Put the oxygen mask on you first
Flight attendants still tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before attempting to help others. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you become part of the problem rather than the solution. We’ve all seen leaders who haven’t taken care of themselves. They turn blue in the face, gasping for air, while they struggle to keep all the plates spinning.
Leaders unintentionally choke off their own oxygen by engaging in counterproductive activities that magnify rather than minimize stress. Here are three surprising ways you can give yourself a breath of fresh air.
#1. Listen in ways the relieve stress. Many leaders listen to offer answers, console frustrated employees, or in some other way solve problems. If you listen-to-solve, every person you listen to adds stress to your day. I suggest you stop listening-to-solve and begin listening to make others feel understood. Once you’ve created a supportive environment, you can begin finding solutions.
#2. Let go of details. If you’re leading your organization and you know organizational or project details you’re killing yourself with stress. I’ve seen people act like caged rats when confronted with the possibility of saying, “I don’t know,” to their superiors. Perhaps it’s better to realize that knowing all the details indicates you’re limiting personal and organizational potential. I love saying, “I didn’t realize we were doing that.” The further up you go the less you know.
#3. Speak the truth, it un-kinks your air supply. We’ve all seen leaders speaking half-truths to protect themselves or others. Apart from violating confidential information, leaders must speak the truth. If necessary, take your lumps. The truth sets you free. Here’s an added benefit, sincere candor builds confidence in others.
How do leaders unintentionally make their own lives more difficult?
Leaders often confuse speed with wisdom. Take time to assess, then see what the firefighters have to say about fighting the fire. Leaders too often sprint to a solution. If the employees on the front line see this behavior displayed consistently, they’ll learn to wait for the boss to take the first step. Fires can’t read org charts.
Thanks for adding value by reminding us that speed and wisdom aren’t the same thing. I think giving yourself permission to take time to think helps pop the cork on pressure.
Best to you,
Mr. Wordsworth blogs at: http://clearandconvincingwriting.blogspot.com/
Berkson and Mass talk about going slow to go fast in the product development world, although such an approach applies in other arenas.
Another analogy might be shooting at a target from a distance, shotgun or rifle with scope, both work, although one might be luck.
Leaders make thier life more difficult unintentionally because they think for themselve first. In fact leadership is all about empowerment, encouragement, delegation and creating trust. In the organisation, when you empower and delegate; trust people. This is the key to restoring confidence and trust in the system. Leaders need not to know each and evey details but know people that are delegated. Trust is inversely proportional to fear. More the trust, less the fear and less the fear, more the confidence, motivation, encouragement and finally excellent outcome. This is the virtuous chain of effective leadership.
You packed a ton of useful information into a short comment. Thanks for giving back to the LF community.
I love the idea that leaders don’t need to know the details but the people. Know the people not the details. Great stuff.
You have my regards,
Leaders make their life difficult by trying to lead, when they have yet to master the basics. This problem is rife at my work. Too many leaders and not enough managers.
A good manager can become a leader. But a good leader is not necessarily a good manager.
Mastery of the basics and the mundane elevates leaders, and inevitabley makes their life easier.
Great comment. I agree 100% with the distinction you are making between leaders and managers.
The business world is challenging because companies expect employees to be both. It takes loads of skill to pull that off.
Regards to you,
Excellent point about listening to relieve stress. The best leaders ask the questions that guide others down a path toward their own solutions. When people are implementing solutions they developed, they have more “skin in the game” and will therefore be more likely to follow-through. When people are implementing the leader’s ideas, it’s too easy to stop at the first difficulty and abdicate responsibility.
I’m delighted you left your first comment on LF. And thanks for adding light to the value of listening as a tool that relieves stress. Listen is a tool that invites others to have more “skin in the game.”
Your comment adds value to this discussion.
Best to you,
Nicole writes a top 150 leadership blog at http://sayingwhatumean.com/
Great analogy with a powerful message.
If you allow me, I would add a #4 to your list…
#4. Manage the interactions of your people as opposed to their actions. By only focusing on the actions of people, a leader sends the message that he/she expects a certain type of behavior. Focusing on the interactions of people often results in bringing out the best in peoples’ creativity to dissolve problems so they never return.
If you are a leader, experiment with exhibiting this behavior and see if it makes your life less difficult and more successful, not only for you, but more importantly for your people. Believe me, it works.
Thanks for adding. I always enjoy your additions, corrections, and illustrations.
I quoted you on twitter “manage the interactions as opposed to their actions.” I think thats gold.
Great thanks, I love the first one it articulates very clearly a great benefit from listening rather than mentally shaping a response. #2 I agree entirely. My version is getting people to understand that as they rise in the organisation their specialization decreases. The true specialists are those who do the same thing week in week out. Leave the detail to those who need it, if we really knew how our computers worked we’d never have time to use them.
You’ve highlighted one of the real challenges of being promoted. You remind me of the statement, “What got you here, won’t take you there.”
I’m enjoying your blog. http://croadworks.com/
Thanks for participating in the LF community.
Points #1 and #3 are spoke to me personally.
I am sorry I am not contributing ideas of my own. But sfter reading many of your articles, I find myself personally not doing the things said and seek to correct that first. Only when I am practicing it, I can say it.
Great post Mr. Rockwell
I love your comments. It’s the authenticity that draws me to you.
You give more than you know.
All the best,
If you are “listening to solve” I would suggest you are mananging, not leading. Leadership is about providing vision and resources necessary to accomplish goals. Once you start solving problems, you disempower your team and unintentionally communicate to that you want to solve the problems and “upward delegation” and stress occurs.
As a leader it is easy to jump to problem solving mode but as a leader it is an urge you need to resist