Over the past several months, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many leaders and have received a great deal of e-mails, and I’ve started to see an ugly pattern. So many people are scared even panicked and are asking, “Why me, why now?” I hope this column helps reinforce what you are already doing and gives you additional ideas of what you can do. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but it is always best to tell people what they need to hear when everyone else is letting them feel sorry for themselves.
Here are some rules to live by that will help you survive even thrive in 2009.
Swear off headline news
Sensationalism sells! Stop reading the front-page headlines and business sections, and stop listening to headline news.
Great leaders emerge during difficult times and find opportunity. Their organizations make strides while everyone else is scrambling and doing self-destructive things like cutting critical customer-centric positions.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself
This is exactly what you wanted. You became a leader because you wanted to control your own destiny. When things got tough and difficult decisions had to be made, you wanted to be the one who made them. Well, now it is time. Your employees are scared, and they are looking to you for leadership, direction, confidence and a strong assurance that everything will be all right.
The moment you became a leader, you forfeited your right to panic in public. Get your head right. No leader ever achieved greatness during easy times. You are the one that sold your vision to people, and they bought that vision, giving up other opportunities because they believed in you. Do not turn your back on them now. Be the vision, sell the vision, and keep your word.
Be inspired, inspirable, inspiring
Read business journals that share the best practices of the companies who are not only surviving but thriving (see Smart Business, for example). Fill your head with great ideas, inspiring thoughts and motivation. Crack out old Zig Ziglar and Anthony Robbins tapes. Subscribe to and read weekly e-services (like mine). Read warm and fuzzy books like “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” You will be amazed at how your attitude and perspective will be affected by what you feed your brain.
Lose the losers
There are people who work for us, work with us and with whom we socialize who are energy drainers. If they are not adding value, eliminate them from your life. Focus on the positive people who want to contribute and provide value. Reflect on the following: You are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. Surround yourself with great people, and you will be guilty by association.
Your best is not good enough
I’m not a fan of hearing that people are doing their best. I don’t want anyone’s best. I want the best! Your best is what you know, it is what you have been capable of and it is where you are at this point in your life or career. The best is unknown. It is thinking, planning, strategizing, calling on every resource you know and having the nerve to call people whom others wouldn’t even imagine and whom you may have no right calling and getting their help. It is running every possible scenario to exhaustion, and then running it again.
For more than 100 years, runners tried unsuccessfully to break the four-minute mile barrier. It was deemed physically impossible until one person’s unrelenting pursuit and determination found a way. Then, after one person did it, hundreds more were able to achieve the same goal.
During stressful times, leaders tend to feel guilty about having any downtime or quality time with family. This is a certain recipe for burnout. How much value will you be to your company and family if that occurs? Business will always have its ups and downs, but your personal life should not reflect that. Commit to time with the people who matter most and turn off the BlackBerry and laptop for 48 hours and reconnect. Do your thing your hobby, vice, whatever it is that gets you back into your groove. It is your personal happiness and the happiness of the people you care about that gives you the ability to positively affect others.