In a recent leadership development program, we talked about “manager soul loss” – the isolation, bitterness, and despair that seeps into many leaders’ hearts. We share the stages of soul loss and symptoms to look out for to help leaders identify and prevent them before they set in.
After the program, we received a heartfelt note from one participant. Cheryl asked: “What can be done for a leader who is already experiencing symptoms of Lost Soul?”
Maybe you’ve been there and can relate to her question. Or perhaps you resonate with this guy:
We’ve been there. Both of us can think of times where we felt as if we were losing our leadership soul. That’s one reason we wrote Winning Well, why we share our blog, and podcast. We know you can achieve breakthrough results and do it without sacrificing your humanity.
Cheryl—this one’s for you (and everyone who has felt your leadership soul drifting away.)
The Road Back from Losing Your Soul
No matter what circumstances have caused you to feel the isolation, bitterness, or burnout, the road back starts with your “why.”
Why do you do what you do? Where are you helping people? Making a difference? Improving things for others?
Reconnecting with your “why” is the fuel for your leadership and management. It helps keep normal daily work irritations in perspective. (And if you look for your “why” and can’t find it – and really don’t like the work you do, then it may be time to find another option.)
When you reclaim your “why,” you reclaim your perspective and ground yourself in what matters most to you. That’s the foundation to move to the next question.
Often, when you feel like you’re losing your soul, it’s for one of three reasons:
- You’ve lost your perspective
- You feel overwhelmed and don’t know how to succeed in a specific situation
- Or your values are in conflict.
What’s happening with you? Take a look at where your biggest frustrations. What are your feelings responding to? Here are a few examples:
- Is it because you feel like your people aren’t listening to you?
- Do you find yourself treating people in ways you know in your heart aren’t healthy?
- Are you working in a tough situation where your supervisor is demanding and you’re not sure you can get the performance they expect?
- Are you dealing with a toxic culture or find your values in conflict with your leader or approach to the work?
What is it for you?
Solutions for Losing Your Soul
Once you’ve identified the source of your frustration, you can use specific tools to help you reclaim your confidence and your soul.
For example, if you feel that people aren’t listening, you can rebuild your credibility with clarity about the team’s MIT, the specific behaviors everyone needs to do perform to succeed, and then have INSPIRE accountability conversations for those that don’t get there right away.
Or, let’s say you don’t like the way you’re treating people. Using the Confidence-Competence model, you can more readily identify where each person is and what conversation they need to grow. Do they need coaching? Maybe help to develop their own problem-solving and critical thinking skills? If you haven’t been as encouraging as you’d like, tap into this encouragement model to give relevant, meaningful recognition.
Need help to talk with your supervisor and figuring out how to achieve the results you need to get? Or to resolve a conflict in values? You can use a PERSUADE conversation—or even another INSPIRE conversation to create dialogue and talk about your concerns. (And sometimes, it’s healthy to acknowledge that your values aren’t the same as the organization’s or leader’s values and it’s time to find better values fit elsewhere.)
Finally, one more option to explore is that you may not enjoy or want to lead or manage people. Maybe you did in the past, but not anymore. That’s okay—this work isn’t for everyone. And it’s better for you, your team, and the organization if you know it sooner rather than later and take steps to move to a different role.
These are just a few examples of how you can start to reclaim your soul. Reclaim your sense of purpose, identify the specific challenges you face, and equip yourself with the leadership tools you need to move through them. How can you start to do things differently to rebuild your confidence and belief in yourself?
We’d love to hear from you: leave a comment and share your best advice for leaders who feel like they are losing their soul.