Sometimes leaders don’t even notice they are falling down a deep hole until they hit rock bottom. It can be a slow descent where project deadlines keep getting pushed out or we are constantly having frustrating interactions with team members or even our boss. Our workplace no longer feels like a safe environment filled with possibility and people we trust. We may even feel we don’t fit in any longer.
This happened to several people I was working with recently and the situation became so overwhelming that they stopped presenting their best sides. They couldn’t get a handle on what was occurring and almost felt like they may need to jump ship. They needed to find some lifelines quickly to keep afloat.
Here are five critical lifelines for leaders:
1. STEP OUT OF YOUR HOLE TO SEE REALITY
We might have landed in a difficult place but that doesn’t mean we can’t begin to ascend. When any leader finds themselves up against tight deadlines or team members who are breathing down their backs they need to first see the truth of the situation. To be able to recognize what has happened and accept it means leading through uncertainty. STEP ONE- decide to take action. Empower yourself to make a move.
2. REGROUP YOUR WORKLOAD
The climb up the hole towards the opening begins with a deep look at our workload and workplace interactions. Don’t spend too much time trying to figure out how you ended up at this critical juncture but rather what actions you need to take to undo the mess. One of the people I worked with had an over abundance of compliance work on their plate.
- Prioritize all the projects that you are working on
- Decide what pieces of your workload can be delegated or shared
- Choose what assignments are not important and can be done the following week
- Take time to breathe and clear your head as you sort through important vs urgent tasks
3. SPEAK WITH COLLEAGUES
In the event that broken-down connections with team members are at the heart of a leader’s spiraling down, the best way to resolve that is by face-to-face conversations. Set up short meetings to talk to co-workers and listen to what they have to share. Definitely explain your perspective but do so with respect. Try to keep the mantra in mind: “We are working towards the same goals.” Also consider creating a mentoring relationship with a colleague for you to get guidance as well as offer help to them.
4. MEET WITH A BOSS
Our bosses are not our enemies and leaders need to reach out to this lifeline when they are drowning. With many leaders I have worked with they want to fix everything themselves and never keep their boss in the loop. That is a big “no-no”.
- Now is the time to be honest about the dilemma you are in
- Try not to blame others but rather share your part in the missed deadline or friction with team members
- Strategically listen to advice being given and clarify the specific actions to be taken
- Be appreciative and don’t leave the meeting without a follow-up session
5. CREATE A NEW PLAN
A final lifeline for any leader is a clear plan. Knowing exactly what our next steps need to be and how we will execute them is the road map each leader needs. Putting that plan in writing is essential and keeping it in full view can help leaders stay on target and feel they are propelling themselves forward towards their goals. Of course we can edit the plan if need be but make sure to create one.
What additional lifelines have helped your leadership during difficult times?
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