The key to cultivating the next leaders of your organization is to work every day to help the candidates get what they need in order to make their next steps. By “cultivation,” I mean gardening – not training, grooming or developing. Cultivation takes time, sunshine, water and manure.
You should require candidates to make the same investment of themselves. Any potential leader who isn’t willing to do that should be removed from your list.
Many small business leaders concentrate on what they’ve been told they need to do in the workplace: develop vision and goals, bring in new clients, oversee daily details and monitor monthly earnings. Their meetings focus on tasks and tactics, on the urgent and daily business.
The key is offering yourself and your time – continuously, honestly and frankly. Give up your excuses for not doing this personal, on-going mentoring, such as “too busy, don’t like emotion and personal interactions, I’m a big picture person, the worthy people will learn by themselves.”
Leaders set the tone for the whole workplace. Like a deadly infection, your emotions and reactions are catching. Generals who panic will create panicky troops. It’s the same at work.
No, you can’t be yourself if you overreact to sudden changes, crises, bad news or big mistakes. Your team will also overreact and blow it if you act:
Over reactors always have excuses for why they must react the way they do. But remember the fire drill that every public figure, including athletes and celebrities, must learn in order to be followed – keep your head, have fortitude, persevere.
Don’t get sucked into any situation as if it’s life-or-death, no matter how important you’re afraid it is. Step back, put it in a long-term context that restores your spirit, and start thinking and strategizing.
Sometimes a walk around the block is enough; sometimes you have to talk it out in order to see the big picture; sometimes you simply have to give up fear and control, and just go for it.
An effective attitude begins with, “We can handle this. Here’s my plan.” Or you first go to the appropriate leaders, develop the best plan you can and then spread it to the troops.
You need a plan, but you don’t need a perfect, 10-year plan. Don’t become immobilized by over planning.
By the way, “all-staff” meetings carry an underlying message of overreaction – unless there’s been a public disaster and everyone needs to see the leader calmly, energetically and resolutely explaining the plan for dealing with the situation.
Otherwise, have the manager of each team champion the plan with determination.
Practice courage and strength by taking on challenges and risks. Be capable of rallying yourself from setbacks and handling seemingly overwhelming crises, or let someone else lead in the face of adversity.
There is an upside; leaders can also set the tone for the good. Like inherited immunity, calm, vigor and stamina are also catching. When you’re spirited and resolute, you’re testing everyone else. People who continue overreacting have to be weeded out before they infect your workplace.
You probably wouldn’t have many second thoughts about dismissing an employee who’s extremely unproductive or behaves outrageously.
But what about an employee whose performance is mediocre, but not horrible? Or whose behavior is bad, but not outrageous? That can be a tougher call. But ignoring these problems can have a huge negative impact on productivity, morale and your career as a leader.
How do you know whether to let the situation continue or when it’s time to give him a last chance to straighten out before you remove him?
As his department head, you can see Carl’s problems and the unhappiness of your other managers. But you can also see the benefits Carl brings. He’s technically skilled and admired by people who don’t work with him. He’d be difficult to replace.
When Carl is gone, your credibility will increase and you’ll get lots of positive feedback. Other managers will heave a great sigh of relief. There’ll be a decrease in insubordination, tension and complaining. Sick-leave and turnover will also decrease. People will thank you and tell you more stories about how bad it really was.
What do you do after you’ve been hit hard and knocked down by life? What do you do after your dreams have been shattered? What do you do after you’ve been rejected or lost everything? What do you do when you’ve been defeated? What do you do when you realize you chose an abusive bully and you don’t know how to protect your kids? The wisdom of the ages, from all traditions and cultures, gives the same answer, even if the reasons are very different.
In “The Ghost and the Darkness,” Val Kilmer plays a British engineer trying to build a bridge across a river in Africa. Two lions, accurately named “The Ghost” and “The Darkness” begin stalking and killing the men building the bridge. The lions outsmart every attempt to trap and kill them.
Finally, Val Kilmer develops a brilliant plan to trap one of the lions in a railroad car. They do trap the lion but he escapes, burning down the car. Kilmer is devastated and defeated.
The killings mount until the workers start leaving. They hire a skilled hunter, Michael Douglas, who is also caustic and sarcastic. At the climax to the first half of the movie, when the hunter sees Kilmer’s dejection and hears of Kilmer’s failed plan, he says, “There’s an old saying in boxing, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get hit and knocked down. Then the plan goes out the window. What matters is what you do after you’ve been hit and knocked down. Do you stay down or do you get up and fight again?’”
There it is. Kilmer faces his plans in ashes and his life as a failure because the men will leave, the bridge will be abandoned and he’ll never get another job.
The tension comes to a head when Douglas has a plan but the lions outsmart him and kill all the wounded men in the hospital. Douglas, the great hunter, is devastated and defeated. In total, the lions killed over a hundred men.
Kilmer says to him, “There’s an old saying in boxing, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get hit and knocked down. Then the plan goes out the window. What matters is what you do after you’ve been hit and knocked down. Do you stay down or do you get up and fight again?’”
There it is; the point of the movie; the point for all of us in the real world. Will we be defeated by defeat, will we give up when we’re back to square-one, will we give up when life is unfair or too destructive for us or will we get up and fight again, build again?
We, who don’t face killer lions everyday, still do face risk and disaster everyday by:
Natural forces – tsunami, earthquake, hurricane, prolonged drought or flood.
Even the smaller failures growing up can seem like disaster – we fail a test or a course, we’re rejected or dumped by someone gorgeous or handsome, our secrets are spread over school or the internet, we don’t make a team we’d hoped for or counted on, we don’t get into the school of our choice, our parents don’t or can’t give us the latest stuff, the cool kids scorn us, we do something really embarrassing.
