As leaders, we can get caught up in the daily stressors and problems that come with being in charge. The impact of having a continuous loop of stressors can feel untenable and overwhelming, especially if you don't have a framework to help you effectively deal with the ongoing demands. To better understand how leaders can shift their thinking to lead with ease and create a healthier and thriving organization, I spoke to my friend Susie Moore.
A former Silicon Valley sales director, Moore is now a highly-respected author, international confidence coach, and expert advisor for major media outlets. In her new podcast and latest book, Let It Be Easy, she shares her insights and real-life wisdom to help us reduce the stress that bogs us down, and create more peace and power so we can perform better at work and in life.
Our work is complementary, but the experiences we bring to bear are vastly different. My background as a clinical social worker and trauma consultant informs my work as a business consultant. I have decades of experience helping individuals and organizations improve relationships and interactions through better communication. Moore's wisdom, however, comes from direct experience with complex personal trauma that started at a young age. It taught her that how we think about a situation directly affects how we cope with it. She has a curious mind and an innate understanding of human behavior.
Here are the top three takeaways for leaders from our conversation.
Understand how your self-awareness impacts your interpretations of events.
Self-awareness is when we are self-reflective, seeking to better understand ourselves and how we interact with our environment. "When you increase your awareness, you raise your consciousness," says Moore, "and then everything becomes a little easier because we are more compassionate and connected."
"We see the world and whatever's going on as external, outside of us, but it's not," says Moore. "It's filtered by our own belief system." We tell ourselves a story to help us interpret a comment or situation, but that story is not always accurate. "We're not taught that we get to decide how we interpret news, personal events, and outside information. But we do, in fact, get to decide how we feel about a situation, and we can question our own thinking."
Her point is well taken because with self-awareness comes an understanding of what is going on around you, allowing you to make more conscious and educated decisions. When you understand how you feel about a situation, why it works for you and why it doesn't, you can see how we impact others and how they impact us. Self-awareness is the first tool I teach participants in my online program "The Communication Protocol," because it is impossible to engage in healthy conversations and productive interactions if you have limited self-awareness.
Envision the future and communicate that vision to your entire team.
Many leaders have a vision for their organization but drop the ball by not clearly communicating that vision to the team, and that omission is costly. Failing to inform your team of your new ideas and direction creates a disconnect within your organization. Instead of all working towards a common goal, your team is now working in opposition to one another.
"Leaders who are effective, who retain great teams, are constantly thinking and communicating about what's next," says Moore. "They need to see what can be, that doesn't exist yet. In fact, their communication about what's next is so clear that when asked about the company's vision, every team member gives a similar answer. Having a vision, communicating it clearly, and having everyone on board is very powerful."
Clear communication, especially about the company's direction, creates a lighter, more communicative workplace culture that frees you up to grow your organization.
Accept that difficult conversations are a necessary part of being a leader.
"As a leader, having those tough conversations is what you signed up for, and you need to be able to have those conversations," says Moore. "You are not unlucky. When there's news to break for the team, or a change in direction, something that you know people won't be happy about, it helps to keep coming back to the vision and remind your team that you are all working towards the same goal."
My advice to help leaders start those challenging interactions is to give the other person the benefit of the doubt and approach it from the perspective of wanting to have a conversation and seeking clarification, rather than viewing it as a confrontation. Moore agrees that a mindset shift is important. "When leaders can understand and accept that difficult conversations are inevitable, then there's less resistance toward it because they know it's just part of the job."
We would all rather avoid tough conversations sometimes, but they do come with the leadership territory, and when you take stock of the damage and losses that occur when there is a lack of communication, it can be eye-opening. For example, a Fortune 500 company I worked with had a number of team leaders that did not work well together. The company lost money because manufacturing, operations, and production did not talk to each other. So projects were late, customers were not happy, and sales people became frustrated. When no one knows how to have difficult conversations, they don't happen, and the underlying problems continue to eat away at your profits.
As leaders, initiating difficult conversations requires a shift in your thinking and the ability to turn towards the other person or team, with a desire to get along for the sake of the bigger picture -- which, most often, is the organization. The bigger picture becomes the motivation for communicating better, increasing your self-awareness, and sharing your vision.
When we practice self-awareness, we are better equipped to make educated decisions instead of impulsive ones when daily stressors and issues arise. As leaders, we must recognize that we get to choose how to respond to challenging situations.
"It's a privilege to be a leader, to be responsible for other people, to be responsible for outcomes, and to be the person that's really making decisions," says Moore. "So we can never take that for granted."
When we communicate our vision effectively, our team knows what to expect, and everyone works towards the same goal. As a result, the workplace environment is lighter and more communicative and open, even when faced with challenges. These factors then guide your thinking about daily stressors and problems, and enable you to be a more effective leader.
Do you see how our mindset influences our decisions? That's the essence of Moore's message and the best way to find ease in leadership and create a thriving organization. As Moore says, let it be easy!