By Andrew McConnell, Young Entrepreneur Council
CREDIT: Getty Images
Even more important than your external response is your internal response.
I recently faced a very difficult week, both personally and professionally. I received a text informing me that my grandmother, who had moved out of the ICU the day before, had passed away just I was getting on the phone to discuss some of the logistics around my co-worker’s departure from our company. It was a lot to process all at once.
There was a time when I would have interpreted this double-whammy as the universe conspiring against me. I would begin to only see the other things going wrong in my life and quickly find myself in a downward spiral. As the CEO of my company, this could have easily rubbed off on those around me and taken the company’s performance with it. But this time was different. I understood that I could not change the realities of either event, but I could and did control how I perceived them.
Rather than wallow in the sadness of my grandmother being gone, I chose to celebrate her life and to be grateful for the 36 years of it I was lucky enough to share. Likewise, I could have focused on what my co-founder’s absence might mean for our business. Or I could reflect on an incredible half-decade together and all we have accomplished in that time. It wasn’t that I was ignoring reality. I simply actively chose what part of that reality would receive the greater portion of my mindshare.
This is a critical skill to develop as a founder, a CEO — or really as a human. We all constantly face a barrage of ups and downs. Subject yourself to the vagaries of every perceived change in fortune, and you can easily find yourself burned out or triggering a downward spiral. This not only takes its toll on you but also on those who are looking to you as a leader.
Alternatively, take control over the one thing you can control (your own mindset) and you can dictate the lens you put on an event or series of events. Despair and misery are contagious, but so are excitement and positivity. Choose to be a contagious force for good at the office, at home and with your friends.
Tactically, I have found the following steps to be helpful:
Taste the Kool-Aid.
I am in no way suggesting you should bury your head in the sand and ignore the reality of the situation. Bad things and great things can happen to you in business and in life. And they will. You have to be mentally and emotionally present when they do. Don’t ignore the highs or lows or become numb to them. Recognize them for what they are, and embrace them … for a moment.
But don’t get drunk on it.
Once you have a taste of the situation, decide for yourself how you want to respond. Even more important than your external response is your internal response. How will you view the situation? Control this, and your external response will follow suit. A co-founder leaving is jarring. My co-founder was very thoughtful about making sure that the transition went smoothly, making himself available every step of the way. Being able to bring in someone the team already knows and respects can make a big difference. Bringing in someone who is just as well-known and highly respected within your industry is even better. We were fortunate enough that such an opportunity presented itself with a long-term customer of ours.
Make sure others around you see and hear your response.
As a CEO and/or founder, remember that people are always watching you and looking to you to better understand how they should respond in turn. Make a pained facial expression or say, “Oh no!” and you’ve set the tone one way. Smile and say with confidence, “We’ve got this,” and the chances others will also have a positive reaction increase dramatically.
Unfortunate things will still happen. This is a fact, one that none of us can change. What we can change and control is how we respond to these unfortunate occurrences and the example we set for those around us.
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