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A Leader?s Struggle - Balancing Worry & Optimism

Published Monday, July 30, 2018
by Kim Gusman, President & CEO

 

One minute you’re worrying about issues with production levels, staffing and staying on budget and the next minute you’re calling a staff meeting to share exciting news about plans for company growth. Does constantly trying to balance worry and optimism sound familiar to you? It does to me.

On one hand, good leaders must be optimists, after all, it’s our job to portray a vision of a successful future, but at the same time we are being asked to handle immediate day to day problems and concerns. After solving multiple daily issues, leaders must still find time to think ahead to the future, stay ahead of the competition, and work “on the business, not in the business”.

When people simultaneously maintain two different mindsets, it causes stress and sometimes even induces anxiety. This stress is not only real, it has a name – cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person has two conflicting emotions or situations that they try to make consistent in their mind in order to reduce discomfort. Leaders will always struggle with discomfort and conflict, it just comes with the territory of being in charge. (That’s why you “get paid the big bucks” right?)

I’m a big believer in the Three A’s, “Awareness, Acceptance and Action”. If I’m AWARE that I’m not crazy when I feel a lot of stress, and if I ACCEPT the fact that cognitive dissonance comes with the territory, then I must figure out what ACTION I need to take to be a good leader and to maintain sanity and enjoyment in my life. Fortunately there are experts in this field who provide guidance in this area.

Five Tips to Reduce Stress

Ed Batista, an executive coach, works with leaders to help them manage stress, avoid distractions and focus on their most important tasks. Batista says that leaders need to get comfortable with discomfort and can do this by:

• Getting good sleep
• Exercising
• Setting aside a block(s) of unscheduled time to allow for strategic thinking.
• Talking with your peers – join round tables or groups where you can discuss these issues with other trustworthy leaders. 
Mindfulness – to remain calm under stress, you need to learn how to slow yourself down. You can do this by taking just 5 minutes a day to sit, close your eyes, breathe and relax.

If you can’t engage with your peers due to time constraints, professional coaching can be very effective. The next time you find yourself juggling your worries while trying to stay optimistic, know that you are not alone and work on actions to reduce your stress. 


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