21 Nov 2021

Continued Business Malaise – Moving Forward, Slow and Steady

How do you know if you’re in the middle of a Continued Business Malaise – and what to do about it!

We previously touched on this topic, but now I want to take a deep-dive into a couple of the main focus areas for dealing with the continued business malaise that we are currently facing. We talked about 4 main things to focus on:

  1. Don’t assume this will last forever…it won’t.
  2. Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
  3. Leadership, Not Management.
  4. Start Doing. Stop Doing.

Let’s dive right into the first couple of key points!

Don’t Assume this will last forever…it won’t.

In the mental health world, there are things called automatic thoughts, sometimes and usually automatic negative thoughts. Automatic thoughts are the kind of negative self-talk that appears immediately, without us even being aware of forming a thought, in response to a certain stimulus. They typically go something like this: “I lost the sale or contract, I really stink at selling, my future in sales is going to suck, and I’m going to lose my job.”  All within the span of a few seconds in your mind.

In my experiences and discussions with business owners the last several months, this pervasive negative self-talk is happening a lot.  We live in a confusing and frustrating time and these automatic negative thoughts may be occurring more often than a few years ago prior to COVID-19.

At times, I struggle with automatic negative thoughts and begin ruminating on them – and I end up in a very negative and dark place.  I’ve learned over the years how to keep myself from spiraling down that dark hole.  While not easy, there is a process to it (did I tell you I love processes!?), so here is a summary:

  1. Immediately remember/think that these are thoughts, not actions, and you are in control of them.
  2. Remind yourself they are merely thoughts that have spiraled to a catastrophic negative thought (like losing your job or business), and that scenario is step 16 and you’re still on step 1, and it’s highly, highly unlikely (it really is highly unlikely).
  3. Stop and take a breath and truly think about what just happened in reality.  Yes, you may have lost the sale, but you’ve lost them before and recovered.  Does anyone else lose sales?  Every day!  So, you’re not alone.  Remember this.  You’re never alone.
  4. Take a small step/action.  What can you do right then and there to address the reality you’re in.  I lost that sale, so I need to go find a new client.  First step.
  5. Ask for help – business owners in particular need to avoid isolation (it can be a very lonely world) and find someone that they can go to for help.  Surround yourself with people who care about you and your business.  Mentors, colleagues, fellow business owners, coaches, etc.  Taking the load on all by yourself is maybe a noble thought but a disastrous one.  Don’t forget to ask for help.  There are people who are more than willing to help you (and you can do likewise of course).

Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast. 

Navy Seal and Delta force slogan.  I believe it applies to businesses as well.  But what I also see are owners who are running really fast but are not running smooth.  They haven’t slowed down to speed up!

It’s an easy trap to fall into…feeling we need to push harder and faster, and sometimes that is true.  But over time, it’s not a sustainable long-term strategy.  We can’t all operate at 100%+ capacity, both mentally and physically.

Take the time to slow down and truly assess your situation and existing reality.  I’d recommend a business do this quarterly at a minimum.  Monthly if you’re in crisis.  It can be brutal.  But being honest with yourself is the first step in making progress. Deal with reality, not what you’d like your reality to be.  You can’t do everything at once.  Well, you can, but if you do, you’ll burn yourself and your team out – and you’ll feel the pain of workforce turnover.

Take the time to slow down, write down your current reality and the things swirling in your head.  And then reset your goals and objectives for the next week, month or quarter.  Do this on a repeating basis.  Just slowing down on a frequent basis to do this can make you faster, not slower.

If you’re going to get steamrolled by a tsunami, you might as well be calm and calculated when it hits!

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With the right changes in mindsets and habits, you can break free from feeling overworked, overwhelmed, frustrated or like a prisoner to your business. It’s time to fully Feed Your Dreams and Starve Your Fears.