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Why is it hard to stay positive?

Have you been in a situation recently where your life changed for the better? Perhaps you got a new job, were promoted, were asked to lead a new project, got engaged or even had a baby. It’s funny how these “good” situations can cause us so much stress.  We bought a new house recently and it has brought up lots of unexpected feelings and emotions for me.

One thing I have noticed personally, and with many of my clients, is that when positive things happen in our lives, we often move from joy and excitement to fear very quickly. It is common to start celebrating and then think, “Don’t get too happy as something bad is likely around the next corner.”

Why is it so hard for us to stay in a place joy and excitement? In her book Dare to Lead, Brene Brown explains that this happens because joy is actually the most vulnerable emotion we can feel. She states, “When we feel joy, it is a place of incredible vulnerability – it’s beauty and fragility  and deep gratitude and impermanence all wrapped up in one experience. When we can’t tolerate that level of vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding, and we immediately move to self-protection.” So, to avoid this place of deep vulnerability, when something good happens, we start preparing for the fall, the drop, the disappointment so we don’t get caught off-guard should it actually occur.

Is this a productive way to respond to joy? Absolutely not! As leaders, this perspective stops us from celebrating successes or providing well deserved recognition to our colleagues.  After all, we don’t want to celebrate too much or our employees will get complacent or start feeling too entitled. Right? Wrong!!! Recognition and celebrating success are key to employee engagement.

So what can we do to mitigate this knee-jerk reaction to joy? Here are my favorite strategies:

  • Recognize when fear, self-sabotage or a negative attitude wash over you and replace it with an emotion that feels better
  • Stop creating fake drama and unnecessary problems
  • Bask in the pleasure of your accomplishment and successes
  • Give yourself permission to feel joy, happiness and excitement for on-going periods of time (it’s your birth right!)
  • Celebrate successes with your team
  • Continuously provide timely recognition to those who have gone the extra mile
  • Practice gratitude for the accomplishment that you have worked hard to accomplish

Life is all about perspective. To reach your full potential as a leader, you have to be able to move beyond your fears and self-limiting beliefs. Think about Roger Bannister who broke the four minute mile which was believed to be physically impossible. Once he did it, others followed.

In 2013, Dutch researchers published a study in The Leadership Quarterly showing that a positive, happy leader is judged to be 132 percent more effective than a dour, negative one.

To reach your full potential as a leader you have to be able to be joyful and celebrate your accomplishments. While you won’t execute perfectly in a new role or a new situation, you have everything you need to be successful. You deserve to be happy and so does your team.

How is your fear holding you back in your leadership practice?

What can you do to shift your perspective and bring more celebration and fun back to the workplace?

If so, you are not alone. Most executives want their leaders to be more strategic but few people can clearly articulate what “being strategic” actually means! The reason is that strategy is both complex and multi-layered. In fact, there are three different components to being strategic. To help you to navigate the world of strategy, here are the three types:

  1. Strategic Thinking: This means that you take the time to think creatively about your business or your team. You challenge the status quo. You question assumptions. You define your vision and determine what future success looks like.
  2. Strategic Planning: This step moves your vision into a plan. You identify key goals and objectives to drive the business forward for the next 2-5 years.
  3. Strategic Implementation: Now it is time to implement your plan and move it into action. Ensure you hold your team accountable to move their goals forward.

So, are you strategic? Are you spending your time thinking, planning and implementing your vision? Here are a few tips (based on mistakes many leaders make) to help you to make strategy a regular part of your leadership practice:

  • Strategic Thinking: Schedule time twice a year to do some strategic thinking with your team. Plan an off-site to think about your business, your goals, your progress and be willing to challenge the status quo.
  • Strategic Planning: Create your strategic plan with your team. Keep the plan on a shared drive and refer to it regularly so people have clarity regarding their roles and responsibilities to move the plan forward.
  • Strategic Implementation: Weekly, run 15-minute meetings with your team to discuss specific action they will take to move your goals and objectives forward.

It is very common for leaders to get stuck doing daily, tactical activities. To ensure you don’t fall into that trap, open up your calendar and block off time to be strategic with your team. You might be surprised at the results that you will all achieve by investing this time to think, plan and implement like a pro!

Vanessa Judelman

Vanessa Judelman is an author, coach, and sought-after leadership expert. Over the past 20 years, she has created a proven formula to develop results-oriented leaders who feel empowered and confident in their job. Vanessa is the author of Mastering Leadership: What It Takes to Lead in Today’s Fast-Paced World. Order your copy here.

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