Your mind is just churning with some bit of information you received that day.
Suddenly – BAM! It’s a catastrophe!
In fact, the psychological term for this is catastrophizing and it is defined as an irrational thought, believing that something is far worse than it actually is.
In order to be the best leader we can, we have to be able to control these thoughts. Here is a handy process to help get us through those times:
1. Describe the situation – Here we want just the facts, none of the emotions
2. Capture your worst case thoughts – Follow them down to their lowest point by asking “what then?”
3. Capture your best case thoughts – Also follow these to their conclusion, no matter how outlandish
4. Identify the most likely scenario – this will be easier, because you have already downloaded your worst and best case scenarios
5. Develop a plan for dealing with the most likely scenario – This plan should include real, actionable steps you can take
Let’s look at a real-life leadership example.
Let’s say that your perpetually tardy employee has finally crossed the line, and tomorrow you are going to confront her. As you are trying to fall asleep, all you can picture is how badly this is going to go and your brain is churning.
1. Situation? She’s been late to work 8 days out of 10 and has missed the Monday morning Team Tag-Up 4 out of the last 6 weeks.
2. Worst case scenario? She’s shocked and starts sobbing loudly and uncontrollably, shouting about what a horrible person I am. She runs out of my office and goes to my boss, complaining about how emotionally abusive I am and I get a formal reprimand. When I interview for that promotion, the reprimand comes to light and I don’t get the job. I actually get fired. I have to sell my home and my car, and live in a cardboard box under an overpass. I die penniless…
3. Best case scenario? She relieved and tells me that she was just going to come talk to me about this. She has a really good reason and desperately wants to work something out. She loves working for me because I’m the best boss she’s ever had and, in fact, she’s nominated me for the company Awesome Boss award. I win that award, which gives me confidence in my promotion interview and I land that new job, with a 25% pay increase. With the extra money, I finally get to take that trip to Italy that’s on my bucket list! I’m ecstatic with my new job and better life. All is good…
4. Most likely scenario? She is embarrassed and defensive at first. She has a reason that, to her, is completely legitimate. We work through those emotions and come up with a plan that meets both our needs.
5. Action Steps? I can have the data about how many times she’s been late and how many Team Tag-Ups she has missed. I can have our official time and attendance policy available. I can fill out the template from my Difficult Conversations book. I can listen empathically as we work through her emotions. I can suggest that we officially move her start time to something that works for both of us. I can allow her to call into the Team Tag-Up on Mondays. Depending on her reason, I can be prepared with our telework policy, should that option present itself.
By the time you’ve identified all these actions can you take, you might be exhausted enough to fall asleep easily! But I guarantee that you’ll feel better knowing that your thoughts are under control.
Leaving you with this from the lighter side: Negative thoughts, like negative people, are like clouds. Once they are gone, it’s a beautiful day!