Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Morning Wake-Up: Every leader's internal battle

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#195  ::  October 17, 2011  
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Every leader's internal battle 

As leader, it's your job to achieve the right outcomes in every part of the company.
I call them the Four Business Outcomes: productivity, profitability, staff retention and customer loyalty. In just a few words, I defined the role of leader. If only being a leader was that simple. It's not. Leadership is hard. Leadership is a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows, wins and losses, joy and tears. And within every leader, a battle rages between heart and mind. The heart represents emotions. The mind represents clarity and logic. Together, they mix about as well as oil and water.

To understand the complexity of the battle between heart and mind, consider what happens when you need to make a tough decision. Tough decisions (mind) always impact the lives of others (heart). Consider how you feel when your mind is telling you that the performance of someone you really like just isn't where it needs to be - and there are no signs that it ever will be. Your mind is telling you exactly what to do. Your heart is fighting back with all of the emotions of a potential lost friendship, how it may break his or her spirit, the financial hardship of a loss of income - and all the drama and negativity that may surround your decision. To ignore the situation is a compromise. To go no-compromise is hard.

What if, like medications, leadership came with a warning of side effects? "If you choose to accept this job, you may experience extreme stress, anxiety, negativity, disdain from others, and other gut-wrenching experiences." Would you have taken the job? Of course you would - just like you take medications knowing the side affects.

Here are some no-compromise strategies to help you manage your internal battle between heart and mind:
  • Recognize it early: You can feel when our hearts and mind begin to battle. When you allow the battle to rage on, it dials up internal stress that's almost impossible to conceal. By recognizing it early, you can position whatever triggered the battle as a task to address. It doesn't matter how complex the matter is, it is a task that found its way onto your plate. Tasks require you to assess, plan and execute on a timeline. Heart and mind battles are less stressful when recognized and managed early.
  • Get it off your plate: It's one thing to recognize and acknowledge the battle. It's another to get it off your plate. Your mind wants a resolution. Your heart wants to argue each and every "what if." The longer the battle continues, the more disruptive and damaging it gets. No-compromise leaders are compassionate and caring - but their ultimate accountability is to the well-being of the company. This means finding a balance between heart and mind to arrive at a resolution. The heart keeps the resolution from being rushed. The mind keeps it from lingering on. The longer it stays on your plate, the more it distracts you and everyone else in the company from doing great work.
  • Please the company first: If you please the company first, you can please everyone else - employees, customers, vendors and the community. I see too many leaders get caught up in what others want (heart) and the company pays the price. FACT: Leaders can't please everyone all of the time. Not every decision will be greeted with "Woo hoos." There will be times when unpopular decisions are best for the company. No-compromise leaders are prepared to make those decisions because only a healthy and enduring company can take care of everyone who depends on it.
  • Know your center: There are leaders who are all about the results (mind). There are leaders who are compassionate to the core (heart). And there are no-compromise leaders who seek a balance between both extremes. The gravity or nature of a situation may cause your center to shift. At times, more compassion is the best course. Other times may require the clarity of logic. It's what makes you human and real. But knowing how far to shift from center is what defines you as a leader.
  • Wins and losses: I've made some pretty darn good decisions over the years, and I've had my share of bloopers. I believe that the best decisions were made when my heart and mind were working together rather than against each other. Leaders make decisions. That's our job. Keeping the internal battle between heart and mind under control is the best strategy to rack up more wins than losses.
The good news is that your heart will forgive you when you make a blooper.
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Please share your thoughts with me about today's Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click here to comment.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

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