"Just get me through today, please!"
Does that sound like a well-known plea, that you mutter often?
Here are some variations that may sound familiar to you also:
The Surviving to Thriving Continuum
Sadly, far too many leaders regularly recite similar lines like "Just get me through today! Regardless of the version each of these mantras is a red flag signalling that you might be in survival mode. We’ve all been there at some point or another. Survival mode becomes a problem when you live there rather than visit there.
There will always be busy times. Leaders are constantly involved in the ebb and flow of new projects, shifts in contractual expectations, and annual cycles of budgets, performance reviews and grant proposals or contract renewals. It’s the job. There is no way around it.
I am not talking so much about work, as the attitude towards the work and the impact on you. The effect on you falls on a continuum. So let's first look at opposite ends of the gamut.
Survival mode is characterized by fear. You are always afraid of falling apart, dropping the ball or losing it. You are barely hanging on, just getting by or trying to stay alive.
It feels like everything is a battle in survival mode, and you must suffer through it or endure the storm. As a result, you have little energy, are pretty negative or openly apathetic. Perhaps you've found yourself muttering "Whatever!" a little too commonly.
Those in survival mode tend to feel isolated and alone. It doesn’t feel like anyone cares about you or that you have anyone on your team. In fact, it often seems like “they” are out to get you. When I was survival mode, I honestly hated a few people and loathed a couple of others.
This end of the spectrum, survival, is marked by crisis management, putting out fires and only a day-to-day sustainability. Lord knows you can’t last like this forever. Burnout is knocking on your door.
The thriving mode, on the right end of the continuum, is characterized by passion. You are growing and developing and loving it, despite the challenges. To many, it is an adventure with a purpose. You are blooming and flourishing as you learn new things and take on engaging projects.
Those in thriving mode tend to feel confident, courageous and resilient. It isn’t that people at this end of the continuum don’t encounter challenges; they just know they can handle it. When I moved up into the thriving mode, I was eager to go to work, felt like I was doing meaningful work and could say I was being stretched, but not to the point of snapping.
This end of the spectrum, thriving, is marked by feelings of being engaged, supported and connected. Leaders in thriving mode feel like they belong to a larger community of support and feel that they are making a positive impact through their work.
It’s usually not black or white
Rarely are any of us completely at one end of the spectrum. We are likely at some point in between. We also ebb and flow daily. Depending on where you are, whom you are interacting with and the day's agenda, you can shoot from one end of the continuum to the other pretty quickly. As such, most of us sit somewhere along the surviving to thriving continuum, moving around various points in the middle.
The Middle – Coping Mode
II call coping mode in the center of the surviving to thriving continuum. You are doing more than barely getting by, but you're not feeling so alive that you want to yell from the mountaintops about how much you love your job. So instead, you go to work and have some good days, lots of so-so days and a few insane days.
The coping mode can also be thought of as maintaining. You're doing good enough, the best you can or at least less than bad. You exist.
Some leaders are bored in the middle. There is no challenge, pull, or drive to use your skills and talents fully. Often it's a sign you have been in the same position for longer than you should have been.
I find that in this coping mode, many leaders are tolerating, settling or complying with less than stellar workplace environments, teams, and bosses. Things aren’t good, but they are not so bad that you feel urged to rock the boat.
When I was in coping mode, I felt emotionally flatlined. I didn't feel a lot of excitement or joy. Instead, it felt more like I was running around the same hamster wheel day after day. I had a few friends to connect with that would let me vent (i.e., bitch and moan) but not a ton of support to move the needle forward.
Coping mode ranges from short-term stability, meaning you could go on like this for a few months, to a way of life. Sadly many leaders believe this is just the way it is and don't think they can change it. So instead of a period before things move one way or the other, leaders stay in a coping mode for most of their careers.
Moving from survival to thriving
The truth is you can move from surviving to coping to thriving at work and in life. You have a choice. You do not have to stay stuck in your current mode forever. To move forward along the continuum, there are three key things you need to do.
