Words of wisdom from one of my new favorite philosophers have been ringing in my ears recently. He may not be an Aristotle, but he has a better backup band. The advice is found in the song "Let It Go" by the Zac Brown Band. The words of wisdom are, "And know you're not the only ship out on the ocean; save your strength for things that you can change, forgive the ones you can't; you gotta let 'em go."
Some traditionalists may have a problem accepting that sound business advice can come with guitar and percussion accompaniment. But the messages in those lyrics are similar to ones I've often preached to bank managers.
It's easy to sometimes feel that the challenges we encounter in our jobs are unique to us. But having the opportunity to speak and work with scores of organizations and hundreds of bankers, it's pretty easy to assure folks that they are indeed "not the only ship out on the ocean."
Economic and industry turmoil affects their peers and competitors in much the same way. Even in "normal" times, managers and front-line folks everywhere deal with corporate support issues now and then. All regularly have personnel, technology, facilities, sales and customer service challenges.
Sure, knowing that others have similar challenges doesn't make ours any easier. But realizing that the playing field is more level than it feels at times can help us keep a more positive outlook.
The second and more important message in the philosopher Zac's words is the importance of focusing our energies on things that we can actually affect.
On one level, too many of us waste valuable time and energy obsessing over past decisions, actions or acts of fate that have brought us to whatever situation we currently face. Even when times are good, folks have a tendency to dwell on setbacks of the past. When times are tougher, and we are most in need of all the focus and energy we possess, the dwelling on the past often actually increases.
I like to joke that Christopher Lloyd isn't pulling up in the time-traveling DeLorean anytime soon. Going back in time is not an option. So stop planning for it.
On a more practical level, we too often allow things that we can't control keep us from doing what we should be doing in areas that we do control.
I call this the As Soon As Syndrome. Folks tell themselves that "as soon as" some event beyond their control happens, they'll then do what they should really be doing anyway. As soon as my boss pays more attention to me, I'm really going to step up my efforts and show what I can do. As soon as corporate marketing starts giving my branch better and timelier materials, I'm going to make my branch look great. As soon as the economy turns around, I'm going to really begin reaching out to prospective clients again.
The situation isn't what we'd like it to be. But, hey, as soon as that changes, so will our attitude and actions.
And we continue to allow things that we cannot change today keep us from doing things that we actually can.
Or maybe you have personnel you feel are deserving of a promotion or pay raise that you are presently unable to give to them. Are those employees going to hear more about how something you'd like to do is out of your control, or will they hear about how valued they are to your team?
The inability to promote or increase a person's pay right now doesn't keep us from making an extra phone call or sending an extra e-mail or having a lunch discussion with him to communicate his value to the team.
A team's focus and energies will usually align with its leader's. In today's business environment, the list of things beyond your control may be long. But so is the list of things that you can, in fact, affect today. Strive to make sure that you and your team's time and energy are focused on the latter.