You all know I’m a driver. A hard driver. I believe that when building your company and crushing your goals you should put your foot on the gas and drive a few nails through it. Drive forward. Drive faster. Never give up, never go backwards. Go, go, go!
But when it comes to making decisions – whether that is deciding to hire a new employee, taking on a new projects, or entering into a new business venture – I believe you need to slow down in order to speed up. Hit the breaks and put it into neutral.
Staying neutral is one of the defining characteristics of a leader. It’s not just about staying outwardly calm (which is definitely important), but staying impartial when there is a decision to be made ever 2.6 seconds.
So what does staying neutral really mean and where does it come into play?
Well, have you ever been interviewing someone and as you start to discuss their interests outside of work and they say I love to hike with my dog and you ask, “What kind of dog? “A Chesapeake Bay Retriever,” they answer. And before you know it you have told the candidate about how you got a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Chessy for your 5th birthday and she was your best friend and you missed your PSAT when she died and you haven’t been able to have a dog since and you’ve totally bonded with your candidate and you know that they are definitely the best fit for the accounting position. Really neutral, right?
When interviewing candidates, it’s one of the most important times to stay neutral. Stay curious, ask questions, and let them do the talking. Do not look for commonalities. Listen for information, for red flags, for patterns, and for their track record. You are not there to hire someone you want to hang out with on a Saturday night – that’s what Match.com is for. You’re there to assess whether that candidate is the best fit for your organization.
And what about those times when you are dealing with an internal or external company issue? Your leadership team wants to open a franchise in an unknown territory. You are weighing whether to self-finance or bring in investors on a new development deal. You are reorganizing your company and need to restructure positions and lay off employees. How do you handle those moments of conflict, chaos, and multiple choices? The best way? Stay neutral. You must train yourself to come at these issues from curiosity, and not judgement. You must not have any preconceived notions about the outcome. You must be able to see the issues from both sides and argue for or against either one. Stay impartial. Ask questions. Weigh the facts. Then make a decision.
And then there is staying neutral as a parent. Your emotions, your decisions, your words will leaving a lasting impression on your kids for years to come. What type of parent do you want to be? One that hands down decrees from your throne of Parenthood? One that allows the kids the run the show? Or one that allows your children to develop into amazing little humans through asking questions, considering options, and making decisions together – no matter how long of a day your had or what mood you are in? I hope we all pick option three and let me tell you, that one will take a lot of emotional fitness.
As a leader, when everyone else is going left, and you know that you must go right. Go right. When shit is hitting the fan and emotions are high – it is your responsibility as a leader to stay neutral. How can you make a decision if you are all jacked up – either positively or negatively. If you are in an incredibly good mood you may make a decision that is too bullish, or if you are in a negative state you may make a decision that prevents your company or team from moving forward. Do not allow yourself to get caught up in the heat or despair of the moment. Stay neutral.
So here’s the thing. We’re all human and being human means we come with a whole lot of emotions and opinions. Staying neutral doesn’t mean that you don’t have an opinion, it just means that you wield your opinion like a weapon – only when necessary. It’s not always easy to do, which means you must work on creating emotional fitness all the time – always increasing your capacity to stay calm and neutral.
Easier said then done, right? How do you work on your emotional fitness in order to stay neutral? The first step is recognizing and accepting whatever experience (good or bad) you are having as just that, an experience. The people who do not attach an outcome to the experience can remain neutral because it is the intrinsic value of the experience that is important, not a feeling. The next step is to find an outlet to work on your emotional fitness so you CAN stay neutral no matter what is happening in the world or your world. So what is your outlet? Is it 10 minutes of meditation? Is it running? Is it yoga? Is it prayer? Is it journaling? Find the outlet that allows you to slow down and allows thoughts to come in and out of your mind. Thoughts are energy and they exist all around us. As you are practicing your emotional fitness don’t cling to the thoughts and don’t pull the thoughts towards you, just allow them to flow; this keeps your mind and body in a neutral state.
You are a leader. You must stay neutral, you must gather all information, hear all sides, let others be heard, and then make your opinion known or make your decision. As a leader, you must stay neutral in the midst of chaos, which in turn allows you to live in a place of abundance every day.
So what are your outlets for staying neutral? Do you even know what being neutral looks like? If not, it’s time to put on your emotional fitness gear and get to work. Practice your emotional fitness daily. Practice moving into and staying in a neutral state. Do not equate neutrality with passivity; neutrality is power. Use it to drive yourself and your team forward to living the biggest life possible.