Absorb the heat. Don’t transmit it.

Early in my career, a very wise mentor gave me this advice.  It has stayed with me ever since.

As leaders, we are exposed to a lot of stressors. Internal politics. Unforeseen curveballs thrown by customers or employees. Projects that go off track.  An overloaded calendar.  Exhaustion.  Pressures at home.  And the list goes on.

There are days when it gets the best of us, and it’s tempting to lash out at others – transmitting the frustration, irritation or anger that we are feeling inside. When this happens, people run for the hills – sometimes literally, sometimes emotionally.  They shut down.  They feel unjustly punished or mistreated. They read into it, thinking they’re in trouble, you’re in trouble, or the organization is in trouble.  They may view your behavior as an indication that you’re unable to cope with the pressures of the job.  Be assured, nothing good comes from transmitting the heat.

On the other hand, when we absorb the heat and are able to project a sense of calm – even when fires are raging within – we inspire confidence in others. They are able to continue doing their work without the distraction of an angry or frazzled boss and all the drama and interpretation that goes along with it.

Today, ask yourself, “am I absorbing the heat, or transmitting it?”

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Dive in early.

For months, teams of people have been working on a project with your approval to “keep moving.” You’ve been sent things to review and have been on status update calls, but you’ve been multitasking and half listening.  Now, it’s nearing the end of the process and the deadline is looming. When you finally pause long enough to take a close look at what’s been done, it’s not what you wanted.  You dive in, and shift into revision mode.  Although it’s messy at the end of the process, the team pulls through and you get what you want. 

Sound familiar?

As much as we’d all like to say, “that’s not me,” this tends to be the norm, not the exception.  It causes untold stress on your team, it’s demoralizing, and it costs your organization money. Worst of all, you remain blissfully unaware because no one has the nerve to talk with you about it.

If you are the boss, understand that lots of people are trying to please and accommodate you.  They do not want to be labeled the naysayer or the non-team-player. So instead, they suck it up and deal with it. This scenario leaves you ignorant and your teams burnt out. 

Break the cycle. Have honest conversations about how things are working, and commit to changing how and when you engage. As a leader, it is up to you to create the space and trust so that people can tell you the truth. Start by asking questions about how the process might be improved and what you can do differently. And be willing to dive in and get involved when the initial strategic work is being done so you and the team are in synch.

By engaging and focusing up front, you can save yourself, your teams and the company time and money.  Plus, you can achieve the added benefit of having happier, more productive employees.

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Begin with the end in mind.

How often do we sit in front of our computers, struggling with how to communicate something?  We might find ourselves meandering, with lots of information and no clear point or message.  Or, we might sit looking at a blank screen, totally stuck.

Whether you are putting together a presentation, e-mail, talking points, article, blog post, performance review or any other communication, you will be able to formulate your message more crisply and easily if you begin with the end in mind.

What do we mean by that?

First, think about the ultimate purpose of the communication.  What are you trying to accomplish? Write it down.  Then, consider the impact you want to have – what do you want the recipient(s) to think and feel as a result of your communication? Be specific. 

Are you trying to inform? Persuade? Inspire confidence? Generate dialogue? Move to a decision? Catalyze a wake-up call? Depending on your desired outcome and audience impact, the communication will be fashioned differently – in terms of tone, content and language.  There is a real art to shaping your message.  Doing it well requires careful thought and intentionality. 

When we get clear on the answers to these fundamental questions, it allows us to approach our communication with greater focus.  It also provides a strategic lens through which we can decide which pieces of information are essential, and which ones are extraneous.  Once we know what we really want to convey, we can keep our eyes on the prize as we write.

The next time you sit down to craft a communication, ask yourself, “am I clear on my end game?”

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Consider a Re-Boot.

When an electronic device is misbehaving, the first rule of thumb is to re-boot --- turn it off, let it rest a moment, then turn it back on.  Usually this simple step helps clear out the static and return things to good working order.

As we move into a new year, it’s a great time to consider a personal re-boot:  an intentional effort to pause, shut down, think about priorities and decide what you want to start, stop and continue doing in 2018.  This can apply to any aspect of your life. 

Pausing to take stock helps you gain clarity on what matters most to you.  In essence, it helps you clear out the static and start with a fresh perspective.

Re-booting needn’t be complex or time consuming.  All it takes is a quiet space, a couple of hours of uninterrupted time, and a commitment to venture inward to consider what you want to leave behind, change, or carry forward in this new year.  Consider these questions in the context of your work life, your home life and personal relationships.  Write down your decisions and keep them in a visible place to serve as a daily reminder. Go through your calendar and place reminders or action steps throughout the year to help ensure that you fulfill these important promises to yourself.

Today, commit to spending some focused time re-booting to make the most of 2018!  

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Find your happy.

Now is a good time to consider what makes you truly happy.  What makes your heart sing and your soul feel content? What would it take to manifest more joy day to day, versus pinning your hopes on events or “things” to bring you happiness and delight?

For us to be truly fulfilled, we need to find our happy – understanding what we need in life to feel peace and inner joy, and then courageously stepping up to it. Through this self-awareness and commitment to be happy, we are better able to lead, support and love others.

For some of us, this may require a fundamental shift in perspective – from glass half empty to half full.  It may mean spending more time helping others or giving back to the community.  Maybe it’s about empowering ourselves to eat differently; releasing a grudge; spending more time in nature, or with loved ones; shutting down our technology earlier to get better sleep; or deciding to lighten up and laugh more.

For others of us, finding our happy may require deeper changes:  walking away from a toxic relationship; making a career change; confronting and reprogramming the beliefs that are holding us back; or taking big steps to simplify our lives.

Whatever it takes, finding your happy is the most significant gift you can give yourself and those around you.

The philosopher Lao Tzu said it best: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the moment.” All you can control is the present moment, so give yourself the gift of a lifetime this holiday season, and find your happy! 

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