Perhaps it is because we’re approaching another year’s end, or your coach asked you to list your next challenges. Whatever it is, you suddenly feel as if you “don’t have enough” problems. As ridiculous as that might read, that is something I often hear—even if those speaking don’t put it exactly like that. When things seem to be going okay, we feel like we’re oblivious of great danger.
If you don’t see imminent disasters, it doesn’t always mean that you’re blind to them or not doing enough. Some executives I know seem to spend their days with annoying string quartets playing horror-film scores in their heads. Whenever they go past another corner, they expect something horrible to happen. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it is a nice way to spend your career.
The good news is that if you feel like this, you’re not alone and probably fretting too much.
Essentially, many leaders fear the quiet. They go into war mode when they are presented with a crisis, even if it’s a nasty one. That might be challenging, but it is simple (I didn’t say “easy,” mind you). You focus your attention on that one bad thing and make it better. When there’s no immediate enemy, a vacuum is created, and you don’t know where to turn your attention.
This is very common. I would say that in my work, I see a clear dichotomy. I’m either approached by companies that are not doing well and need help fixing a specific issue or by companies that are doing alright and want to maintain that success or improve it. In fact, the latter makes up for the majority of my work. First-timers and experienced executives alike want to ensure that they are doing good. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t think about how things can go wrong. You just need to stop doing it from a position of dread.
The Guilt of Success
The way popular culture depicts startups and tech enterprises seems to put on a pedestal those companies where things are constantly in flux. Every entrepreneur overuses the “daily rollercoaster” cliché. Thus, those leaders going through a quiet period of professional execution feel guilty. They feel like they’re doing something wrong. Where’s the action at?
This is an interesting form of impostor syndrome. Those who are probably executing at a better level feel inferior to those wasting weeks running and flailing their hands in the air, barely getting anything of significance done. Some quiet is okay. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re in the eye of the storm and bad things are coming your way. Give yourself permission to trust your team, work, and direction without the overbearing burden of doubt.
If you find that hard to do, consider a few things to help you rest your troubled mind. First, you might not be in the eye of the storm, but things change. Even if you do everything right, things eventually happen that change circumstances. I’m saying that if you fear your life will be too dull, just wait. Whether you’re successful or not, you will have to go through growing phases that will push you out of your comfort zone. Enjoy the quiet while it lasts.
Second, assess how you’re really doing. Do you regularly consider your direction and get feedback? Are you growing in your role and investing in your own personal growth? If so, you are likely at the top of the industry and, therefore, can attribute the well-earned quiet to your efforts.
Especially when working with startup CEOs, I regularly ask them to do pre-mortems and consider the likely reasons their current paths will lead to dead ends. You are doing your best when you constantly keep stock of your choices and how the strategy is performing. Accept that and go on. You will be fine if you keep investing in yourself and survey what is happening.
Yes, you will still make mistakes along the way, but your goal should never be to make none. The only way to have a perfect record is to do nothing at all—but that’s not much of a strategy, is it? If you can sincerely say that the quietness is not due to you sticking your head in the sand, you should appreciate and make the most of it. Quiet periods allow you to build your team and fortify your position for what’s coming. Keep up the good work!
Get a sample chapter
Get the best newsletter for tech executives online, along with a free sample chapter of The Tech Executive Operating System 📖. Tailored for your daily work. Weekly, short, and packed with exclusive insights.