Almost all the CEOs that I’ve known have a game face. They radiate a certain toughness. Even when they’re worried or frustrated, they do not run around in a panic. There’s no time to gripe or lash out, because they’re too busy maintaining their focus on digesting the facts, analyzing their options and taking action.
Sure, they might lose their temper or act foolishly on occasion. And you can, too, as long as you offset that behavior by presenting a steely, determined side.
Never acknowledge that you’re impotent. Stop yourself before you make any of these horribly spineless comments:
‘We’re powerless to stop this’
This statement might sound like a dispassionate analysis of the situation, but it’s actually verbal poison. It’s like saying, “We’ve given up. And it’s OK, because we’ve got this great excuse: We’re powerless to do anything.”
The moment you say this, a demanding boss or board of directors will see right through you. They’ll conclude that you are abdicating responsibility for solving the problem. And years of credibility will suddenly crumble when you fold in the face of adversity.
If you think you’re powerless, keep it to yourself. Appeal to your employees’ grit. Rouse them to do their best under fire. Remember: You’re never powerless to influence others, even if you cannot influence larger events.
‘I don’t know how much more of this I/we can take’
If I’m weighing whom to promote—and I’ve got two equally qualified candidates— I’ll let stamina be the deciding factor. The person who’s more resilient wins.
Hopeless comments such as “I can’t deal with this any more” accomplish nothing. Correction: They make you look like a beaten-down wreck.
When you’re tempted to express exasperation, replace it with a forward-looking, outcome-oriented statement.
I had a manager who was overwhelmed by new computer hardware. He was at wit’s end. But he’s a savvy guy who knows what it takes to succeed. So he relied on gallows humor while riding out a few awful months of continuous snafus. He kept saying, “This is a test and I intend to pass.” And now he’s a VP.
‘I can’t do this’
Even if you can’t do something, don’t say it. At least take a stab at it. Why show up if you’re not going to try?
To me, this is the ultimate career killer. When I see people refuse to act, I just can’t respect them. I figure that if they’re asked to venture outside of their comfy nest, they’ll freeze up and die. I need to surround myself with survivors— brave, trustworthy and strong survivors.
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