How to Kick Unproductive Thinking to the Curb for Good


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As business leaders, we can become overwhelmed by the constant drive to excel against all odds, from economic downturns to staffing problems. However, at any point on the journey, we may find that our own perspective can get in the way of the vision we had for our company from the start.

Here are three ways to stop sabotaging your success and the growth of your company — plus tips on how to break free from this unproductive way of thinking.

1. Check your ego and stop setting unrealistic expectations

Being a CEO comes with illusions that you must break before you can move forward. People will look to you for the right answers, expecting you to know what to do at all times. You will face competing demands, believing you must meet them all. Another common assumption is that you should reach No. 1 in sales, likes, views, revenue — and stay there. You may personally feel that your staff should never have a bad week or a bad month.

But the truth is that having such lofty expectations is less about goal-setting and more about ego. I expect my staff to look to me for answers, but I am perfectly willing to tell them, “I don’t know. Give me a day to research that, and I will come up with some possible solutions.” As a legally blind boss, my employees are my eyes, my hands and my feet — but it’s up to me to guide the ship through murky waters. I sometimes bring in experts or delegate these mini-investigations to a few staff members who might have some insight on the subject. This allows more of a collaborative effort rather than Nancy the barking CEO making demands and giving ultimatums on the phone or in a staff meeting.

If we have a bad week or my staff is struggling under the weight of unrealized goals or seemingly insoluble problems, we talk it out. I seek the opinions of my team members and we decide the course from there. We really are in this boat together, and although I’m the captain, I’m counting on my employees to help me navigate the rough patches.

Related: I’m a Blind CEO — Here Are 3 Lessons I’ve Learned About Finding Alternative Ways to Be Your Most Productive Self.

2. Think before you react

In the flurry of activity on any given day, decisions must be made. It’s a given that the best decisions come with a cool head and thoughtful deliberation. But this isn’t always what happens. People are prone to desperation, drama, multiple stressors and even a victim mentality. Some employees thrive on this chaos, and you, as the business leader, may be tempted to react to over-the-top emotions. The worst thing we can do as CEOs is entertain our own overreactions and add to an already unstable situation.

It’s important not to let personalities determine your responses. You have the option to wait before responding to an email. You don’t have to entertain toxic people. You don’t have to answer the zinger of a question launched in the middle of a budget meeting. You shouldn’t buy into one employee’s characterization of another until you have given the employee who was thrown under the bus a chance to respond to the accusations — without the accuser present. Waiting and truly thinking about the appropriate response is better than allowing an emotional staffer to call the place and time of battle. And if you are not a “reactor,” chances are your employees will feel more at peace in the workplace as well.

Even as a top realtor in Los Angeles, as much as I wanted and often needed their business, I didn’t compromise by retaining toxic clients — people who brought an agenda other than buying a house into the deal. I’ve had that no-compromise attitude in every business I have managed, and I learn quickly who are — and are not — my “people.”

3. Stop the cycle of self-doubt

Most of us spend too much time looking back at failure, missed opportunities, failed partnerships and the losses we’ve suffered in general. It’s easy to rehash disastrous events as opposed to examining why the events happened and determining what we can do as a company, working together, to change things for the better. Many employees and CEOs alike struggle with self-doubt. This problem is often accompanied by the fear of making mistakes, which can manifest as avoidance behaviors: playing small, following tradition, continuing ineffective practices and even creating unhealthy boundaries.

To avoid plaguing self-doubt and its consequences, it’s important to lose the assumption that “I, alone, am solving all the company’s problems.” One of the hallmarks of self-doubt is keeping secrets. Although we should be careful not to release information before we are ready to launch a new concept, it’s important to give updates to your team as often as possible. Sharing your take on negative events, for example, can go a long way toward building the trust employees place in you. Being willing to listen to feedback as you present a new campaign or policy can also increase the staff’s confidence in your leadership. Sharing the load will improve morale, which will also boost your sense of worth in the company. You will sense that people enjoy working with you because you’re showing them that you place a genuine value on your employees as contributors, collaborators and potential leaders. There is nothing more inspiring than watching others soar and grow in their roles with the company; nurturing others goes a long way toward removing your own feelings of unworthiness.

I had hosted only one television show when I came up with a reality TV show concept. For every step forward, there were at least two setbacks. When you begin anything new, you hope you’re building a foundation with a dedicated group. As often happens with projects like this, we lost team members along the way, and I had to take on multiple roles. In the end, I wound up collaborating with the best possible people. One thing we learned is that by sharing everything — the good news and the bad — we could solve almost any problem and move forward together. Success was in the expansion of the right counselors, collaborators and inspiring co-contributors. I was no longer shouldering the load by myself — and it was liberating.

Related: Want to Be More Productive? Stop Trying to Finish Every Task, and Do This Instead

Closing thoughts

Between the economy, staffing shortages and a rapidly changing digital world, there is already too much pressure coming from outside forces to risk creating more pressure from your own preconceived notions. Engaging your employees to help find solutions will inspire everyone to support the vision you had for the company at the start — and equip you and your team to build a great future together.

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