For Brody, being confirmed for another year as a high performance, high potential leader had been satisfying.  Yet what did it really mean?  Brody is such an optimistic and self-initiating person that when she found it difficult to get a promotion she wanted to maintain a focus on three things:

  • staying positive and optimistic
  • levelling up, facing the challenge, and being her ‘best self’ at all times
  • learning from adversity

To do those three things, she needed to maintain a level of psychological flexibility; she was stuck, in the negative, not able to level up. The adversity was getting her down.

In coaching, we focused first on how she could think more flexibly.

Three elements of psychological flexibility are vital to keeping focused on both the present and the future.

Being present means being fully conscious and aware, which means managing attention. Attention is that most precious of resources for leaders; according to Ron Heifetz, disciplined attention is the currency of leadership.

When what we do aligns with purpose, we’re doing what matters, and from that flows a sense of vitality. Being guided by values develops meaning and purpose. Otherwise we feel lost, adrift in the overwhelming ocean of options, or caught up in the negativity of the current situation.

Opening up means accepting reality for what it is, without denying it or feeling stuck in it. We’re not fused with the current reality, or the one ‘right way’. We are open to change, adaptation and alternative ways of thinking.

You can read more about the model in my Journal of Futures Studies article here.

How to get yourself unhooked

Brody shared that when she faces adversity, her immediate response is to get hooked. ‘In a split second I am on the hook’, is how she explained it.

We all know how that feels.  That instant when we suddenly become ‘smaller me’.  That ‘what about me?’ moment.  When we feel abandoned, invisible, powerless, unimportant.  And get stuck there.

Brody wanted a promotion, had been promised one, but now wasn’t clear about when she would get it.  Her hook was that ‘things never go my way’.  She felt like she had to work harder than others to be noticed.  And if she didn’t get an opportunity soon enough, well, that just proved it.

Her need for affirmation, for being noticed and recognised for her skills, was something that hooked her from time to time.  She struggled to adapt her emotional response and let it roll by.

To shift her focus to think about what she could do to create the next opportunity.

We all have hooks that catch us from time to time.

Four best ways to get yourself off the hook:

  • know what your hooks are, and you can identify when they have you
  • create some alternate scripts – what can you replace ‘I don’t’, ‘I can’t’, ‘I won’t’ with?
  • reframe the situation – what’s an alternate explanation for what occurred?
  • remind yourself of your values and choose your next action based on those

Our hooks relate to our need for self-esteem or belonging.  Rather than get stuck being worried about how these needs weren’t met, Brody was working on finding alternate ways to meet them.

Manage your energy and surge capacity

All of this was going on in the midst of COVID-19, and Brody’s energy was depleted. She had been powering through, organising her own, plus her team’s working from home arrangements, as well figuring out how to meet client needs, and participating in organisation-wide projects to respond to COVID. She’d been surging, and it was time to take stock.

Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters.

Surge capacity is great. Immediate threat dealt with. But when we’ve used our surge capacity and we’re heading into the longer haul, what do we do?

Better understand ambiguous loss, especially difficult for high achievers used to being able to solve problems. Try these tactics tp manage surging:

  • Accept that life is different now
  • Expect less from yourself
  • Recognise the different stages of grief
  • Experiment with ‘both-and’ thinking
  • Look for new and old things to do that fulfill you
  • Maintain and strengthen your important relationships
  • Take it slow, be kind to yourself, and rebuild the positive balance in your resilience bank ledger

It was now important for Brody to slow down and think about how to recover her energy and make it through the long haul. That would help her keep perspective on the promotion challenge she felt, and not do something that might harm her outstanding track record.

The other tactic that we discussed in coaching was for Brody to lift her approach to her current role so that as far as possible she was working AS IF she were already one level up.

She might not HAVE the promotion, but she could show she could BE it. She could demonstrate the perspectives, values and skills required of roles at the next level. And there was a bonus in that: she could delegate even more to her talented team, free up her time and boost THEIR development.

Are you looking for some help to navigate the complexities you face? With the support of executive coaching you can stay energised, work fluidly with expanded options, without having to do it all out for yourself.  Book a call with me today to find out more about how executive coaching can help you to get that next promotion.

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