It’s unusual for a leadership coach and trainer to advocate lowering one’s standards, but these are unusual times. I talk about situational leadership in workshops all the time. As leaders, we must change our style to fit the experience of the people who we are leading and the importance of the task being done. Now I’m promoting situational standards.
I am not talking about changing our moral code. The standards that we hold for ourselves involving integrity, honesty, and transparency must not waver. I am talking about goals and expectations that we set for ourselves around achievement.
At the beginning of self-isolation, I created an ambitious list of things to accomplish both professionally and around my condo. I had categories and priorities. It was actually quite impressive! And I ignored it for the most part. I did what needed to be done, but not much more.
I beat myself up about my lack of motivation and achievement and then realized that I was truly doing the best that I could under the circumstances. I also realized that self-shaming was not helping. So, I lowered the bar on how I spent my time and how I felt.
First, I allowed myself to slow down quite a bit. Instead of maintaining a frenetic sense of achievement where I was always accomplishing something, I sat for short periods of time watching television or playing my beloved Plants vs. Zombies. I even added Sudoku to my repertoire. I still did what was necessary, but at a slower pace with more breaks. My productivity increased because I was more relaxed.
I also began with ambitious fitness goals that included using my stretchy resistance bands. I realized pretty quickly that those goals weren’t going to happen. The bands are still unstretched. So, I lowered the bar. When I stood up from working at the computer, I did five squats. When I passed through a doorway, I did 10 push-ups against the frame.
It doesn’t sound like much exercise, but even a little movement is an excellent antidote to malaise. When you start, you feel better. Then you can take on bigger goals. Now I’m incorporating yoga into my daily routine.
I am also talking about giving ourselves a break in maintaining our professional, calm demeanor. Of course, we never want to lose our cool, but these are some stressful times that challenge us physiologically (which we will discuss next week). When we feel that we are about to say or do something that could damage a relationship, it’s okay to call for a break or take a walk. We leaders are humans, with limits that are lower in stressful times.
If we do say or do something that we regret, it’s important to acknowledge it, apologize, and revisit the discussion in a calmer way. It’s best to apologize immediately and ask for a break, but if that’s not possible for you, those steps can be taken after stepping away and calming down.
Of course, all of this applies at home, as well. Right now, we are spending an inordinate amount of time with family. It’s natural to get on one another’s nerves. Add on the stressful feelings we all have about the pandemic, and we have created a volatile emotional cocktail. I can only imagine the added stress of homeschooling. I did homeschool my boys for a few years and know the work it involves under normal circumstances. I feel great empathy for parents. You can do this!
Our world is already different, and great leaders change as needed. We will come out on the other side as transformed as our society. None of us knows exactly what that will look like, but it’s important to give ourselves a break during the transition.
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