I bumped into Julie’s father at the grocery store and inquired about how his
daughter was doing in the business she owned, he told me that she was going
through a rough patch. I made a mental note to call her and a few weeks later got
Julie on the phone. The first thing I noticed was Julie’s voice, the excitement was gone and her energy seemed depleted. She told me about everything that was going wrong, including dropping sales and a lack of customers. Julie told me that over the past few months she had felt defeated. She said that she felt like she was losing but didn’t know why. Julie was in a slump!
Having worked with leaders and top performers in business and sport, it's apparent that each of us has times in our careers when we get into a slump. There are many reasons for slumps including emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual or economic factors. Slumps happen when we feel that we can’t make shots, sales, or lead our teams effectively. As a manager or a coach, it can be frustrating when we see one of our team get into a slump, but we recognize that people can’t be at the top of their game all the time. Individually, we have all been through a general dry spell in our performance.
Here are 5 things you can do if you are in a slump!
Mini Reset - Often when we are in a slump, it’s because we have lost focus of our purpose. We have forgotten the love we have for what we do. As a result, we let external factors dictate how we feel or think. We end up putting too much energy into worrying about factors that are beyond our control. In Julie’s case she was more focused on customers that had left for economic reasons than focussing on the prospects that were walking right by her establishment each and every day. Sometimes a mini reset where we take the time to contemplate the reason why we are doing our job is all we need. A mini reset can enable us to regain our focus and purpose in order to meet our obligations whether they be payroll, lease payments, or our commitments to family or our team. Often times a mini reset can be all the difference we need to get back on our game.
2. Focus on 3 Essentials: Leaders and Athletes in a slump can take for granted
the focus and hard work it took us to achieve our high level of performance. Over time, we often become sloppy and let bad habits get in the way of our desired outcomes. When this happens, we need to get back to the critical essential factors of our success.
What are the two or three things we need to do on a regular basis that drove our success in the first place? In Julie’s case her success built on the effort she had put into attracting new customers. She had previously spent time to train her team to listen closely to customers, and she was creative in creating an experience for people walking into her business. As we discussed this, she realized that she had been putting less effort into these factors than she had in the past.
A basketball player I was working with recently who felt she was in a slump focused on her follow through, her leg work and put the time into practicing her shot. Reflecting on your previous success and the factors that have enabled you to get to where you are now can often inspire you to getting back to the basics and on track.
3. Be Honest and ask for help! Its amazing that when we show our weakness as leaders, our teams will rally around and support us. Recently I had a family illness where I needed time off. When I expressed the fact that I couldn’t do everything that was expected of me, friends, family and staff rallied to do what they could to help out. Admitting that you are in a slump and need some help will probably inspire your team to rally to your aid. Moreover, when you verbalize the challenges, you will often be surprised to hear that those around you already have recognized that you are at a low point and want to help.
4. Consider a Sabbatical: In 1994 I told my partner that I was taking a break from our business and booked 6 months off to travel the world. I came back refreshed and revitalized and as a result the business grew astronomically upon my return.
Sabbaticals are a great way to overcome major slumps in your career. In 1998 Michael Jordan took a 18 month sabbatical from his basketball career. He came back to add a string of championships and records in the years that followed. Typically, a sabbatical is an extended leave from your job or business to refresh and revitalize. Most sabbaticals range from 6 months to one year and traditionally in some professions like academia are granted every 7 years. Unfortunately, in leadership we believe that we are expected to work throughout our career without any extended break. This lack of
breaks often leads to professional burnout. If you are in a slump, consider this option seriously!
5. Trust Yourself – Be Patient: Your first professional slump can be confusing, however once you have gone through a dry spell, you will recognize that slumps are a natural part of life. It's impossible to perform at high levels continuously. As professionals we need to be gentle on ourselves when we struggle. We also need to be patient. Often when we try to force our return to high levels, we become frustrated at our lack of results. This doesn’t mean we should give up, instead we often have to go through the motions and trust that we have what it takes to return to our levels of success. The trust and patience we place will be rewarded in time, if we give time a chance.
If you are in a slump I feel for you. Having experienced a number of slumps at a personal and professional level, I know from experience that you will get through the experience an be better off for it. Slumps are one more bump in the school of hard knocks, learning how to get through them will make you a better leader and a better person.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an Award Winning Business Coach and the author of the book Profit Yourself Healthy. In a slump? Tell Dave about it for a quick email response. firstname.lastname@example.org