That’s a pretty heavy title! But, if you’re in the business world, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Today’s hypercompetitive, lay-off –happy, and over-connected society has created some of the most cutthroat competition and business practices than most of us have ever seen.
The root causes are many . . . globalization, increased information flow, higher customer demands, increasing and conflicting priorities, economic uncertainty, etc., etc. Need I go on?
The real issue here is these volatile “storms” are NOT going away any time soon, if ever. This is the world we now live in. This is the reality we face.
And, apart from checking into your cave or living on your own tropical island, there is NOTHING you can do to control it. But you do have a choice.
The “Calm in the Storm” or the “Eye of the Storm”
While we can’t control what is happening, we CAN control our choices and our mindsets. In fact, it’s the only thing we DO have under our control.
So given today’s bumpy – and unavoidable – business climate, we can choose one of two paths. We can become the “Calm in the Storm” by keeping the situation in perspective, relying on facts and focusing on solutions. Or we can choose to be swept away and be caught in the “Eye of the Storm” with its destructive funnel-like focus on self-preservation and swirling rumors.
Putting it this way, clearly we all would rather be the “Calm in the Storm.” But let’s be honest, it’s a lot easier said than done. And those that have mastered this control are the ones we look to as leaders. Think about it, how we behave under pressure is often the truest barometer of our ability to lead.
So how do we become the “Calm in the Storm” and learn to channel our actions to serve our companies and teams as leaders in the “battle.” The answer is . . . ‘Proper’ Perspective.
What is Proper Perspective?
Let’s start off with a very simple, real-life illustration most of us have encountered. Two drivers on their way to work each get a flat tire. The first motorist’s whole day is ruined. He mumbles about his rotten luck for hours, spreading blame wherever he can and accomplishing very little at work. The other driver, however, treats the flat tire as a minor inconvenience. He has it repaired and quickly moves on, proceeding to address the rest of the day’s challenges in an equally productive manner.
Each encountered the exact same problem but each chose to react very differently.
The difference in their reactions was based on their perspective of the situation. The first motorist viewed the flat tire as a major “catastrophe” and himself as a “victim.” The second motorist viewed the flat as an inconvenience and himself as the “fixer” by handling it and moving on.
So here’s the crux . . .
Proper Perspective is all about viewing things in their true relation or relative importance.
7 Steps to Achieving and Maintaining Perspective
I want to be clear. Achieving and maintain proper perspective is a learned activity that EVERYONE can achieve. Here’s how.
- Validate if “the sky is really falling” before you start running for shelter!
You’ve heard of people trying to predict the end of the world? I think we’re all here to tell them they’re wrong! The point is to seek out the WHOLE truth BEFORE you take action on something. What if a “demand” from your boss wasn’t really a “demand” but more of a suggestion? How much additional work could you have avoided if you only validated and verified before you took steps? So take the extra step . . . validate and verify before you “take shelter.”
- Never lose sight of what’s MOST important to you.
Be clear on your priorities and know what REALLY matters to you? I’m talking personally here. Know the answer to this and keep it at your core. It will become your calming cornerstone and help guide you in keeping things in perspective. It will also help you from unnecessarily over-reacting.
- Never lose sight of the key priorities for the business.
Just as important as your personal calming cornerstone, you need the same guideline for business priorities. I hear you now. The “boss” is constantly shifting priorities depending on the latest “fire” and you can’t keep up. I get it. We’ve all been there. But if you lose sight on what to tackle first, you must have the courage to get help. If not, you will literally be running around “like a chicken with your head cut off.”
- Work hard, but play hard too.
What’s the old saying, “Work to Live, not Live to Work.” It’s easy to lose sight of this fact in the “heat of the workplace battle.” But you need work/life balance and the opportunity to connect with what’s most important to you. If you’ve forgotten how, it’s time to “get back on the bike.” For starters, transition back into it by “treating your play” like work. What do I mean by that? Schedule time for play! And stick to your schedule! Eventually, playing will become part of your normal routine again.
- Feed the “calm” and not the “storm.”
Focus on resolution and what you can control versus the emotional baggage that might come with issues you face. Emotions, especially negative ones, will NOT help you resolve issues. Instead, they will stand in your way. Hone in on the problem and resolve objectively. And help others, who DO carry emotional baggage into the situation, to do the same.
- The only person who truly has power OVER you, is YOU!
It is easy to convince ourselves that the environment controls us. But, in reality, this is NOT true. We can CHOOSE how we react to what comes our way. And if we see it as a negative, then it WILL be a negative. But if we see it for what it is – and nothing more – than it will simply be ‘what it is’ and NOTHING more. Ultimate power is realizing you can choose – and control – your perspective.
- Believe that it will ALL work out at the end of the day.
I’d like you to reflect back on the worst times in your life. I’m sure they were dark and full of pain. While I don’t mean to trivialize them, you are still standing today, aren’t you? And chances are, those tough times made you tougher, wiser and stronger. Hang in there, hang tough, keep proper perspective. It will work itself out at the end of the day!
My Perspective Challenges to You
Irving Berlin, one of the most celebrated composers of all times summed up the primary benefit of perspective in this way: “Life is 10% what you make it, and 90% how you take it.”
Your leadership challenge as an executive: Keep Proper Perspective for yourself and be aware – and address – any conflicts or situations that could break down proper perspective for the organization, teams and employees.
Your leadership challenge as an employee: Keep Proper Perspective and have the courage to challenge others, including managers, when the “eye of the storm” conflicts with business goals and productivity.
My friends, I’m here to tell you that perspective keeps you productive, reduces stress and contributes to greater self-fulfillment. Try it. You’ll like it. Trust me.