-being intact, while also protecting your business from liability.
Assess where your greatest need lies – and then find the right solution to help you meet that need. Just like you wouldn’t try to repair your own broken bone, there are things in your leadership role that you need expert help with, too.
Remember that it’s okay to ask for help.
Mantra 2: “It’s okay for me to not know all the answers.”
Just because you’re in charge, doesn’t mean you are a great, powerful, and all-knowing being. As much as we often DO know the answers, there is still so much more that we DON’T know as leaders.
And you know what? It’s okay to admit that you don’t know something! Your team will have more trust in you and will respect you more when you don’t know the answer…but are willing to find out and share it with them when you do.
Take our current environment for example. You are not expected to be an infectious disease expert, but you can direct your employees to reputable and trustworthy sources to learn more and ensure that you are following all recommended guidelines.
You are not expected to be an expert in human emotions and behaviors, but you can have open, honest conversations with your team on how everyone is feeling, what they’re struggling with, and how you can move forward together. And if your company offers health insurance, you can highlight the mental wellness options in your package.
You are not expected to run your business “as usual” during hard times, but you can figure out what feels good and works best for you and pivot your plans, goals, and the way you show up and serve.
Remember that it’s okay not to know all of the answers all of the time.
Mantra 3: “It’s okay for me to take it one day at a time.”
Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to what tomorrow holds in store. Especially right now when most of our 2020 plans have been flung out the window…after having coffee splashed across the pages and then being eaten by the dog! Yikes, right?
It’s probably not the best idea to create an entirely new plan for the remainder of the year right now, since everything is so up in the air.
BUT, you can take it little by little, one day at a time.
Last week, I came across a passage in a book I’m reading titled, “You’re Going to Survive,” by Alexandra Franzen. It’s a book full of short stories from people of all backgrounds, careers, and walks of life who share the struggles they’ve been through and how they survived them. (I highly recommend it!)
In one passage, Alexandra shares the story of a time when she hosted an event and registrations were unusually low (been there, done that, got the t-shirt!). After going down a panic-induced rabbit hole of embarrassment and despair, she considered scrapping the whole event.
However, as she looked over the list of registrants, she about how each person who registered to attend had cleared their schedules and made plans – all for her. They had promised to show up for her and she knew she needed to keep her promise by showing up for them. This wasn’t about the money – or even her own embarrassment – this was about being in integrity with her values and commitments.
She stopped wallowing in self-pity and asked herself a great reframing question that I plan on using from now on: “How can I make this feel amazing?”
In that moment, she came up with a creative solution to shift her focus and create an incredible experience for her registrants (which led to even more people attending her event in just a couple of days’ time!).
She describes this event as “the event no one wanted to leave,” – and she was <thisclose> to scrapping the whole thing!
What could have been a lost cause was completely revamped after asking, “How can I make this feel amazing?” along with, “How do I want to feel about this?”
At the end of the passage, she summarizes with this encouragement: “Is this a failed conference with not enough attendees – or a successful dinner party filled with wonderful, intimate conversations? It can be either one. It all depends on how you decide to think about it.”
As leaders, we can take a similar approach during hard times, whether that’s a less-than-desirable launch or a world-wide pandemic.
During hard times, it’s easy to get lost in the “what ifs” and “what could’ve been” scenarios, but those usually don’t lead anywhere productive. They often lead to more worry, more stress, and more fear – which are all paralyzing and counterproductive.
What if instead of trying to rework your entire plan for the next six months, you simply asked, “How can I make this feel amazing?” Right here, right now.
And it doesn’t even need to be business-related! What if the thing that will feel amazing is to take a break, turn off the news, delete the social media apps off your phone, call your best friend, bake a cake, play with your kids, read a book, or go for a walk?
What if you just did what felt amazing right now, in this moment…and it was exactly what you needed in order to recharge and step back into your leadership role wholeheartedly?
Remember that it’s okay to just take it one day at a time.
Leaders aren’t meant to be perfect. We are real people, experiencing real emotions, and dealing with real concerns about the future. Sometimes we burn out, lose our motivation, and yes, we might even blow up (but hopefully that’s not a frequent thing).
Leaders are perfectly imperfect.
However, leaders are called to step up and help show the way for our teams. They look to us as an example of how to be strong, yet vulnerable; honest, yet not panic-inducing; concerned, but resilient; optimistic, yet realistic.
And our employees are also looking to us to see if we’re taking our own advice or if we’re just telling them, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Which mantra do you need to adopt right now in order to release the pressure of perfection and give yourself the grace to show up as a vulnerable, compassionate, and empathetic leader – including for yourself?