How to deal with the stressors and burdens of failure.

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#1
I've tried to avoid asking questions needlessly on the forums and instead looking for the information contained within past threads and while I have found a literal gold mine, especially @Teufel's post in How to Break an Officer as a Leader. (Thank you by the way, it helped me refocus and reset).

However I was hoping for first hand experience or advice from some of the members here in regards to how they have dealt with perceived failure (consistent or otherwise), and handling constant stress while preventing toxic leadership from taking hold.

To give an idea of the situation I'm in, I am a brand new Department Manager at my job I have about 12 people that are under my "command" (including two managers) and the area that I supervise is the largest and most difficult in the store. We currently have a BSV coming up that we have been preparing for constantly, it is where we as a business are reviewed by our corporate representative and they decide if we meet the parent brands targets for how we should operate.

To say that our management team and myself are stressed would be an understatement, we have been working 80 hour work weeks for the past two weeks in addition to constant coaching and recoaching on procedures to where we are operating at above and beyond standard operations. In addition, teamwork and cooperation between fellow managers is starting to take a hit due to everything going on.

My question is with everything under a 100x microscope every mistake is amplified so the sense of failure is increased ten-fold, how do I as a leader stay motivated and keep myself from taking it out on my subordinates? I consider myself a level headed but firm leader, but with no sense of a "win" for awhile now and the constant sense of failure regardless of the severity I can start to feel it wearing down on me. I'll react with severity anymore, but then realise afterwards that I made a mistake in how I approached the situation and regret it afterwards.


Sorry if this seems sort of like a rant (which I guess it is), or if it doesn't belong here, or not discussion worthy. If any of the mods or admins deem it as such, could you remove the thread for me and I'll go back to observing.


Respectfully,
Saint
 

Ooh-Rah

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#2
I love your well thought out post and look forward to seeing some of the responses.
Later tonight I will give you my business point-of-view on your question.
 

Topkick

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#3
how do I as a leader stay motivated and keep myself from taking it out on my subordinates?
I won't get up on my First Sergeant soap box, but I'll share what I feel is most important. Its sounds cliché but what drives me as a leader is to never forget where I came from, and to remember that as a leader you always live in a fish bowl. As hard as it is, the worse thing you can do is to get negative and lose your sense of humor. Always be empathetic, but don't confuse that with sympathetic. Good or bad, a leaders attitude spreads like a disease.
 

digrar

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#4
Failures are opportunities for improvement, as long as they're being taken that way, you get better. If the failures keep reoccuring, you've got to re-address the way you're using those failures as teachable incidents, or re-address the controls you've put in place to stop it from reoccuring.
 
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#5
As hard as it is, the worse thing you can do is to get negative and lose your sense of humor. Always be empathetic, but don't confuse that with sympathetic. Good or bad, a leaders attitude spreads like a disease.
Thank you for reminding me of that, one of the things that drove me to take the position I'm in now is to be a more positive, non toxic leader, someone who wasn't afraid to get into the shit with my team and embrace the suck with them and lead them out of it. I feel like I'm at my best when I come into a snafu and take over from there.

Over the past two weeks I think with the extra pressure I've done what I had set out to not become, and I let the stress get to me and allow it to start breaking me down. Thank you for the wake up call.


Failures are opportunities for improvement, as long as they're being taken that way, you get better. If the failures keep reoccuring, you've got to re-address the way you're using those failures as teachable incidents, or re-address the controls you've put in place to stop it from reoccuring.
Hard agree, coming in to what I am now I thought it would be more of the same when it came to my job, so far I couldn't have been more wrong and it's been a lot of hurt pride, knocks to the ego, and a cold hard dip into reality that I have a lot more responsibility than I ever did previously.

There's been a lot of growing pains and the past couple of weeks if anything have highlighted the need for me to reevaluate the controls I have in place and how I use this time of getting knocked to build myself and my team backup. There came a point when one of the people higher up blatantly doubted my teams and my capabilities and whether we were able to complete the objectives set before us. Needless to say it ignited a fire in my belly and the 25m target is to get past this review then maintain the best department in the store regardless of the challenges or changes that come at myself or my team.

Thank you for the helpful responses, sometimes you need to take a step back off of the line to get a true sense of the overall situation you're in. Regardless of how hard the truth might be to swallow.
 

