How to Lead Through the Ups and Downs of Business and Life

We’ve finally had some really beautiful days in Vermont (Summer will be here before we know it!). One of my greatest joys is being able to run outside on the dirt roads, sun shining through the trees, a slight breeze on my face. The rolling hills – up and down, up and down, is almost hypnotic. One foot in front of the other. There really isn’t anything else like the rhythm, the cadence, of running. Some of my best thinking is done on those back roads.

The hills got me thinking about the rhythm of business. I’ve been doing this whole real estate and entrepreneurship thing for almost 15 years, and one thing is for sure, there are a lot of ups and downs!

When business is going well, revenue is up, your employees are all happy and succeeding, it’s easy to want to just take a break for a minute, to take your foot off the gas and just coast for a while. But that is exactly the opposite of what you should do as a leader. When things are going well, that is when you ask your team (or yourself) to dig even deeper. How purposeful can you be with your time to have an even larger impact? Can your team member get one more sale? What operational issue could your COO resolve to build an even strong foundation for the organization? Challenge your employees to stretch, to give just 5% more. When you’re running downhill, use that momentum to achieve even more. Maximize the downhill, because it doesn’t last forever. The uphill battle will come.

And when it does, when the company is losing employees to your competitors, when you miss you sales targets for the 2nd quarter in a row, when a new development project is appealed (for the sixth time), or when your latest marketing campaign misses the mark and inspires a few negative memes, this is not the time to come down even harder and throw out crazy goals and new projects. For example, if someone has a sales goal of securing 10 new client contracts in a week, and for the past two weeks, they’ve only gotten 4 contracts, now would not be the time to increase their goal to 15 new contracts. Based on their history, it’s likely not going to happen, and it’s simply poor leadership to increase a goal so significantly to “make up” for not hitting a previous goal. Instead, it’s time to get prescriptive. When your team members are fighting an uphill battle, start with a small action and build from there. In the previous example, the goal would be to hit 3 contracts that week, and then go from there. Small actions lead to big actions over time. When people are stuck, drama and negative mental chatter increases. It’s your job as a leader to set very, very specific actions to take in order to lead your team over that hill.

Once you get your team to the top, get ready to push through the downhill. This ebb and flow will continue your entire career. Find the joy in all of it! Find the joy in helping your team member get 5% more than they thought possible by asking them questions, helping them self-discover the answer, and believing in them when they don’t believe in themselves. Find the joy in helping a family member shift their perspective and realize there is more to life the daily grind. Find the joy in each breath you take and each step you take, whether it’s uphill or downhill! When you are more stressed out about trying to achieve a goal instead of enjoying the journey, the process, the challenges of it all, then you’ve already lost the point. The point is to embrace all of life’s experiences and find joy in each moment!

Your job as a leader is to help the people in your life navigate these ups and downs in their personal or professional life. It’s not necessarily a negative thing when your team member or your mom is stuck. It’s actually a really amazing opportunity for you to stay intensely present, to rise above the emotions of the problem, and to lead them out of the it. There is massive joy in helping someone else change their thinking and their life.

Is there someone in your life that is stuck or facing an uphill battle? Maybe they are actually coasting downhill right now and could use a little challenge to help them maximize the downhill opportunity. Who is that person in your life? Go have a conversation with them today.

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