3 Strategies for Leading Yourself through Challenging Times

April 8, 2020 Vicki Stanford

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed so many aspects of our home and work lives.  Regaining a sense of control is the first order of business, according to motivation expert Susan Fowler, co-creator of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Self Leadership program.

“Extreme changes have left us experiencing a loss of control. We are being told we either can’t do something or we have to do something. We can't go to work. We can't go outside. We can't be with our families. We have to wear a mask. We have to stay indoors. We have to wash our packages.  Feeling that loss of control can lead to a sense of debilitating helplessness that curtails the positive energy we need to do much of anything.”

Fowler points to three principles taught in the Self Leadership program that can help people get unstuck and moving forward again.  The first is to Challenge Assumed Constraints.

“Challenging assumed constraints means exploring the assumptions you’re making.  For example, you might have assumptions about working from home. I hear things such as I don’t have a good space, I'm not disciplined enough, or I can’t focus because of all the distractions. When you challenge those assumptions, you begin to bring more control into your life by realizing you have options.

“Let's say finding space to work at home is an issue. Maybe you live in a little apartment with roommates.  A young woman in this exact situation told me how she challenged her assumed constraint.

“She reimagined a small corner of her bedroom and fashioned a little work nook with just enough space for her computer and a chair. Then she got creative. She rearranged the pictures on her wall so that the background looks good on camera for virtual meetings. She added a candle. She was so proud of herself. She told me, ‘I might just keep this space even after I go back to my office.’ She found the space inspiring. Her story reminds me of how challenging assumed constraints can elevate our resourcefulness.

“Having to work with kids at home is a new reality. It’s also a potential assumed constraint. Most parents tell me it’s a challenge, but others have told me it's really good for their kids to see what work looks like and learn to respect it.  This is an opportunity to teach children to appreciate boundaries. Yes, children need autonomy, but within boundaries. I think this is an interesting way to flip a negative assumption on its head.”

The second principle of Self Leadership is Activate Your Points of Power.

“When you find yourself at a loss for control, it’s normal to look for someone with position power to fix things.  Or when you think something could be done better another way, it’s normal to think it’s not your place to recommend alternatives.  Don’t assume the only type of power is position power—having authority over some aspect of work because of your role or title. Not realizing your own power could be your biggest assumed constraint.  But that’s only one type of power.  Four other forms of power you can activate include: 

  • Personal power—having interpersonal and leadership skills
  • Task power—having control over a task or job
  • Relationship power—being connected
  • Knowledge power—having relevant experience or expertise

Consider how powerful someone is who has the skill to set up home technology right now, or who knows how to access Zoom, or who has relationships with people they can call to ask for help.  We all have sources of power we can tap into if we broaden our concept of what power is. It’s been said the sole advantage of power is the ability to do more good. There’s never been a better time to activate your power to do more good for yourself and others.”

The third principle of Self Leadership is Be Proactive.

“When you proactively do even one or two acts a day, science says you literally reduce stress and gain positive energy.

“One tip I’ve been sharing is to proactively map out your day. You might not end up doing everything you map out, but psychologically it's important to plan how your day is going to flow. Add in wake-up time, breakfast, and work starting time. Include plans for work-specific hours as well as when you’ll spend time with your children. Map out the whole day.  But be sure to include space for discretionary time. Motivation science shows you need to have a sense of choice. If everything is too prescribed, if every minute is accounted for, it erodes your sense of choice. Find that balance between proactively organizing your day and your week while also making sure you leave open discretionary time that supports your sense of choice.”

Fowler offers words of encouragement during this difficult time.

“This is the time to build your self leadership skills. Challenge your assumed constraints, activate your points of power, and be proactive. I think self leadership is a powerful antidote to the loss of control we're all experiencing.”


Would you like to learn more about developing Self Leadership skills at home and at work?  Join us for a free webinar!

Self Leadership: An Essential Skill in Challenging Times

Thursday, April 23, 2020, 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time

 In this interactive webinar, celebrated author, speaker, and globally recognized self leadership expert Susan Fowler shares critical insight into key self leadership skills required during the current coronavirus outbreak. Susan shares top tips based on research and her extensive work with organizations and leaders at all levels.

You will learn:

  • Critical individual skills for effective self leadership while working from home, dealing with distractions, and coping with unprecedented change
  • How to gain the mindset to ensure you have the focus and clarity to manage yourself when working in a different environment
  • Why self leadership needs to be encouraged and supported—especially now

Susan Fowler will share rich insight into these key issues and how you can apply them in your current workplace.  Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how to improve both your and your team’s mindset and skillset.

Register today!

About the Author

Vicki Stanford

Vicki Stanford is a marketing director for Blanchard®. She is the producer of the LeaderChat podcast and a contributing writer for the Ignite! newsletter.

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