Self-Imposed Pressure

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A leader’s success can easily be predicted by how pressure affects performance. But while the pressures that organizations routinely place on leaders can be tremendous, it’s the pressures leaders put on themselves that are often more powerful…and debilitating.

Pressures Imposed by the Organization

The list of pressures that organizations put on leaders is near-infinite. Here are just a few examples of what you already know this to be about:

  • pressures to increase sales, again and again and again
  • pressures to decrease costs, again and again and again
  • pressures to better accelerate and integrate change
  • pressures to do more with less
  • pressures to collaborate more fully and freely, especially with those who are historically not particularly productive or cooperative
  • pressures to deal smoothly and crisply with changing priorities, special requests, and executive overrides
  • pressures to build (or rebuild) reputation and credibility
  • pressures to speed time-to-market
  • pressures to not just meet, but hardily exceed quarterly earnings expectations
  • pressures to instill urgency in nearly everything and everyone
  • pressures to roll with political pressures, conflicting priorities, inter-department communications issues and the failed commitments of others
  • pressures to maintain motivation and morale notwithstanding decision-making bottlenecks up the chain
  • pressures to create and maintain effective workarounds to technology shortcomings and hiccups
  • pressures to freeze hiring, retain staff, minimize turnover, and manage output
  • pressures to be bound by ineffective policies and processes
  • pressures to resolve a seemingly endless flow of customer, vendor, employee, and shareholder complaints

Is any of this easy? Often not. But it’s what the job entails so we do our best to deal with it all as effectively as we can. And some leaders do that much better than others.

Whether you do it well or not, it’s quite likely that someone will notice and recognize – and hopefully reward – your achievements, if not the your efforts in doing so.

The upside can be surprisingly positive, just as the downside can be surprisingly negative, each being a resume-updating opportunity of its own – although for significantly different reasons.

By, and large, whatever job you’re in could quite easily be more accurately defined by the pressures it puts you under rather than a mere recitation of its primary responsibilities. (Do yourself a favor a bookmark that idea for when you’re preparing for your year-end performance review with your immediate supervisor.)

That’s why we get paid – to deal with all of that.

Self-Imposed Pressures

But then there are the pressures we put on ourselves that our employer may not even know, or care about:

  • our perfectionist tendencies
  • our fear of failure
  • our fear of success
  • our worry about buckling under an overwhelming sense of responsibility
  • our suspicions that we’re losing esteem with others because we’re letting them down in some way
  • our second-guessing ourselves
  • our losing our confidence and questioning our value and self-worth
  • our not being able to shake this growing sense of anxiety, uncertainty, and doubt

These are the pressures that cause far more disruption than most everything our employers put on us.

Why? Because it all happens internally. We do it to ourselves. And, unlike a cast on your arm or a patch over an eye, the signs are not particularly obvious…at first.

Sure, others can see our performance ebb and flow – especially if the self-imposed pressure starts affecting our mood. (And, yes, it WILL affect your mood so ignore the signs at your own peril.)

Even if others take note, chances are that, in time, more and more will. Your inconsistencies and changes in behaviors will become increasingly apparent…and unflattering.

Which only adds to the pressure you’ll be under.

But YOU’LL know what it is. And that begs an important question to ask yourself: “How well am I doing with that?”

Easing Up on Yourself

Think about it. How well ARE you doing with your self-imposed pressures?

Your answer matters.

Greatly.

Let me know if you need some help thinking it through.


Updating Your Self-Diminishing Conclusions

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The following exercise is a variation of Benjamin Franklin’s T-Chart (where he’d take a sheet of paper, divide it into two columns, and use one column to list out all the ‘pros’ of an upcoming decision and the other column to list out all the ‘cons’).

In our case, though, rather than starting with a decision to be made, let’s use a decidedly negative conclusion you’ve reached about yourself.

Maybe something like, “I can’t accomplish ANYTHING – I’m a total loser,” or “I just can’t follow rules.”

The idea is that, regardless of how ‘true’ it may FEEL to you, such a statement is NOT a fact — it’s just a conclusion. And not a particularly helpful conclusion, at that.

But it IS often helpful to state our negative self-beliefs out loud. Why?

  • Because we’re already thinking them
  • So we can re-frame them in decidedly more positive and supportive ways

The key is to do it in a self-supporting way.

Step 1 – Start with the Negative

Pick a piece of negative self-talk that is all-too-familiar to you. Write it down. (As illustration, let’s use, “I can’t accomplish ANYTHING – I’m a total loser” as our working example.)

