Working Focused: Doing Your Best in Uncertain Times

Today’s post by Charlotte Walker, one of our Emerging Leader bloggers, is one we can all relate to at some point in our careers. Great tips, Charlotte!

Have you ever gotten smacked up side the head by something so hard it stuns you? Well about six months ago that kind of thing happened to me. I received a very unexpected call from my senior manager one evening.  He had some questions about the program I manage. There had been some developments in my industry, and he wanted to make sure he fully understood how my program worked.  I answered his questions, and he seemed satisfied. We hung up on a positive note, but I still felt uneasy about the call.

The following Monday I had an internal email letting me know my program was being audited to see if it was profitable enough to continue. As if that wasn’t nerve wracking enough, the lawyers had been called in to look at our contractual obligations regarding my program. My entire spending budget was taken away, but I was told, “Don’t worry. Just go about your business as usual.”

“As usual? As usual?” I thought. “Yeah sure, I don’t have any funds to spend, or any information from upper management, and I’m uncertain about my future here, but I’ll go about business as usual!”

Stunned is an understatement to how I felt. Panic, stress, fear, and worry filled my body. Questions filled my mind. Did I need to look for a new job? How was this going to affect my résumé?  Things were VERY serious.

This blow caused a definite lack of motivation for me and my team. “What’s the point of working hard if it’s all going to go away?,” we wondered. I had to find some kind of motivation within myself to work as hard as I always had and motivate those working for me to do the same. But how was I going to do that?

Put your big girl panties on and deal with it.

That was the decision I had come to, so I took control of the things I could control – my attitude, my actions, and my reactions.

I took it out of my hands. Personally, I put it in God’s hands, but whether or not you’re a believer in God as I am, it really was out of my hands.  I had the evidence to prove the program was profitable, but I couldn’t stop industry changes or a higher up from saying my program was too much hassle for the income. (My program only brings in a relatively small percent of the company’s total profits.)

I talked about it. I talked with my vice presidents and other senior leaders. I was open, honest, and respectful about my thoughts and fears.

• I got support. My support person was my husband. He was there to calm me down and let me know that no matter what was decided, everything would be okay. And I didn’t tell worry warts. Telling my mother, and getting her all worried and asking questions wasn’t going to help things, so when I talked to her, work was “just fine.”

• I took a chill pill. I trusted my gut and put things in perspective. It was so easy for me to think about the worst possible scenario, so I let myself say, “So what?” I gave myself permission to think about it, but not worry. Everything would work out.

• I did a reality check. I looked at who I am as a person and what kind of drive I pride myself on. Was I going to let something like this get in my way? No! I was going to prove to my leaders that anything thrown my way wouldn’t slow me down. If nothing else, they’d see that I was never deterred.

My team took up the same kind of mindset, and we stayed on track. I’m still in the middle of getting all of this figured out, but I have faith that no matter what happens, everything will be okay, and it’s up to me to stay focused on my personal goals and be flexible enough to take the ball and roll with it.

Charlotte Walker* is a twenty-something marketing manager working in investments. Her passion for leadership grows from her first-hand experiences in how “everything rises and falls on leadership.” Charlotte enjoys helping other individuals realize their full potential and accomplish more than they thought possible. After a hard day’s work, Charlotte trades her suit and heels for jeans and cowboy boots, preferring to spend most evenings working in the garden, feeding cows, fishing, and cooking. *Charlotte is a real leader, but her real name has been changed to allow her to blog about her real-life experiences and lessons learned.

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  • Linda Sasser says:

    I love the realness of your stories Charlotte. We learn through not only our own experiences but also through the experiences of others when they are willing to share! Thanks for sharing with us.

    My favorite part about this entire story is your maturity and discipline in not telling your mother! Ha-ha. Seriously, who we talk to in times like this is crucial yet I’m not sure many of us think that through like you did. You know your mom well enough to know that telling her the story later (when you have a “known” ending) will be less painful for both of you!

    Thanks for your post. Can’t wait to see the next one!

  • Annie says:

    Great post! I admire your resolve to not let things get in your way and to also not let the worry consume you. It is so hard to stay focused when things seem uncertain!

  • Laurie says:

    Great story, Charlotte actually brought me to tears, thank you for sharing your story! Linda thank’s again for your leadership girl! I always look forward to leadership from the Sasser’s.