Tackling Cold Fear at 4am and the Other Woes of the New Senior Leader
So this is what you’ve been working for; this is the job you’ve coveted, prepared for and done everything in your power to achieve. You’ve arrived and those who are meeting you as the one to whom they report, the one whom they must impress or deliver for are full of expectation. At the same time, the people who selected you for the job are watching; be it a Board or the next person up the food chain, they have invested in you. As a result, it feels like standing in a spotlight and is at once exhilarating and absolutely terrifying.
Of course, this isn’t just about you or the people at work. The kids love the new company car and the boost in family income is extremely welcome, but as the honeymoon period of the new arrival in the leadership role fades and the rubber of delivery hits the road, something unexpected is happening.
Over the few weeks and months since you took up your new post, you’ve noticed that your fuse is shorter and once peaceful sleep is being interrupted by wakeful and fretful hours wondering whether if, as you suspect, that junior colleague is about to royally screw up the task you gave them, that your subordinates looking up and your appointers looking down will be putting their first black marks against your name.
All of this is absolutely natural, by the way, although no one will tell you so because they are just as worried about the state of their own halos.
Here are some facts to remember when you’re new in a demanding leadership role:
1) Leadership is 90% culture. That’s another way of saying that the way you think and they way that the organisation thinks need to align for it to be healthy for everyone.
2) As a senior leader, you can set the culture. If you’ve been used to being on the receiving end of a work culture over which you had little control, it can come as a huge surprise to discover that you are the one who is now setting the tone of that culture.
3) A workplace is made up of people. Yes, I’m aware how obvious that is, but it’s so obvious that we often forget to remember that people are people are people.
4)Your internal ‘culture’ as a leader will always show itself in the external culture you create. Fear will breed fear with the efficiency of an Ebola outbreak.
If all this is giving you a prickly feeling on the back of your neck, then welcome to the human race! Some of the greatest leaders from Abraham Lincoln to Winston Churchill have all been here before you. However, as Albert Einstein pointed out, you can’t solve a problem on the level of the problem. Fear cannot be conquered at the level of fear; like any business threat, it must be understood, disrupted and undermined, which is exactly what I do.
Getting into the space between stimulus and response, we understand the primitive fearful emotions being triggered and install a new habitual response that feeds a healthy internal culture that will show itself as a great workplace and home life culture. Fear recedes and awesome delivery becomes as straightforward as breathing.