If Motivation is Your Big Obstacle – Read This
What’s your motivation to be an outstanding leader? Why do you want to be the best boss ever?
Knowing the answer to these questions is important. There are two ways to find the answer: contemplation or reacting to an emergency – which is often a ‘wake-up’ call – something so abrupt it makes us take stock of ourselves and answer the hard questions.
If you are not in the habit of seeking feedback, you might be surprised by negative feedback when it is given. Over the course of a 45-year career, a wakeup call seems to be inevitable if we don’t seek feedback. I’m not sure it happens to everyone, but I bet it happens to a lot of us. We don’t like it because it is so abrupt and messes with our plan.
If I asked if you are overwhelmed and have too many things to do, what would you say? Most people I know have too many personal and professional things to do. When we are in survival mode, we don’t learn as much as we could because we save our energy for solving problems and making decisions. Business leaders today are overwhelmed with problems and decisions. The complexity of running a business is huge. So, when it comes to learning for learning’s sake, we don’t excel. But, when we have a problem to solve, we can ignite the learner from within.
Adults as compared with children are poor learners until they have a problem to solve. So, the wake-up call is a wonderful gift that enables us to get into action and learn as fast as possible and as deep as possible.
Another way to think about wake-up calls is what Dr. Maria Montessori called a “sensitive period.” These times are windows of opportunity when a child can learn specific concepts more easily and naturally than at any other time. Reading, for instance, is a time when children enter a natural sensitive period, and when teachers and parents notice this sensitive period, they can help the child learn rapidly. From my perspective, a wake-up call is the adult version of a sensitive period. But, in this case, the reason to learn is less because a child’s brain is ready and more about the burning desire to learn something. To become an outstanding leader, we must have that burning desire to transform ourselves. I have seen it happen many times, and when it works, the leader becomes much like the child who learns in a fashion that seems effortless.
I have had a couple of wake-up calls in my life, and one of the things I noticed is that if you don’t learn from them, they seem to repeat. The last wake-up call I experienced, I should have seen coming, but I was ‘blinded’ by my judgment of my peers and boss. In my mind, they became the only reason my problems existed.
My boss said to me at the end of the meeting (without having provided any indication that there was a problem), that things were not working out and that I should start thinking about leaving. Total shock and surprise! I knew things were challenging, but as an executive, most of us have challenges working with our peers. I had not gotten along well with my peers because I wasn’t willing to back down on the big organizational changes I was hoping to create. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten and thought the CEO was going to give me support.
Wake-up calls happen repeatedly until we address them. I wondered how I missed the CEO’s agenda, again? He was not like any CEO I worked for, because he had never been a CEO before.He was just trying to stay out of the way of the strong-minded COOs who were running the company. All he wanted me to do was stop aggravating them and get along with them. He wasn’t going to get in their way, and he wanted me to stop challenging them. In other words, he was not going to support the new programs I wanted to introduce unless they would support the other COOs. What I heard was: “Stop pissing them off and do what they want you to do or leave the company.” Whoa! That was a huge wake-up call, and it completely surprised me.
Improving leadership effectiveness starts with leading yourself better. If you can’t lead yourself effectively, you can’t lead others. Starting the process without deeply contemplating how your life will be better when you become an outstanding leader is an error. You will need tremendous motivation to begin the process of developing your leadership ability. Start by contemplating what your life will be like when you can lead yourself and others with excellence.