Over the last few months, I’ve been asking leaders to complete an anonymous questionnaire so I could get a better understanding of the types of struggles and challenges faced by leaders who want to improve their leadership practice.
Of all the answers I received, there were five common themes. The leaders told me that standing between them and making changes to their current situation were:
These obstacles weren’t just restricted to work, but also expanded into their personal lives. They felt they were simply going through the motions, processing the usual daily tasks, but with no real direction or purpose. They didn’t feel a connection to what was happening around them, which left them feeling empty and deep down knowing something wasn’t right.
I brought this up with some of my clients, who told me they were going through the same thing.
After some further questions, they discovered they had fallen into the trap of focusing outside themselves. The most recent thing to land in their ‘in’ tray became the focus of their attention, before someone or something else presented itself. The leaders told me they never made time to focus on themselves.
Surprisingly, when I asked them which change they would most like to make in their lives, the responses were all about them!
My clients talked to me about how they wanted to feel differently about their work - either to stop worrying so much, feel more confident or stop feeling so emotional (one often found herself in tears). Others were very conscious of their need to have a stronger sense of direction, be more productive or work towards more challenging goals. They talked about the need to feel less pressure and to have more ‘me’ time.
What was interesting was that although everything these leaders really wanted related to changes in themselves, they persisted in focusing on whatever or whoever was around them, particularly problems they couldn’t do anything about. This is a huge waste of emotional energy that will exacerbate the real issues, not remove them.
In other words, my clients’ behaviour, not the people or events around them, was the real thing getting in their way.
If this feels like you, then it’s easy to change. Simply focus on what you can control… and that’s you!
I like to ask my clients a question:
This is where the reflection starts. It’s where you start to become aware of, then take responsibility for, your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
It’s where you start to take a much more active role in getting the results you really want.
Obviously, as a coach I like to ask questions! Questions have a way of getting you to look at things from a different perspective, and they open the doors to new ideas that you simply don’t have when you’re going through the motions in a busy leadership role.
If you recognise that you might be standing in the way of making the changes you really need, then ask yourself these questions and see what comes up:
Despite appearances, it’s rarely the external factors that are standing between you and success. A little bit of digging will soon show you how you are blocking your own progress, and how you can step out of the way!
At this point, you consciously make the decision to focus on what you have, what life offers you and - more importantly - what you’re going to do next, which adds up to a formula for being happier and more engaged at work.