As the week progressed I was finding it difficult to identify a specific problem as I was putting in more working hours and I was focused on fine tuning our strategy and backing up decisions with well thought out calculations. The results were published at 5pm on Thursday and the severity of the outcome became quickly apparent as the problems started escalating. I am still struggling to come to terms with our result and I spent a restless night stressing about the poor results. This week’s problem relates directly to me; how do I cope with loss, confusion and the guilt of a terrible roll-over?
I found it extremely difficult to look at our reports and face the horror, worried about how other teams would judge us, and what they would think. I then began to think back to my journal last week, which was focused on a similar concept but I had framed it in terms of my teams motivation. This week it is my motivation that is the issue. The way I first approached the situation was extremely single-looped, I just focused on how devastated I was feeling and I did not consider the motivations behind this emotion (Argyris, 1991). I have found it interesting that a week later I have had the exact same single-looped reaction (Argyris, 1991).
I always strive for the best, anything less than an A grade, I always consider to be a bad result. Even if I have tried my absolute best, unless this is reflected in a tangible way, I am very quick to self-deprecate and I continuously beat myself up. I have never reflected on why this may occur and I found it interesting that Christensen (2010) highlighted the way that individuals who require high levels of attachment invest in activities which are most likely to offer a tangible reward. This has led me to realise that my main focus since we started leading the competition has been the additional 5% added to my grade, which will ultimately increase my likelihood of getting an A grade. When I saw the SHV drop by an unbelievable amount, my whole outlook switched. I knew we now had a minimal chance of getting that additional 5% and my motivation slumped. I began to feel extremely guilty, knowing that this will affect my team’s grade and feeling that as the CEO of this company, I should have done more to reduce the loss or at least anticipated this outcome. The fact that I did not anticipate this, I saw as a failure, and I felt like I really let down the team. It is this sense of responsibility that kept me awake last night as I continuously reflected on what it all meant and how we were going to increase our profitability.
After minimal sleep, my reflection continued and I realised I needed to take on board everything I learnt last week about motivating my team and use this to motivate myself. I had been using defensive reasoning in the way that I was blaming myself and not focusing on how much could be gained during this learning opportunity. Once I was able to recognise my automatic negative thoughts, I realised how much I had actually learnt.
Firstly, a long-term strategy is good, yet if you are unable to use it effectively, it is pointless. In order to overcome this, you need to have strategic meetings before the decision-making is finalised (Baghai, Smit & Viguerie, 2009). Perhaps we should have sat down and thought about what we actually wanted to accomplish. Simply wanting to win, and to sell lots of bikes is not sufficient, we actually needed to be more analytical and analyse our strategy more intensely. Secondly, you need to be able to effectively manage the wins with the losses. This means I need to avoid creating a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby I tell myself that there is no hope of succeeding so that my actions ultimately lead this to happening. I need to regain my confidence and I need to show my team that we can reclaim our success.
I have been reflecting on how I will increase my confidence and I have realised it is more about what I think and as Christensen (2010, p. 51) says, I need to “choose the right yardstick”. My confidence was affected as I worried that other teams would think I had become too arrogant or I had stopped trying to succeed. I should be more focused on the effect that this has on my team’s confidence in my ability to lead the team. We all know that we put in the effort by doubling the hours this week and we did our best to succeed. In this instance, this was not good enough but I am proud that every team member put an extreme amount of effort in this week. I learnt how to effectively analyse decisions and collaborate in an effective manner without time pressures and mitigating any areas of conflict.
This week has been a very good lesson because as I progress into the corporate world, there will be many times when decisions do not go my way. I may not get a desired job or a promotion and I may not get the tangible reward that I so desire. I have learnt that life is not all about the short-term gratification but rather the ability to look back and know I did my best. This best may not equate to perfection, but perfection is over-rated, because it simply does not exist.
Argyris, C. (1991). Teaching smart people how to learn. Reflections, 4(2), 4—15
Baghai, M., Smit, S., & Viguerie, P. (2009). Is your growth strategy flying blind? Harvard Business Review, 87(5), 86---96.
Christensen, C. M. (2010). How will you measure your life? Harvard Business Review, 88(7/8), 46-51.