Leadership & “Pickles”

Last week, I was helping one of my clients (a Board President of a Museum) work through a particularly challenging situation, and she said, “We’re really in a pickle!”
It made me smile.
First, I thought:  What an understatement!  But then, I thought:  How healthy!
Go with me here for a minute.
Think of a time when your Big Plans were moving along, and something negative happened that you were not counting on.  For some of you, this might have even happened TODAY!
When this occurs, where do your thoughts go?
  • Do you ever blame yourself or others?
  • Do you ever think, this isn’t fair?
  • Do you ever feel terrible thinking that you may have caused it, or that you should have done a better job of anticipating it?
  • Do you RE-act in fear (fear often shows up as anger, impatience, frustration, or withdrawal), because this is going to ruin your ability to deliver the success that you were envisioning?
The examples I’m thinking about are connected to professional situations, but this same dynamic also applies in our personal lives.
When these negative or unexpected things happen, I know that you will, of course, work to solve the problem – but it’s important to also frame our thoughts in a way that will make us most effective.
How we THINK, will affect how well we solve this problem today, and how well we can sustain our problem-solving skills over time and be the kind of leaders we aim to be.
If any of those “Do you ever” statements above sound familiar, here’s a suggested reframe:
It’s not about you.
Thinking that it IS about you, and listening to those negative voices will prevent you from moving forward.
I’m not saying that people don’t make mistakes.  We do, and we learn from them. However, if you are alive, if you are in business… having things “go wrong” comes with the territory.
Instead of beating yourself up, or dwelling on why this “happened to you,” try saying what I often suggest to my clients:
“Well, I’m not happy about this, but it’s a good thing I’m here to help solve/resolve this problem!”
Benjamin Zander reminds us in The Art of Possibility that in most cultures making a mistake is the worst thing you can do, and also that viewing mistakes in this manner is incredibly detrimental to innovation and our own creative processes.
Zander suggests that instead of getting dejected or paralyzed by mistakes, we instead exclaim loudly (or to ourselves) “How fascinating!” every time we make a mistake, or something goes “wrong.”
Think about that. Another mistake? How fascinating! Another opportunity to learn something just presented itself.
Another unlucky break? Well, let’s figure out what to do! Move forward.
So, the next time something happens, try re-framing your view, your thoughts, and your language to support and help you move forward – without the emotional baggage getting in the way.
And, now you can try this potentially transformational phrase: “We’re really in a pickle!”  (I KNOW that when you say it you will be smiling instead of grinding your teeth!)
To your success,
P.S – If you or your organization are in a “pickle” let’s get on the phone and talk!

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