Drag your thoughts away from your troubles…by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it. – Mark Twain
A story is told of Somerset Maugham, the English writer, once wrote a story about a janitor in St. Peter’s Church in London. One day a young vicar discovered that the janitor was illiterate and fired him.
Jobless, the man in vested his meager savings in a tiny tobacco shop. Where he prospered, bought another, expanded, and ended up with a chain of tobacco stores worth several hundred thousand dollars. One day the man’s banker said, “You’ve done well for an illiterate, but where would you be if you could read and write?” “Well,” replied the man, “I’d be janitor of St. Peter’s Church in Neville Square.” The lesson here is not that the man didn’t have troubles but in the way he handled them. He was treated unfair, but his attitude proved to be his greatest ally.
Whether you like it or not all leaders face troubles and perhaps more than most. What troubles do you face as a leader? A Mind Tools article (http://bit.ly/eznpz9) revealed the 10 most common leadership and management errors or mistakes to avoid. The list included: lack of feedback, not making time for your team, being too “hands off”, being too friendly, failing to define goals, misunderstanding motivation, hurrying recruitment, not “walking the line”, not delegating, and misunderstanding your role.
Keeping up with all of the dos and don’ts of management and leadership can be daunting. But knowing which troubles will cause you the most trouble is important. Here are three that you should not overlook.
The troubles that you ignore. Ignoring troubles don’t make them go away. It only prolongs the inevitable likelihood that the problem will only get worse the longer you delay action to correct it. Leadership by denial will ground you. The troubles you ignore can create animosity, hurt morale, and weaken your standing as a leader. Don’t let your desire for popularity blind you to the realities that you must see. Better to go through short-term pain and deal with the trouble than suffer the consequence of ignoring needed solutions. You owe it to yourself and your team to face your troubles, find solutions, and work together to prevent them in the future.
The troubles that you create. Some of the troubles you face might be inherited while others you create. As a leader, I’m not suggesting that you purposefully set out to create trouble, but it might be the unintended consequence of your inaction, or perhaps your micromanagement. When dealing with troubles you should honestly evaluate whether your actions in any way contributed to the problem (poor communication, etc.) and if a different approach is needed going forward. What you create you can correct but only if you acknowledge it.
The troubles that you keep. The troubles that you keep are most commonly relational in nature. It can be the result of holding onto a grudge or resentment towards someone who has wronged you. Perhaps it’s anger for being passed over for a promotion or any other personal disappointment that you haven’t dealt with. You are not responsible for how others treat you or for their behavior, but you own your response. The janitor was on the receiving end of bad treatment. His response was his choice. He chose a path that was prosperous. What you choose to do with your troubles is up to you. Keep them or let them go – it’s up to you. The baggage you hold onto will only weigh you down. If you want to go up there are some things you will have to give up. Why not let go of the bad attitudes that would hold you back?
As you give reflection to the troubles you face as a leader here the three important questions for your consideration: 1) What troubles am I ignoring, and why? 2) What troubles have I created and how can I correct it? 3) What troubles (a bad attitude, unforgiveness) am I keeping that I shouldn’t?
What do you say?
© 2013 Doug Dickerson
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