Spring is a time of renewal. It is a perfect time to clean out not only the stuff around you but also attitudes and stories in your mind that hold you back. Cleaning up your environment will help you think differently which causes you to act differently.
There is something about spring that inspires us to branch out and try new things or restart something we let slide back in January. Spring for me was about cleaning out and organizing. My mother’s mantra was if you didn’t throw at least one item out, you weren’t doing a thorough cleaning or organizing job. She was right. We keep so much stuff around that it can clutter our view and box us in.
How does spring cleaning translate to you and your leadership? Simple. What do you want to branch out and do differently, more effectively? To listen better? To be more thoughtful in your responses? Pause before you begin to answer a question or jump in with a comment? Show more interest in your staff or peers as individuals?
What is preventing you from doing what you know would make you become a better leader? My guess is it is the stuff around you and the stuff in your head. Let’s start with clearing out the stuff around you. Take a moment to look around your work space. Are there files, books, reports that collect dust just in case you might need them? You just know the minute you throw it out you will need whatever was in that file, etc. Maybe reexamining what you wanted from those files (that you no longer have) will lead you to better solutions. Maybe it will force you to ask others for their ideas or interpretations. You are not recreating the wheel but perhaps making a better wheel as you are now free to redefine the situation and devise a better solution. Too often we stop thinking and focus on finding wasting time and valuable energy to find something that may have an answer. Most times starting out with less baggage allows us to move forward more quickly and more cooperatively even collaboratively.
More challenging is clearing out the stuff in your head. We spend much or our day reacting to our environment. We are better leaders when we respond. Your reacting is a function of habit and the stories you tell yourself. It is challenging to change a habit without changing the story. Thoughts drive emotion-driven action.
How to spring clean the stuff in your head? Start by selecting a behavior/reaction you want to change. Examine your behavior by answering these questions*:
- What do I get out of doing x?
- What in my environment or relationships reinforces my acting this way?
- What does this reaction have to do with how I see myself?
- What do I need to do to stop this behavior?
Thinking differently changes behavior. More importantly acting differently changes thinking which reinforces behavior changes. Use this cycle to your advantage.
No time like the present to do a little spring cleaning. Make room for new thoughts, new behaviors, new attitudes and stories.
“We are used to cleaning the outside house, but the most important house to clean is yourself - your own house - which we never do.” Marina Abramovic, Serbian artist
* These questions can be used to reinforce building effective behaviors as well. Just alter the last question, instead of “stop”, insert “do more of”.