DocIllinois

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#6
I won't get up on my First Sergeant soap box, but I'll share what I feel is most important. Its sounds cliché but what drives me as a leader is to never forget where I came from, and to remember that as a leader you always live in a fish bowl. As hard as it is, the worse thing you can do is to get negative and lose your sense of humor. Always be empathetic, but don't confuse that with sympathetic. Good or bad, a leaders attitude spreads like a disease.
This, especially the last sentence. The culture and attitude of everyone under you begins with you.

As far as failure, I'm with @digrar - don't make it a habit but don't be averse to it as a step toward growth, either. The worst command I ever served under was that way because of a pervasive fear of failure, and overreaction to it. Talk about toxic. It was hideous.

.$02
 

Ocoka

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#7
Take a deep breath. Stress is a reaction to pressure that's out of your control. You're slammed and in the Weeds. Realize that you and your co-managers can only do your best in a bad situation and if the best isn't good enough for your superiors, then it's impossible to satisfy them so fuck them. Understanding this and accepting it will help relieve some of the pressure. Communicate this to others who are stressed out. When you feel things spinning out of control, take a deep breath and get a grip. This is not life and death.

The pilot of an aircraft that's falling out of the sky is not screaming for help or pulling his hair out by the roots. He's looking for a solution. He tries A...if that doesn't work, he tries B...then C...then D...he tries to do his best for as long as he can. That's all he can do.
 
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Devildoc

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#8
Holy cow, if I had a buck for every failure I had.

About 7 years ago, a little more, I was hired into a position that was very competitive. In my institution it was one of the top-3 leadership positions for that level. There was good, bad, and ugly...plenty of room for improvement, but the department still performed so well as to be a "featured unit".

In short, my short tenure was a disaster. About 25% of the staff, about 20 people, was just undermining my authority at every turn. My direct report and I got along like oil and water. It was a soap opera on steroids, and no 'style' I could come up with worked.

After seven months, living there 70, 80 hours a week, gaining weight, not seeing my kids, I realized that unlike the military, I had a choice, so I left.

Here's what I learned:

1. Failures at the time, may not have been a failure. Things I implemented but were unpopular or didn't fully worked, were kept and tweaked by the new boss, and are still in use today.

2. Staff pay attention to attitude. They are like sharks around a bleeding, flailing fish if you have a bad attitude. Fortunately, that was one thing I pulled over from my military days that worked, and I always kept a sense of humor.

3. You can't change others' attitudes. You can lay out the expectations and consequences, but you can't change how someone feels or thinks. I tried to, it didn't work.

4. Toxic work environment is generational in that to clean it up, it needs to skip a generation. As I put hard discipline on the older troublemakers (previous manager let them slide), I was hiring new blood with great attitudes and work ethic. After I left, the new boss told me the older folks saw the writing on the wall and eventually retired or transferred.

5. Gripe up, not down. Bitch to your manager, not to the employees under you. If you need to pick a friend, it needs to be up the chain and not down.

6. Home-work balance. I failed at that. If I had it better, I think I would have been more successful. Even little things, like taking lunch outside the department, walking outside for a few minutes of fresh air, those things would have helped.

7. Make people own their mistakes. As manager I felt like I had to own their mistakes. Sure, I was accountable, but they were responsible.

Some of these, or all of these, may not be applicable to you. I will tell you that the feeling of failure is one of the worst things I have ever felt, but in every single time if I could learn from it or use it to change something, then I figured there was some growth. But even though I hate failure, I don't fear it, because it is inevitable and can propel to growth.
 
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#9
Great post @Devildoc.

Every failure needs to be a lesson learned. You learned how not to do something, that is more important to someone than stumbling into the correct answer on accident. The process of enabling employees to make correct decisions on their own is what you want.

Frustration builds, you need to figure out a healthy way to vent your frustration. You know what relieves your stress in a good way, just don't turn to substance. I have seen superstars ruin everything because the stress burns them out and they turn to the wrong outlets.

You might need to better understand your employees and how they best respond to direction. Some employees under pressure turn into a shell of themselves and second guess everything, becoming more prone to mistakes. You might need to deliver your message differently to different people.

