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Sustaining your Passion: It's a Leader's Job

By Cathy McCullough

    Tue, Sep 10, 2013 @ 09:30 AM Accountable Leaders & Teams

    Like it or not, you (as a leader) write your organization's stage play. Life is hard, and being a leader can be downright grueling. Hard times, tough decisions, people who won't do their work, focusing everyone on the common goal…a leader's job just isn't easy. I like to stress to leaders that one thing they are NOT responsible for is making other people 'happy.' Happiness is an inside job; no one can make someone else 'happy.' What leaders can do, though, is create an environment where everyone should be engaged to do what they do best. You do this by writing a great script and setting an incredible stage for success.

    I remember standing in my living room one stormy afternoon. Outside was blinded by hurling winds and rain. Tornado watches were being broadcast almost constantly. One minute it was allRhythm Systems Tornado just heavy rain and wind; the next minute, it was tornado sirens blaring. Upon hearing the burst of noise from the sirens, my two-year-old son immediately turned and intently focused on looking directly at me. It was as if his little face was saying, "Are we scared?...or not?" I smiled and suggested that we take a blanket and a picnic basket (which was packed with a few toys, flashlights, candles, a radio, etc.) into the center bathroom and pretend to go camping. (He loved it…)

    I share this story with you to share a key insight about leadership: Your employees will react to current reality much the same way that you react to it. If you let turbulent economic times get the best of you, then it'll get the best of your employees. If you allow loss of focus around what's important such as your Key Initiatives, your vision (BHAG), your Brand Promise, etc., then your employees won't remain focused on the right things, either. If you lose the courage to care, then your employees won't care anymore. But if you battle through challenges with a sense of determination and commitment, staying true to your Mission and to your Core Values, using your Core Purpose as your point of light and your BHAG as your inspiration for greater things to come, then your people will do the same. How you react begins to write the stage play of what life is like within the walls of your organization, whether things are going well or not. That stage play becomes your organization's culture.

    So, how do you stay passionate in difficult times? As you'll see below, there are really more ways than you might initially imagine. Which ones you select to do will depend on what stole your passion in the first place.

    •        Surround yourself with inspiring things.
    •        Surround yourself with inspiring people.
    •        Figure out how to renew your company's sense of Purpose.
    •        Review your Core Values.
    •        Re-energize your BHAG…and where it's taking you.
    •        Have open discussions about how your Brand Promise raises the bar toward greatness.
    •        Have a positive conversation with some or all of your people (Fireside chat, anyone?).
    •        Start changing one bad leadership habit into a good leadership habit.
    •        Give yourself a break. Go for a cup of coffee or read an article or thumb through a magazine that you've wanted to read for a while now.
    •        Remember why you started doing what you're doing in the first place. What's this journey all about? Get centered again.
    •        Answer the question: What do I want to be remembered for? Then, begin molding your life accordingly.
    •        Play a little bit.
    •        Surprise someone: Go to his or her office for a simple conversation. What are you passionate about? Do you get to do what you do best every single day? What should we do differently around here?
    •        Start an "Applause" file. Keep every kudo you get and review it from time-to-time to re-energize yourself.
    •        Smile more.
    •        Reclaim (even if in some small way) something you love to do, but have ignored.
    •        Recognize your impact on other people.
    •        Emphasize doing something you really want to do (even if it's just taking the first small step), and then pat yourself on the back as you make achievements along the way. (There's a difference between having a strong ego and having healthy self-awareness.)
    •        Ask the people around you why they like working at your organization (or within your division).
    •        Share with people what you admire about them vs. what's wrong with them.
    •        Ask yourself each morning: How can I add value to others today?
    •        Ask yourself each evening: How did I add value to others today? What might I do differently tomorrow?

    Do one or more of these and your passion will remain strong. Do none of them and your passion will become latent, misguided, or very misunderstood. Whichever way, you're writing a script about life within the walls of your company. Make it a great one.

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