Our children face the same questions repeatedly: Will we be defeated by defeat; will we give up when we’re back to square-one; will we give up when life is unfair or too destructive for us or will we get up and fight again, build again?
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” Eleanor Roosevelt.
Notice, I ignored whether Douglas and Kilmer finally kill the lions. Yes that’s important to building the bridge and to the material parts of their lives. But that’s not important to the human spirits of Kilmer and Douglas being great because they’re undefeated by defeat; to them having the indomitable will to continue, no matter the obstacles and not knowing whether they’ll succeed. Okay; the factual resolution is that the Ghost and the Darkness are now preserved in the Field Museum in Chicago – and they did kill that many people.
“Strength comes not from physical capacity. It comes from indomitable will,” Gandhi.
Notice, I also ignored the historical implications of colonialism. Of course, that’s there, but that’s not the main point for my life.
The point is to use the movie to stimulate in me the greatest that I can be. There are thousands of heroes and heroines, real and fictional, who can remind us to get up off the floor when life has knocked us down. The point is to use everything I see and hear to inspire me to choose whether to live a selfish, shabby, sordid story or a great and worthy story; to chose to be the hero of my life.
“Glory is not in never having been knocked down. Glory is in rising up again, each time you are knocked down,” Vince Lombardi.
Self-bullying perfectionism can suck the joy out of success and ruin our lives. It’s one of the worst forms of negative self-talk.
We know that harassing, abusive, inner voice that focuses only on what we didn’t do perfectly according to some old standard that was shoved down our throats when we were children. It has the most horrible, bullying tone when it picks on our emotions, spirit and flesh. It’s all-or-none when it reminds us of the 1% we didn’t do perfectly according to our parents’ standards for us. It’s full of should ‘a, could ‘a, would ‘a.
It makes us 100% responsible for every problem; it points out how we never do enough, give enough, say enough. It’s demeaning, smug and sarcastic. It stacks up every mistake we ever made or failure we ever had. Of course it knows every hot button and self-hatred trigger we have. It can generate blame, shame and guilt in an instant.
The effects of perfectionistic self-flagellation are obvious – increased anxiety, stress and depression; a sense of failure even in the midst of success and happiness; a foreboding about the future that leads to desperation and panic; insecurity, self-doubt, lack of confidence and low self-esteem. Especially debilitating is the internal argument with the side that puts us down relentlessly and the side that tries to defend us – usually weaker and defensive, especially when we’re tired or getting sick or alone and lonely.
Perfectionism guarantees inner emptiness, pain and self-loathing. No matter how much we succeed, no matter how much we’re praised, it’s never enough to heal our inner wounds. That inner voice always reminds us that we’re imposters, failures who’ll be unmasked eventually. We’re like hamsters spinning our wheels; afraid that if we slow down, disaster awaits losers like us.
Nit-picking perfectionism turned outward can help us succeed by harassment, bullying and abuse of others. But turned inward, it’s an incapacitating method of judging our self-worth.
Whether people in our childhoods were simply mean, nasty and rotten; whether they thought they had to protect us from the character flaws they saw in us; whether that was the only way they knew how to express love and caring, or how to motivate us doesn’t matter much now that we’re adults.
Once we’ve overcome the internal war over perfectionism and how to motivate ourselves, we can decide what we think about them and how we want to interact with them now, if at all. We set the standards of acceptable behavior and how people talk with each other – about what and when. We’re in charge of our adult personal spaces.
Those relentless, childhood put-downs and bullying by our parents, siblings, classmates or other people led us to split into two warring sides. One side took on the perfectionistic, self-bully voice; we continue beating ourselves down long after we’ve left those people or even after they’re dead. The other side argued and defended us against the attacks. It champions our success and tries to affirm our strength and a wonderful future that’s possible. It often asserted itself by making us mutiny against what those tormentors told us to do; whether that’s really good for us or not.
When we accomplish this, our paths open up. Our internal self-talk stops being negative and becomes encouraging and strengthening. We develop realistic goals and expectations. We motivate ourselves by desire for the future we want instead of by avoiding the pain of old wounds lacerated. We decide what’s good enough. We and can enjoy our success and happiness.
According to the article, 13 year-old Hope sent a photo of her breasts to a boy she liked. Bad choice. A rival girl saw the photo on the boy’s phone and forwarded it to other students. The photo went viral. Like piranhas, mean girls and vicious boys at the schools joined the general feeding frenzy. Hope was accosted as a “whore” and harassed for more nude photos at her school and also at a Future Farmers of America Conference.
Let’s focus on only three aspects of this terrible situation:
The middle school has a policy against sexting and disciplined Hope: Suspension and loss of honors and privileges. But, even though the principal and teachers were aware of the taunting, harassment and bullying, there is no report that they did anything to the predators – No all-school meetings about how wrong the behavior is; no follow-up with the police to see who was illegally forwarding the nude photos; no action in the cafeteria when Hope was being harassed by other students. Even though they knew what was happening, there was no extra vigilance to protect Hope from the attacks.
They did follow up with Hope’s parents to explain their punishment of her, but they took no action to stop the mean girls and vicious boys. Also, they never called Hope’s parents when they found out that she was cutting herself.
There’s no much you can do once a feeding frenzy has started, but the legitimate authorities at school and the police can be talking to the kids and their parents. You must make an attempt to rally parents and students to stop the attacks, even though you think Hope was a dope.
Hope’s diary and conversations with her friends were full of self-bullying. This negative, critical self talk destroys self-esteem and self-confidence. Self-bullying makes any kind of setback or embarrassment into a humiliating catastrophe that seems to destroy the child’s life forever. Looked at through self-bullying eyes, the future will seem hopeless, the person helpless to redeem herself. As Hope wrote, “Secretly TONS of people hate me.” That’s the wrong conclusion to draw.