Employees aren’t listening. Bosses are meddling. Product lines keep changing and someone just heard there’s plans for office space rearranging. Double and triple booked meetings prevent time to lead anything with any real meaning. And of yes, then there’s supposed to be time for employee development? How does that work when go pee must be booked as an appointment if a leader’s going to have time to do it? Times, they are a crazy and over time this nutty pace tempts even the most loyal of leaders to just run away. Are you close? Do you feel tempted? Is so, how can you tell and how can you see through your own chaotic task list and prevent the desire to pack it in and make a run for it? Monitor these warning signs and manage to prioritize these recommended next steps.
Whether change is an old friend and welcomed as the enemy of complacency and cousin to creativity, or change is seen as the source of all this evil mayhem, either perspective still may result in a leader having less and less bandwidth to be tolerant of differences in others. Change creates stress in various levels and when stressed leaders react with what is a natural selection of coping mechanisms. Those who live for accomplishment will become dogmatic about the sense of urgency and when stuff is supposed to happen. Those who crave details and facts will move more slowly and require more of them. Those who get along with others will begin to protect relationships and be pessimistic with others who appear to threaten their efforts. Those who need to be appreciated and the center of attention will become more demanding and dramatic and Oscar winning emotional. They’re all coping and when doing so the conscious effort required to modify or alter behaviors for the benefit and tolerant, of others, goes out the window. Look familiar? If it’s happening frequently, one might become a runaway leader.
No leader is unfamiliar with the literal amount of time in any day and every leader maintains hope that catching up is a state in the near future. Yet, when the only consistent result is a lack of accomplishment, change announcements, and the inability to gain traction on any effort, those same leaders can begin to give up. What is the point of devoting time, energy, and focus to a project that will simply change gears or disappear at a moment’s notice? Deadlines become suggestions. Balls all around start dropping and then bouncing. The normally conscientious leader who dots every I and crosses each t can start to check out, daydream, and even forget the simplest of recent commitments. Behavior begins changing, as does perspective on what’s important. Those items a leader once thought non-negotiable, such as loyalty, work ethic, and patient contemplation before losing it, begin to appear unreachable. The desire to possibly leave it all and make a run for it will show up in not just deadlines, but in a leader’s very demeanor and perspective about almost everything.
The leader looking for the escape hatch in a workplace or role that consistently feels like too much to manage, may also become irrationally defensive in light of the slightest criticism. Feedback is no longer an accurate description of anything implying the leader is deficient. Emotions run high and offense is easily taken when a leader reaches a place in which he or she feels they can no longer tolerate this place or said treatment. If words of feedback are met with irrational reactions, erratic emotions, or blank stares and minimal responsive actions, the leader recipient may already be looking for the next train to their next position.
Whether the days filling your leadership role are wrought with major changes or minor frustration, if you have a bag packed and thrown over your shoulder, the most immediate next step is to stop and find your sense of humor. When leadership hands you lemons, squeeze those puppies, find vodka, and make a refreshing concoction. When you really want to run down the hall screaming, find at least some great exit theme music. Secondly, remember no matter how tough the workplace or boss or team may seem, you are not alone. I speak daily with leaders struggling and no one knows the real emotion behind the face their showing. Find a sounding board outside of your office and make the time to vent and share that unfiltered expression. Give those team members you lead that same privilege and encouragement. Crazy, tough, changing, stressful, or simply fast paced times are not a phase in front of us, but more a way of life to which we are resisting acceptance. Find a way to laugh through much of it, vent about the exceptionally tough stuff, and keep your wits about you. Those most crucial items will get done when they need to happen and the rest will find it’s way into your schedule at the truly appropriate moment. No need to pack that bag and threaten to make a run for it just because things are little tougher than expected. Hold your horses, take a breath, sit still for a second and assess what you can do to regain your strength.
You may be surprised at actually how little it takes when the focus shifts from OMG to how WILL I GET THROUGH this?
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development specialist who coaches, consults with, and speaks to leaders of all levels, building their skills, emotional intelligence and authenticity. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica may be reached at www.ContagiousCompanies.com, www.MonicaWofford.com or by calling 1-866-382-0121.