We all fear rejection from time to time and when it happens it hurts. However, we can learn to turn the pain of being passed up or turned down into the inspiration we need to accelerate our success.
While everyone likes to be liked, dealing with rejection is a requirement for anybody who wants to maximize their potential, build new relationships and bring out the best in the people around them. However, most individuals have not been trained on how to use rejection as fuel to propel them to thrive, not just survive at work.
Some people have developed the habit of staying in their comfort zone. These individuals want to avoid the disappointment that always accompanies an unsuccessful attempt to achieve an important goal and help their organization attract new business. This approach helps people avoid rejection, but it guarantees they will never unleash their best work or experience the satisfaction that comes from helping their organization and family flourish.
Too many leaders and team players were high-achieving risk-takers in the past but began "playing it safe" as they advanced in their careers. While the fond memories of their glory days and the financial rewards from past success will always provide some satisfaction, no one feels good when they consciously or unconsciously coast into complacency.
When projects that were once exciting and challenging become predictable and routine it's tempting for those who lead and those who follow to start putting their effort on autopilot. Even when these people are still being recognized for their results, if THEY know their work is closer to acceptable than excellent, they stop feeling the thrill of victory and the joy of a job well done.
It's important to note that mediocrity doesn't happen suddenly, it's the result of a number of daily decisions where bold actions and intelligent risk taking are replaced with safer and more comfortable choices.
The word mediocrity comes from the Latin word medius, middle, and ocris, rugged mountain. The literal translation means to settle halfway up a difficult mountain.
If we're going to conquer our fear of rejection and help the people we lead and love do the same, we need to start by helping each member of our team recognize when they might be losing their daily desire to excel.
Rejection can only be defeated when we dare to move out of the comfort zone of mediocrity and use our strengths to make daily progress toward accomplishing meaningful goals.
I recently attended a leadership conference and heard, Todd Henry, Author of Die Empty, Unleash Your Best Work Everyday, talk about the 7 deadly sins of mediocrity. I encourage you to schedule some time in September to ask each member of your team if any of these issues resonate with them.
1. Aimlessness. "The key to conquering aimlessness is to concretely define the battles that you need to fight each day in order to make meaningful progress, then focus your efforts on those above all else."
2. Boredom."Boredom isn't necessarily a bad think: it's how you handle boredom that determines whether it becomes a trigger for productivity or stagnancy. The cure for boredom is curiosity."
3. Comfort. "Love of comfort is frequently the enemy of greatness in life and work. To avoid this, you must identify relevant skills that will help you continue to contribute, build practices into your life to help you develop them, and have frequent checkpoints though which you can gauge your progress."
4. Delusion."To add the value you're capable of adding, you need to cultivate self-awareness. You must have an accurate sense of your skills, weaknesses, and core drivers. Self-delusion is a fast track to a life of wasted potential."
5. Ego."No matter how successful or skilled you are, you will inevitably fail at many things in your work. For some people, the stigma of failure is simply unbearable. To countermand ego, you must adopt a posture of adaptability. This means being in a state of continual learning and openness to correction."
6. Fear."Fear thrives on the unknown. Its paralyzing effects are often rooted more in imagination than reality. The key to countermanding fear is to instill a practice of strategic, intentional, and purposeful risk-taking in your work and life."
7. Guardedness."Great work happens consistently in the context of community. But when life is flush with obligations and pressures, the first thing that often gets the boot is our relationships. When you isolate yourself from other people, you cut yourself off from some of the most valuable opportunities to grow and collaborate. The solution to guardedness is to build a system of checks into your life to help you scan for relational outages, and to remedy them before they become destructive."
Whether you're just starting your career, or you've been working for a long time, don't stop in the middle of your mountain. You only have a limited number of days left on earth to make the contribution that only you can make. Keep climbing and you'll also inspire and influence others to follow your example.