I coach and consult with a lot of leaders who are very wrapped up and consumed by the daily occurences they encounter in their environments. These are senior level leaders who have a lot of external pressure from company boards, Wall Street, shareholders, and countless numbers of employees. One thing I notice that is different amongst those who are more successful than others is their approach to the external environment.
What I have discovered in many years of coaching senior leaders is that those who tend to have greater success in their roles and in their companies do not try to control anyone but themselves. In fact, they know that they cannot control any of the external circumstances so, each day they choose to control the one and only thing they can – themselves.
I recently had a coaching session with the CFO of a large company on one of those days where the stock market plunged. I remember thinking that he might not even want to have our coaching session considering the volatility of the markets and all the anxiety and panic that was being communicated in the news media. His company was one (of many) whose stock was significantly impacted by the plunge. Yet, when we met for our coaching session, he was the same even-keeled, calm, kind person he had always been. I asked him what his secret was and he said, “Andria, if I could control the stock market, I certainly wouldn’t be in this job!” and then he laughed and continued to tell me that he wakes each day knowing that anything can happen and anything is possible and of all that possibility, the only thing he is certain of is his own self.
So he chooses to approach each day as if only the best will happen and when the best ends up being not so great, he chooses to remain in a calm frame of mind instead of getting caught up in the chaos of it all. Why does he do this? First and foremost is because it feels right to him. Second, he knows nothing is stagnant and everything always changes so, even the worst of days always end up getting better. And third, because as the CFO of a major company, he knows that remaining calm in the face of adversity is exactly what his shareholders, the board, and the workforce need to see. He also knows that if he chooses to remain calm, he can have that impact on those around him. His hope is that those around him will pick up on his calm energy and spread that around instead of spreading panic and anxiety.
He is probably one of the most centered and inspiring leaders I have the honor of working with and I try to remember what I have learned from him on a daily basis: every day, I get to choose how I react to all that occurs around me. I know I cannot control anything but me. If I choose to react to the bad weather or the plunging stock market by being angry or upset, okay – that’s my choice. But I can also choose to remain focused on what is right and going well and know that simply because I get to choose, I am always in control of the type of experience I have.