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Your Cheat Sheet to Navigating Challenges As A Leader

Life is a choose-your-own-adventure book where circumstances set the scene, thoughts write the plot, feelings add the drama, and actions decide whether it's a comedy or a thriller! - Janet Nambi

Embracing the intricacies of leadership means recognizing that every challenge we encounter can be deconstructed into five interconnected facets, each influencing the others.

This profound understanding equips you, as a leader, with the remarkable ability to gauge your mind and chart a course of action.

No matter the complexity of your challenge, by delving into these dimensions, you can identify the cause of the issue and commence your transformative leadership journey.

The five dimensions are in the diagram below.

Credit: Brooke Castillo at The Life Coach School

Mastering these parts helps you find the main problem you are facing and figure out what's causing it. With this insight, you can ask the right questions to find out where the problem started and how the different parts are connected. This happens because our thoughts, which come from situations, create feelings. These feelings then lead to actions, which finally give us the outcomes in our lives.

It's important to look at each part to really understand different problems so let me give you more clarity.

Part 1: Circumstances Circumstances encapsulate the external occurrences beyond our control—examples include climate conditions, histories, and others' behaviors. These variables are beyond direct influence. Circumstances are facts too. When someone says "You are a pain" their thoughts about you are not a fact. But the 'fact' is they said it.

Part 2: Thoughts These are the constant ideas in our minds. Experts in neuroanatomy still can't agree but they estimate a human has between 40,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Some we know about, but others are hidden. Nonetheless, we have the power to change how we think about situations. For example: "I am not good at this" or "I've got this", any of these thoughts will cause a certain feeling.

Part 3: Feelings/Emotions Emotions are our feelings that come from our thoughts. These are different from physical feelings or sensations. Emotions are vibrations in the body that come and go based on what we think about a circumstance. And we have some control over them. For example: Angry, sad, happy, accomplished, and many more.

Part 4: Actions Actions are what we do, and they're connected to our feelings. For example, eating because of loneliness or avoiding people because of anger. You either act or you do not depending on how you feel. Changing how we feel can change what we do.

Part 5: Results Results are the things that happen because of what we do. For example, when you shout at your employee you create distance and you may block off their capacity to be a responsive learner. Or your ability to come back with an objective response to the circumstance.

Now that you understand the parts, let's understand this with a couple of real-life examples.

Every accomplished individual will at one point in their lives feel inadequate. This is even worse for entrepreneurs who may often lack accountability and support for their behavior. With the looming possibility of an economic downturn Bryan Richardson, PhD. at Forbes states that "in addition to impacting employees’ health, financial stress is negatively affecting engagement (50%) and productivity (48%) at work."

If you are experiencing this kind of stress here's an example of how you can help yourself to better help your team.

Emotional intelligence is when you finally realize it's not them; it's you." - Anonymous

Example 1

Your board has asked that you plan (circumstance) for the uncertain future. You are convinced the future is certainly going to be shaky (this is the thought in your model). For that reason, you feel challenged. You probably start to figure out how you can cut costs (the action part). Cutting costs might include cutting back on staff members so you are ruminating over it. The rumination (negative thought patterns) are keeping you awake at night (action). Now you are showing up with less confidence in how you can support your employees or team members going forward (result).

To simplify I would write the challenge like this.

Circumstance: Planning for a possible economic downturn as suggested by the board Thought: The future is going to be shaky Feeling: Challenged Actions: You lose sleep. You have a tough time deciding where to cut expenses. You are afraid of engaging your direct reports in case they'll be affected by any budget cuts. You overeat or drink to numb out the challenge. You snap at your spouse. You stop having fun because you need to save money. You cut out employee birthdays. Result: You are turning the company environment into shaky grounds.

Notice how the result you have created is evidence of your thoughts.

The Solution

Now what if you focus your thoughts on what you can control?

For example, knowing that you have no control over the economy means that you can't change anything about it. However, your position gives you the authority to do as you please with your company's financial situation. You also must remember that the board's instructions are also a circumstance. You are free to do as they said or challenge them. Perhaps this situation can crank up your creative mood and you find other solutions.

Keeping that in mind here are some alternative thoughts to change how you feel so you can take action that will give you effective results;

  1. The board has made a suggestion but I have the authority to decide what's best for the company.

  2. Economies suffer every so often and this time will come to pass.

  3. This gives me an opportunity to lead exceptionally.

  4. I am the best person to handle this situation.

  5. I love my people.

  6. I know that keeping all of them will bring all of us down.

  7. I will not be threatened by speculations about the economy.

  8. I have what it takes to mentor and coach my team members so they can show up empowered despite the challenges.

  9. I have networks that can help those who are likely to be let go.

How does it feel when you read these statements? Notice the difference?

I am almost positive that your humanness will allow you to feel differently when you practice any of those thoughts.

I also want you to keep in mind that any negative feelings that arise from any of those statements are likely to propel you into more positive action. You might feel compassion when you think of those you have to let go of. You do not need to fix how you feel. You just need to feel.

Give yourself permission to acknowledge every feeling as long as you are comfortable with the actions that will lead you to the desired result. Remember the old adage "Feel the fear and do it anyway?" Experiencing growth means that it comes with discomfort so sometimes you just have to accept that negative feelings are part of your humanness.

Example 2

Now because the surplus economy is taking a little vacation your thoughts are not allowing you to show up as the best leader your people have right now. Simon Sinek may be their yardstick but he doesn't even know they exist.

Assuming you are ruminating over the economy (action), and your role, and as a result, you are not fully present to support your team members. Now, you need to find out why you're feeling this way. For instance, a thought like "I'm not good enough" might make you anxious (feeling), and anxiety triggers a flight or freeze response - a chain reaction from thought to feeling to action, ending in a negative result.

It's invaluable to dissect each dimension for a comprehensive understanding of the diverse challenges. Remember, regardless of the complexity, every issue your team encounters can be channeled into this framework.

In nurturing the source of discomfort, the symptoms ultimately wane, paving the way for genuine transformation. Illuminate the path with this paradigm, and watch your leadership forge a legacy of meaningful change.

My thoughts have gone for a walk. I hope they come back with chocolate. Janet Nambi


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