Current habits keep you stuck
You’ve likely been sitting at the edge of survival mode for quite a while. You know it well. It’s become a way of life. You have developed damaging habits to cope with lack of sleep, missed meals, and limited time for yourself and family. You know how to get the critical things done with a hectic schedule at the office and have a system in place for ensuring you meet everyone’s basic needs. These habits are keeping you in this mode.
Be gentle but insistent as you develop new habits
To move to the right, you will need to develop new habits to thrive. Take the time to look at your real self and your ideal self. Then, create a plan to move from where you are to where you want to be. Then, get your butt in gear, my dear!
,Do you have a love/hate relationship with your job, your role, your team or your organization?
I sure did! It sucked the life and fun out of me!
Do you want to learn how to lose the loathing love the work?
On this week's FB Live show I talked about what I did and you can too - to learn to love leadership. Let me give you a bit of an overview here.
I was in a pretty toxic environment
In my book Mastering Confidence, I tell the story of a time when my team was just a wee bit toxic. Ok, honestly, very toxic. At the time, I blamed everyone around me. It was her fault, his fault, and their fault. Certainly, I wasn't the one to blame. As such, I didn't want to go to work. I dreaded it each morning as I got ready and headed into the office. Whenever I could, I avoided certain people, teams, and sites. I loathed my job.
It took a shift in my mindset and some learning to turn that around.. I need to take responsibility for my self, my impact and move from victim to leader. I find that many of the women I work with also struggle in this way.
My client was in a pretty toxic environment
Take Rebecca for example, she came to me a few months into a new promotion. Initially, when she took the role of a supervisor on she loved it. That quickly turned to overwhelm, extreme dislike for her boss and frustration with her team. Rebecca felt like no one listened or cared about the work or her. She found she was turning into an uncaring person, simply focused on the tasks for the day.
We both need to see things differently
When we started coaching, the first thing I began to do was help Rebecca gain an understanding of herself. She needed to get clear on what her values were. She began to get more connected to her inner guidance system, which helped her recognize what triggered her, her self-talk and take back control of her emotions. It was the same place I started when I turned my team back around from toxic to strong. Once I figured out how important family was to me, honesty and my deep connection to the work we were doing, I quickly realized why I had reacted to so many things that had happened in the preceding months.
We moved from ourselves to focusing on our team
The next thing I worked with Rebecca on was helping her to see her team as individuals and realize her job was to grow them. She started to see them differently as I'd also began to see my team in a new light. It is always fascinating for me to watch my clients now take the same journey that I did so many years ago. That path is seeing an individual's strengths, identifying their potential and putting a focus on growing them and helping them to realize their full potential. It's an amazing feeling to turn from seeing your staff as "problems to be fixed" to "potential to be drawn out."
We both reconnected to the love of our job
The final thing that helped Rebecca to learn to love her leadership role again was taking her newfound inner growth and her shift in her mindset about her team to the bigger purpose of their work. Why do you do what you do? What difference does your work make to the community you serve? These questions helped me years ago to really find that passion and inner spark again. Rebecca lit up too when she began to find the answers to these questions.
This is what we did in a nutshell
These three things, are the things you can also do to move from loathing your leadership role to loving your leadership role
My final thoughts for you
To move from loathing your leadership role to loving it takes some time. Let's be honest; Leadership is a tough gig! However, these three things, when you put your focus on them, will help you to make that shift more permanent. Grow yourself from the inside out. Focus on seeing the potential in your employees and focus on growing them. Then, take yourself and your team and remind yourselves today and every day...why you do what you do. Trust me, my dear, you will find the love for your work again...as soon as you do!
Want to learn more?
Listen to this week's Facebook Live session to help you make the shift from loathing to loving your job. Don't forget to download this week's guide sheet to help you personally make the shift. Remember, you have to do something with this information, or it won't actually make a change in your life!
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Read the book
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.