How to Lead When Your World Is Falling Apart
I like this quote from a pastor named Steve Furtick: "The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." It resonates with me, especially during times when my behind the scenes is a mess. Like a few months ago.
Publicly I was doing great. I was putting myself first. My company was growing by leaps and bounds. If you were my competitor watching my every move, you'd probably be terrified. And yet, I was suffering through my second miscarriage, and struggling to get through each day. While I was sad after my first miscarriage, I was absolutely devastated after my second. And yet, I had a family to take care of, an image to uphold--and a company to run. Even though I wanted to stick my head in the sand and hide, I forced myself to move forward.
I'd imagine you've also had times when you felt like your world is falling apart--or maybe you're currently feeling that way, even if your social media profiles don't show the slightest sign of sadness. Through my experience, I have a few tips that I think will help you work through your challenges and come out on top:
Be transparent and lean on your team.
I didn't tell everyone at my company, Likeable Media, what I was going through, but I did tell my seven direct reports. I was very matter of fact and didn't ask for sympathy; I simply let them know that I was struggling and needed some help. And they stepped up big time. When I couldn't spearhead and present a big $250,000-a-year tech client pitch, my team pulled it all together--and won. One of the major lessons I've learned in life is to never be afraid to ask for help. You'll be amazed at the result, and it will compel you to help others when you see that they need some as well.
Throw yourself in when you can, step out when you can't.
In this case, I found that immersing myself in work really helped me get through. When it feels like your world has stopped dead in its tracks, sometimes the best solution is to move faster and harder. I focused on work and was productive. However, in 2010 when I experienced a death in the family, I stepped out instead. And the company was better for it. For me, either being fully in or fully out is the answer. Being in the middle leaves me distracted and more stressed.
Find a silver lining.
If you believe that there is a positive reason for everything that happens in your life, the world seems a lot prettier. I have found it's a gift to have the ability to see the silver lining in all things--even a client screw-up, delayed train, divorce, or worst of all, death. Choosing to embrace optimism makes you a better leader and a happier person. This doesn't mean that it's time to lose a grip on what's really happening, it just means that what's happening is here--today--and how you react to it is a choice. I opted to see my miscarriages as the universe saying it wasn't time for me to have another baby--that it was time for me to focus on building Likeable. This helped me be more passionate in presentations to my team, and more focused on working toward my goals. You can work through tough times if you see them as a gateway to greater times ahead.
It's never easy to experience challenges. And really, there's no magical remedy for getting through them. But I hope my story can help you believe that everyone has personal stuff that affects professional life--that it's normal, and that there is an end in sight.
How do you lead through difficult times? Let me know in the comments below.