Step 2 – Capture its Reason

Think about what caused you to reach that negative conclusion for our first example. . For example, maybe you’re thinking:

  • “I’ve failed at so many other things so many times before”
  • “I just never know what to do”
  • “I always feel I’m in over my head”

The point here is not to make yourself feel bad, but to better understand what led you to your conclusion in the first place.

(I suggest you limit the number of reasons items to 3 – at least to start – as this helps minimize any ‘awfulization’ that might creep in when first trying this exercise. Besides, we’ll only need 1 so no need to go overboard!)

Step 3 – ‘Stem’ the Tide

Use the following sentence stems to create an alternative positive and self-affirming explanation for the Negative Conclusion from Step 1 and the Reasons provided by Step 2.

I sometimes feel … [insert your Negative Conclusion from Step 1] and that’s probably because… [insert your Reason from Step 2] … which highlights one of my STRENGTHS, in that … [insert your Restatement from Step 3].

Sample/Example 1

I sometimes feel … “I can’t accomplish ANYTHING – I’m a total loser” and that’s probably because… I’ve failed at so many things so many times before … which highlights one of my STRENGTHS, in that … I’m unafraid to take on new challenges.

See what we’ve done? We’ve re-framed your self-talk from being about failure, to being about fearlessness.

Sample/Example 2

I sometimes feel … “I just can’t follow rules ” … and that’s probably because … I can always see why exceptions are in order … which highlights one of my STRENGTHS, in that … I am sincere, caring, and truly customer-focused,even when it’s inconvenient.

See what we did? We turned your so-called weakness into a customer-service value-added.

Moving (Positively) Forward

The way to leverage this exercise, moving forward, is by using it to help you recognize that just because you’ve reached a Negative Conclusion about yourself does not have to mean that it’s a fully accurate conclusion about yourself. And with that, you now also know how to quickly and easily replace that negative self-talk with something decidedly more positive, constructive, and self-affirming.


What, ME Worry?!

Photo by Helena Cook on Unsplash

Check out John Parrott’s excellent post, The Ultimate Guide To Stress Management – an impressively comprehensive and well-sourced look at the topic at hand…like his many other posts at RelaxLikeABoss.com.

Look at all he covers:

1. What Is Stress?
2. What Are The Symptoms Of Stress?
2.1. Physical Effects Of Stress.
2.2. Emotional Effects Of Stress.
2.3. Social Effects Of Stress.
3. Why Do We Feel Stressed?
3.1. ​Leading Causes Of Stress.
​3.2. Other Causes Of Stress.
4. Benefits Of Stress.
​​​​4.1. Positive Stress.
4.2. Enhanced Memory.
4.3. Motivation.
4.4. Resilience.
4.5. Caring For Others.
5. The Dangers Of Stress.
5.1. Heart Problems.
5.2. Anxiety.
5.3. Digestion Problems.
5.4. Suppressed immunity.
5.5. Different Gene Expression.
6. How To Manage Stress.
6.1. Change Your Mindset.
6.2. Exercise.
6.3. Take Time To Relax.
6.4. Meditate.
7. Negative Ways To Manage Stress.
7.1. Ignoring The Problem.
7.2. Drinking & Smoking.
7.3. Avoiding Others.
7.4. Dwelling On The Negative.
7.5. Emotional Eating.
8. Tips For Managing Stress.
8.1. Get Some Sleep.​
8.2. Try Relaxation Techniques.
8.3. Keep A Stress Diary.
8.4. Learn How To Manage Your Time.
8.5. Say No To Unimportant Tasks.
8.6. Treat Yourself.
8.7. Listen To Soft Music Or ASMR Videos.
9. Stress Management FAQs.
9.1. How Do I Cope With Stress?​
9.2. How Can I Make Stress My Friend?​
9.3. How Can You Stop Stress?
9.4. How Does Stress Affect The Brain?​

The infographics, alone, are worth a look-see.

Given that 79% of people regularly experience physical symptoms of stress – and all the ineffective (and negative) ways we try to cope – if you learn even one thing that helps, you’ll be ahead of the pack – although, frankly, I’ll be surprised if you don’t learn a whole lot more than that. I know I did.

So go. See. Read: The Ultimate Guide To Stress Management. You’ll be glad you did.



