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Sidelined or Waiting for Opportunity?

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

The critic vs the optimist - Watching from the sidelines

You’re watching a sport you love but you’re watching it be played from the sidelines. The players, plays and rules have changed. You’re strategic, smart and know it’s not the time to rush or jump in. You are having to watch a very important competition from the sidelines - when you used to be at the heart of it.The sidelines are a difficult and unfamiliar vantage point to be watching the action from.

I’ve been thinking about my high-performance clients that are hardwired to jump in - to be in the middle of the action. Yet with today’s conditions, the game rules don’t let you. This describes the state of business for many owners and leaders.

What powers successful business owners and leaders is their energy, competitiveness and confidence. They work and play all in. But the way they do business today has drastically changed. Many of them are feeling frustrated by being stalled or perhaps even halted, in their pursuit of business goals.

We'll need an abundance of optimism to rebuild. Optimism has to be nurtured.

When loss is more powerful than gains

In 2007-2009, I was working in capital markets and this phase of my career stuck with me for many years because I did not step into the changed team and business climate to do my best work. I spun in my worry and uncertainty about what was going to happen. Abruptly I left my capital markets career in 2009 and dramatically changed my career. I ran away from my failure and my response to the market event and team culture change. The experience left a long lingering effect. Despite how challenging the experience was at the time, the silver lining is that my clients benefit from it.

Psychology tells us that loss is more powerful than gains, setbacks consume more of our thinking than reflecting on the good times and criticism hurts more than the lift with praise. As I watch current events unfold, I think about the feeling of being in the midst of it all and having very little control. It is a disheartening and frustrating time for many of us. I know leaders, cultures, people and businesses will never be the same. While the economy will see some recovery in Q2 2021, the recovery of human beings will plot a different path.

Being in control when you are not

While 2020 is not the same as 2008, I’d like to offer my personal experiences that I carry with me into today’s crisis. Many may find cause for not believing what I offer and that my suggestions won’t work or help. My views may be seen as too “soft” and coachlike. To recover from our current condition, human nature will be important. As human beings, we need to get people to find a positive lens for themselves of what could work. When we’re ready to rebuild, we’ll need an abundance of optimism. That optimism has to be nurtured. You can’t just turn optimism on. The critics will get attention and praise. The optimists will be dismissed and be the ones able to do more than what is expected, and potentially do the unexpected in rebuilding. I want to make sure we’ve protected the right mindset and the optimists during our toughest days.

What can you be working on to get through today and get ready to rebuild?

1. Know your values. When your values get breached, you get emotional. There is a high probability one of your values will get tested in the coming months. Being able to identify what’s making you react the way you are is essential to your foundation of strength and sustaining great work. Write your values down.

2. Check your mindset. It is easier and more justified to be critical in these conditions. Things are bad and our society fuels it. Individually and collectively, the growth mindset is what’s essential for the rebuilding phase. Make sure you’re finding some positive, every day. Share it with others. Gratitude is a valuable daily ritual.

3. Get out of your head. Many of my smart and strategic clients lean on their thinking ability as their dominant attentional process. To get through challenging times, you’ll also need skills for focusing and reading people . The combination of thinking, reading people and focusing will help you sort through the noise to focus on the right things. Interrupt your thinking periodically so you’re not missing other signals or cues.

4. Be self-aware. Stress will diminish your capacity to do this well. This means you’re showing up with less flexibility. You’re showing up as your rawer self. Your core persona may have attributes that won’t serve you doing your best work. Your calendar needs some reflective time.

5. Be intentional in how you show up. Slow down to consider how you show up to engage with your team, clients and family. The experience you leave with others in times like these can have a heightened and lingering impact. Once you’ve made the decision on what you do, make a plan on how you engage with your mindset, leadership brand, and communication. Feedback is a valuable gift for you.

6. Find comfort in your discomfort. Over the past several months, we’ve experienced more change than many will experience in years. For many of us, never have we lived in such daily discomfort. There is value and learning to embrace the discomfort you are feeling. Time will show you what to do with what you’ve learned. Our greatest discomfort will be deciding what we don’t return to or readopt in the rebuilding phase.

7. Time will heal you. Many are hurting emotionally and financially. Today we live day to day and week to week. Soon you’ll be able to look to the future again. Hold on to the attitude of the potential for your future. Find comfort with your support network. You are not alone. There is an end to our current crisis.

Being optimistic about the future

What we haven’t lost through all this is control of ourselves. You have the control to decide how you react and engage. There’s powerful work for you to do. It’s about knowing your under-stress personality, how others are experiencing you and figuring out how you can do your best work today and in the future. There’s no playbook for today’s situation. Without a gauge for what could be right, it’s an opportunity to make a difference. Don’t just react and jump in, be intentional. Consider your leadership impact with more strategic elements. It will take more than just reacting to get through this. It will take being proactive, thoughtful, engaged and patient.

There’s no playbook for today’s situation. Without that gauge, there’s never been a better opportunity to step into leadership

Seeing failure as learning has never been more important. Some will argue that you can’t afford to make mistakes now. The path with fewer failures sees us returning to what we knew pre-pandemic. Your future holds the ability to chart a changed path. A changed approach for yourself, your team, your company and your community. We’ve been given a gift of a window of change. How do you optimize this potential and opportunity?

It’s ok to be watching some of the plays from the sidelines. There are many important roles to be accomplished from this vantage point. Think about the roles for the team player, mentor, coach, advisor, thought partner and even the cheerleader. With the right plan built around you, your business and the market you’ll know the new rules and how to play your best. We all have important work to do. It’s just going to be different.

Your future holds potential and opportunity. You have the ability to chart your changed path.

Additional reading or resources to support your action:

1. Simon Sinek, What’s your Why

2. Carol Dweck, Mindset: The Psychology of Success

3. TAIS Personality Assessments, Attentional Processes

4. Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

We have assessments and tools to support this work. Contact us to receive.


Lisa W. Haydon is a high business acumen leader, credentialed sales professional, and executive coach. Lisa has led teams and clients in industries such as banking, commercial lending, capital markets, technology, consulting, and professional services. Her hands-on experience in executing change and growth mandates enhances client results. She is known for delivering transformational results with diagnostic tools, consulting and coaching.

Lisa is the founder of Pivotal Coaching, which specializes in sales effectiveness and leadership development services for companies optimistic and ambitious about growth. More information is available on the Pivotal Coaching website. For more on its proprietary diagnostic tool, visit our services page.

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