You might put better policies in place and better the workforce and still fail in the short run. Don't be discouraged, learn why it failed now and make sure it doesn't going forward if it is more effective and efficient.

Always stay learning, always be listening to your employees. You need to understand where they are coming from.

Shit happens, the world will keep turning, the company will keep moving. Be humble.
 
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#10
Thank you all for the great replies it really helped me put things in perspective and realize more fully some of the negative actions or leadership practices I do.

One of my biggest issues is trying to own everything in my area, when something fails or doesn't meet expectations I feel as if it was a failure of my own even if it was someone else's task. I try to be everywhere helping everyone because in my mind that's what a good leader should do. But what happens is I over extend, get lost in the weeds, then lose sight of the original target.

Then while trying to maintain the calm and level headed image of what I believe a leader should be, I end up bottling it up and letting it sit and build and eat away at me. When as you all have said, I'm the person they most interact with on a leadership basis, so what are they supposed to do when they can clearly see that I'm starting to lose control and let things get to me. Literally the number one thing I wanted to avoid when I first became a manager due to having ones that were like that 24/7.

Thank you all again for the responses it really helped me regain sight of the things that I had originally set out to do and realize the things I have been starting to become.
 
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#11
Just came back to this as a reminder to take a step back and evaluate the situation as a whole.

It came to my knowledge tonight that I had a manager allow an extremely negligent and erroneous situation occur, one that could lead to people getting sick or even possible death. Needless to say I came crashing down on the manager hard, after my extreme anger subsided (we can promise a lot of things to customers but the one guarantee we can always give is that we put out a safe product, except for this time tonight)

After taking a little bit to recollect my bearings, I looked at our systems currently in place to prevent something like this occurring and realized that even though they may be up to snuff it's not enough to prevent this from happening anyways due to negligence. Going forward I'm having all of us go over safety measures and putting in new systems to keep us on top of things and to avoid something like this happening again.

I've started to realize this is the second somewhat vent post that I've done in this thread and I apologize. I would also like to take the time and thank everyone that participates and contributes to this forum, I've learned a ton and have become a better leader because of it.

Thank you,
Saint
 

Johca

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#12
at my job I have about 12 people that are under my "command" (including two managers) and the
I'm curious as to how and why you consider having command in an employment duty position lacking lawful authority to compel other than hire/fire authority and perhaps giving wage increases and maybe a bonus. IMO opinion in such limited options to reward the orientation of commanding has potential of coercion to get results rather than improving abilities and willingness to get things successfully accomplished.

IMO explaining what you consider a win to be in terms for you and the department would be a great start of defining objectives to work towards to getting done what needs to be accomplished by you and the team you are commanding to do or die (commanding is authority to demand, effective leading doesn't require command authority to police and punish for not obeying). Seldom is there sufficient opportunity to hand out rewards to get more willingness and motivation to get something done. Have you considered asking if your department can wear a beret uniform to improve your teams commitment to being more committee to the mission or perhaps implementing an occupational specific fitness test?
 
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#13
I'm curious as to how and why you consider having command in an employment duty position lacking lawful authority to compel other than hire/fire authority and perhaps giving wage increases and maybe a bonus. IMO opinion in such limited options to reward the orientation of commanding has potential of coercion to get results rather than improving abilities and willingness to get things successfully accomplished.

IMO explaining what you consider a win to be in terms for you and the department would be a great start of defining objectives to work towards to getting done what needs to be accomplished by you and the team you are commanding to do or die (commanding is authority to demand, effective leading doesn't require command authority to police and punish for not obeying). Seldom is there sufficient opportunity to hand out rewards to get more willingness and motivation to get something done. Have you considered asking if your department can wear a beret uniform to improve your teams commitment to being more committee to the mission or perhaps implementing an occupational specific fitness test?

"Command" was a poor word choice versus, say, "lead". But when I realized my mistake I couldn't change my wording and all I could do was drive on and let the dice fall where it may.

I was raised on the belief that rewards weren't supposed to be given unless there was measurable and sustained success to compare against the trailing history. Whether that's a good thing to implement and stay with I don't know, it's just something that's been ingrained upon me.

I feel like there was a few tongue in cheek strategies mentioned or I might be reading too much into it. Apologies if I came off the wrong way, sir.
 
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