Leadership Move #15: Be Bolder

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Here are seven leadership moves to help you be bolder, more easily:

  1. Purposefully Push The Envelope –
    Show what you’ve got…and to see what happens. You can always apologize (mop up?!) later if someone thinks you went too far. (Remember: You have been given leadership responsibility for a reason – so lead.)
  2. Be More Visible –
    Let them get to know who you really are and what you really stand for. People, at all levels, are going to form their opinions about you, anyway, so you might as well have a say in what they decide. (Always participate. If you don’t provide input at the meetings you attend, you are actively diluting your brand – whether you think so or not.)
  3. Keep Focused On What People Are Counting On You For –
    Be relentless in delivering EXACTLY that…up, down, and across the chain. (Knowing your entire business, not just the part you’re responsible for, provides great clarity in knowing exactly what that ‘exactly’ is.)
  4. Take A Stand –
    Get passionate about possibilities…especially with peers and superiors. Let them know you’re alive, engaged, and ready to make some magic happen. (Volunteer and seek out special projects you believe in, as well.)
  5. Jump In Sooner, Rather Than Later – You don’t always have to wait for everyone to stop talking before saying something…learn how to interrupt politely. (It’s not always rude to intrude. Watch any good tv interviewer to learn how. Watch any lousy tv interviewer to learn how NOT to!)
  6. Innovate Through Experimentation – Dare to try new things. Don’t be afraid to fail…you’ll get more mileage from applying your Lessons Learned on subsequent problems and opportunities than you will from just dutifully taking the safe route. (Even a small scale pilot or test program can provide surprising value, regardless of its outcome.)
  7. Enjoy Yourself –
    People want to work with people who want to work. So help them realize that you want to work by showing them how much you enjoy the work you do…even if it isn’t always the case! (Modeling enthusiasm and effective ‘mood management’ are very powerful leadership techniques. Show ’em how.)

When you’re bolder in your interactions with others – they’ll respect you for shaking things up…and they’ll see you as someone capable of even greater things.

A word of warning, though: Be sure to do so RESPECTFULLY, though. Otherwise, you’ll likely be seen as more of a liability than a potential asset.

 


You Are More Than Just That One Slice

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Who here, among us, ‘defines’ themselves in terms of their ‘weakest’ parts? I know I do. Sometimes, anyway. More than certainly serves me, I’ll say.

Which is why I’ve been recently thinking about the labels we give ourselves – and others, for that matter. Smart. Dumb. Introverted. Extroverted. Me. You. Us. Them.

Why do we do that? What purpose do they serve?

Labels Simplify Our Worldview

Life’s complex. So if I can simplify it, in any way – like reducing the intricacies of an entire human being down to one single word – well, that’d be helpful, right? Efficient, maybe, but not necessarily helpful.

Indeed, the more we get to know about someone – including ourselves – the harder it is to label them accurately. We’re all more than just one thing and any one label we use will likely mask all sorts of other attributes they help to define us – and others – more accurately.

Labels ‘Complexify’ Our Worldview

It’s ironic, but true. the labels we use to simplify things often end up inadvertently complicating them – especially when we choose labels for ourselves that make us feel ‘less than’ and ‘not enough’.

Think about the language you use to privately describe yourself If you’re like most, there’s at least one part of yourself that you feel a little shame about. Don’t fret, it’s natural.

My point is that whatever words or terms you use to describe yourself in that way is a bad idea.

You see, labeling your WHOLE-self based on any particular ‘lesser’ part is not only inaccurate, but it’s doing your self-esteem a grave disservice – the WHOLE of you is, indeed, much, much more than just that one slice of the pie.

“Smart, Capable, AND Learning”

I won’t try to convince you to stop labeling yourself. (Not sure I could.) But if you’re going to give yourself a label, at least make it one that doesn’t deflate your esteem.

According to Nathaniel Branden, author of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, self-esteem is:

  1. confidence in our ability to think, confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life; and
  2. confidence in our right to be successful and happy, the feeling of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert our needs and wants, achieve our values and enjoy the fruits of our efforts.

“With high self-esteem,” he writes, “I am more likely to persist is the face of difficulties. With low self-esteem, I am more likely to give up or go through the motions of trying without really giving it my best. The value of self- esteem” lies not merely in the fact that it allows us to feel better but that it allows us to live better – to respond to challenges and opportunities more resourcefully and more appropriately.”

I’ll be writing more about self-esteem in the near future. In the meantime, though, let me suggest that you go order a pizza and think about what this means to you.

“You better cut the pizza in four pieces
because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”
– Yogi Berra