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3 self-leadership tips to navigate uninvited change

April 19, 2022  |  Kinzie Jensen

3 self-leadership tips to navigate uninvited change

“Navigating seasons of uninvited disruption requires exceptional leadership.”

This statement is at the heart of a practical session from leadership coach and MNCPA Leadership Academy instructor Jon Lokhorst, which he presented at the 2022 ProfessionFOCUS conference, an MNCPA event hosted in partnership with other state CPA societies.

Take your pick — the pandemic, supply chain issues, staffing shortages, turnover, tax law changes — there have been plenty of uninvited disruptions lately. And they’re challenging to even the most skilled leaders.
Whether you’re in a formal leadership position or not, you can benefit from the practical takeaways Jon shared during that session. If you missed it, you’re in luck — I attended, and I’ve summarized Jon’s three tips for effective self-leadership during challenging times.

Tip 1: Refresh your vision

Just as your organization has a vision that guides the direction of the business, everyone can benefit from having a clear, compelling vision to keep you on track for where you want to go in life.
What is a vision? Jon shared the definition as being “a concise statement or description of the direction in which an individual, group or organization is headed.” It’s not just about your destination — it’s about the movement that gets you there.

Whether your vision is to create harmonious work-life balance or become partner or to create opportunities for underserved communities — whatever it is for you, it serves as your North Star.

It’s easy to get caught up in the fast-moving current of day-to-day tasks, deadlines and interruptions — especially in times of crisis or major disruption. But to truly stay on track with your vision, it’s critical to rise above the swift speed of everyday life, look a little farther downriver and make sure you’re still on course. Taking a higher-level look around you regularly can keep you on track with prioritizing the important, longer-term actions that support your vision and keep you moving toward it.

Tip 2: Guard your self-talk

Everyone talks to themselves. And the voice of the running monologue in your mind matters. It’s important to pay attention to what you’re saying to yourself and raise your awareness of whether that self-talk is positive and moving you forward, or if it’s negative, berating or even abusive. If it’s the latter, it will take you off course from your vision.

The good news is, we have control over our self-talk. We can decide, when faced with an unexpected work problem, team conflict or even a global pandemic, to either say “I think I can” or “This is impossible.”

This comes easier to some people and harder for others. If you default to negative self-talk, the first course correction is to recognize that behavior. Just being aware of how you’re talking to yourself is an important part of improving it. From there, you may have to experiment with how best to inch yourself in a more positive direction. Journaling can be an effective tool. Jon recommended The Five-Minute Journal if you need some prompting. Another idea is to spend a few minutes each morning repeating positive affirmations that align with your vision. Over time, small actions like this can make a big difference in cultivating kinder, more resilient self-talk.

One important side note: This is not about being positive all the time or ignoring problems. Toxic positivity helps no one and does not serve as an actual problem-solving tool. But giving your inner voice a more resilient and positive vocabulary can have tangible effects on how you approach challenges.

Tip 3: Practice self-care

When the going gets tough and you’re pulled in a million directions, it can feel impossible to focus on your own needs. But you can’t draw water from an empty well. If you’re totally out of fuel, how can you possibly show up for others?

If you’re starting from zero on this, first, ask yourself some important questions. What gives you life? What refreshes and replenishes you? What makes you laugh? What activities completely absorb you so much that you lose track of time? Identify what recharges you and the people who lift you up, and then be intentional about making time for them. Seriously — schedule a weekly happy hour, a monthly mental health day or a daily walk on your calendar and make it happen just as you would for any other meeting or obligation. And, you’ve heard it before, but it’s worth reiterating because of how important it is: At the core of self-care is a healthy diet, exercise and sleep. If any of those are lacking, you may want to start there.

If you’ve prioritized self-care but you still feel burned out, it might be worth revisiting your routine. Maybe you started some helpful habits at the onset of the pandemic, but they aren’t refreshing you the way they used to. Maybe you exercise regularly and you’re adamant about taking breaks, but you feel disconnected from friends. Take a renewed look at what might serve you now and make gentle adjustments. You could exercise at a different time, ask a friend to join you at lunch, get out in nature for 20 more minutes per week or sign up for an interesting community education class.

On your self-leadership journey, there will always be roadblocks and challenges. In this uninvited season of change, understanding how to lead yourself is a critical skill that will enable you to better lead other people, projects and priorities.

With these tips in mind, what are your next steps? Writing your vision statement? Improving your self-talk? Devoting more time and attention to self-care? Whether you’ll start with a specific tactic outlined here or commit to bolder moves, such as signing up for the MNCPA Leadership Academy, know that the MNCPA is here to support you throughout your journey.

Topics: Leadership, Workplace Trends, MNCPA Programs & Activities

Kinzie Jensen

Kinzie Jensen is the MNCPA CPE marketing manager, working to ensure members know about the wide variety of CPE options available through the society. She spends her working hours writing and brainstorming ideas while quietly jamming out to the music of Steely Dan, The Avett Brothers, John Mayer, Genesis and The Black Keys. Kinzie lives in Eden Prairie with her husband and two daughters, and fills her free time with yoga, running and struggling to play the acoustic guitar. Her other obsessions include coffee, llamas, IPAs and sunshine. Kinzie can be reached at 952-885-5515 or kjensen@mncpa.org.

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