We all have slumps. Baseball players have hitting slumps, the stock market has slumps in growth, retail chains have slumps in their sales, and leaders have slumps as well. A slump is one of those things that is hard to define but we sure do know one when we’re in one.
The interesting thing about a slump is that you can’t put your finger on precisely when it started or what caused it. It seems to have simply happened organically. One day you were sailing along feeling like things are normal and the next thing you know, you are in a leadership slump. Somehow doing what you were doing before is not good enough and no longer produces the results you want.
When you are in a slump, it may feel important to understand how you got there, and typically we spend a lot of time analyzing what the problem might be. While this type of self-reflection may be valuable in helping you a void a future slump, dwelling on the cause of the slump does not change anything or help you move out of it. In fact, focusing too long on the causes of a slump can actually keep you down in it. Our moods are heavily affected by where we focus our energy so thinking about your slump may actually perpetuate it.
It is really more important to shift your energy toward figuring out how to get out the slump you are in. As a leader, you must ask yourself “What can I do to get out of this slump?” Here are my best suggestions culled from the leaders I work with:
- Recognize what you are doing right. Even in a slump, we are doing certain things well, but it’s often hard to see what those things are or even that we are doing anything right. What are you accomplishing in spite of your slump? What are some of the actions you are taking that you know are the right, wise ones to take even if they are not yet paying off? Acknowledging your accomplishments and the positive things you are doing acts as fuel to keep you moving forward and out of your slump.
- Express gratitude. This can be really hard when you are feeling down and out. After all, you might say “What is there to be grateful for down here in the dumps?” There is always something to be grateful for even in the most rotten day. Keep a gratitude list or jot down 3 things for which you are grateful each evening before bed. Cataloging your gratitude items will make you more aware of the good stuff when it occurs. Leaders say that holding a perspective of gratitude even for a few minutes each day can start to turn the tides and bring them out of a slump.
- Do something small to make yourself feel happy. One of my favorite quotes comes from Iris Murdoch who, in her book The Sea, the Sea said “One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats.” I agree that small treats are important. Buy yourself a single rose when you are next at the grocery store, take the time to really savor a square of chocolate, take a walk on a sunny day or luxuriate in a brief catnap one afternoon. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it feels like a treat and makes you feel happy. Small treats help rejuvenate us and feed our souls. The more we feed our souls, the more likely it is that we will emerge from our leadership slumps.
- Change something up. Sometimes slumps happen because we get bored. Our routine stops being helpful and starts keeping us stuck and stale. By changing something – anything – in our daily lives, we shift our perspectives and change our energy around everything else we are doing. Try working from the conference room instead of your office, eating lunch with a colleague instead of at your desk, or driving a different route home from work.
So, next time you find yourself in a leadership slump (and I do mean next time since we all have slumps), rather than focusing on what got you there, focus on how you can get yourself out. Shift your momentum and you will see that things will change more quickly and easily.