Breathe in the shame you might be feeling. It's normal, nothing to hide. All humans feel it when we think we're not measuring up.
Remember that you are completely worthy as a human, regardless of what your boss has to say about your performance.
Before you move on to any other part of this article, stay with the breathing, feeling, and accepting of this first part. No actions you take will make a big difference in the long run if your inner foundation isn't strong. And that foundation is:
- Your presence in this moment, strengthened through paying attention to your breath
- Your ability to feel the emotions running through your body, however intense they may be, and
- Your acceptance of yourself in all your humanness. You don't need to expect perfection (whatever that might be) in order to be worthy of love and positive self-regard.
To help you stay with this process whenever a "panic storm" of worry arrives, try repeating the following:
I am here, I am human, I am loved.
This gentle repetition, combined with the breathing and self-acceptance, will help your nervous system calm down. And once that happens, the guidance below will be able to take root and allow you to make progress as a manager in a lasting and sustainable way.
The fact that you are on a performance plan is actually a good sign. It means your company cares enough about you to give you an opportunity to grow in your role.
And that's the first place we're going to start: what you're telling yourself about being on a plan.
The Power of Your Story
Your ability to turn this situation into a pivotal moment in your career depends on how you see it. That's because how you see the situation determines how you feel about it and whether you rise to the occasion or not. Consider the difference in these statements:
"I totally blew it and they don't want me here."
"Wait till they see what I can do."
The emotion created by the first statement is probably despair or shame, where the second creates a feeling of determination or courage.
So to harness the power of your story, first we must see what the default story is. This is the one that just pops into your mind like it's the only possible perspective that a reasonable person could have.
The thing is, it's not. And we're going to help you find a perspective that actually supports your growth, a story that turns being put on a plan into a powerful career stepping stone. Here's what to do:
Get a blank journal page or doc (if you don't journal yet, I highly recommend it as a practice) and write down all the thoughts you have about your current situation. Don't hold back, just get what's in your head onto the page.
You'll likely have a big list of not-so-pretty statements about yourself, your boss, and your future. And that's okay. The point here is not to "think positive" so much as become clear on what you're currently thinking.
Then, on the same page write, "I want this moment in my career to mean... " and keep writing. Get in touch with all the possible stories you can tell about being on a performance plan as a manager. Again, don't filter your writing, just let loose on what you most want in your professional life and how your situation can help you get there.
Just this process of writing your default story and intentionally creating the story that you want will set you on a path to growth.
Now let's grow.
Develop Your Craft
Most companies don't treat leadership like a skill, much like any other roles. All too often managers get that job because they were great at doing the work, so someone assumed they'd be great at managing others to do that work too.
Except that's not how this goes. Doing and managing are two different crafts entirely. So if you're a manager with less than a few years experience, you didn't just get a promotion, you got a new job. The problem is that you likely didn't receive adequate training on your new craft: leadership.
And so one positive thing about being on a plan is that it can help you get laser focused on developing that craft.
The place to begin, as with anything that truly matters to you, is with your purpose and vision—your WHY.
Why do you want to become an excellent leader? What impact do you want to have with this role? Whose lives will be touched because you succeeded as a manager?
Without a clear Vision, you can't make progress since you won't know where it is you want to go or why it matters. And by clarifying your own vision and purpose you are practicing the very skills of leadership that your company wants from you. It all works together!
So write down your personal vision. Write it and say it to yourself each day. All great leadership comes from vision, so practicing it will build the skill of staying true to your vision each day.
These three steps—self-regulation, retelling your story, setting your vision—will get you a great start. To help you continue your progress I created a 12-week course that will help you manage your time more effectively, keep your team accountable to high standards, delegate effectively and more.