If there's one thing I can't tolerate on my team, it's negative people. Negativity is an instant culture killer. Those who constantly focus on the worst-case scenario are toxic to be around. But I'm not exempt from finding myself in a negative mindset. When life throws your unexpected challenges (or global pandemics) and everywhere you turn is more bad news after the next, staying positive can seem like an insensitive luxury. Yet it's exactly during these times when leaders have to exude confidence that things will be okay.
Gloom is not a game plan. There are times when it's okay to wallow, and there are times when you need to step up and move forward. The only way to do that successfully is to change your perspective.
Here are three strategies I implement when navigating hardships.
1. Set a 'negativity deadline.'
When things go sideways, the first reaction is often panic followed by pity. As a leader, you're likely used to having a sense of control and certainty, yet we all know that in business -- and in life -- there is no such thing as a guarantee.
If a big client leaves, a key employee quits, or external issues impact your business dramatically, it's okay to feel down. You're a human being, not made of steel, and are therefore allowed to acknowledge your feelings.
However, what I've learned is that when life gives you lemons, set a time limit on the pity party. I set an alarm when I have to stop wallowing. Depending on the situation, it can be 20 minutes or 24 hours, but after the alarm goes off it's time to jump into action mode. Melancholy is not a motivator for you or your staff.
2. Look two quarters ahead.
I'm not suggesting you grab a glue stick and get to work on a vision board. However, there is something to be said about looking to the future. When you're in the thick of things, it can be hard to see the light. You're living minute to minute, paddling to keep your head above water.
When I'm in survival mode, I block off as much time as possible (even if it's 30 minutes) to write down where my company could be six months from now. Can we acquire more clients? Hire new staff? Implement a new marketing campaign? The answer is, of course, yes, which instantly calms my anxiety. Focus on the future, rather than the present.
3. Take a trip down memory lane.
As much as I want to look ahead, I also remember to look back. Now's the time to remember past wins, obstacles you've overcome, and big moments you are proud of. I've certainly had my share of challenges, mistakes, and failures. Yet I'm happy to report that both me and my business are still alive and kicking.
It's easy to forget the wins and remember the losses, but when you're in a negative headspace, don't forget what you've been through. I'm sure you have a much different perspective looking back on hardships than when you were living it, so let that be a reminder that you can truly get through anything.