It’s Saturday, just another Saturday. And what can you do on such days? That’s right, you can tinker something. At least that’s what I do. In my case, something a little bit bigger and from a well-known Swedish furniture store. This something I have to take care of today is called Pax and came along with three brothers, who also want to be assembled.

Knowing that it might take a little longer, I jumped into the battle of man against assembly instructions. Since I don’t do DIY at home, I am of course prepared. Cordless screwdriver, charger, bits and drills, everything brought along. You never know what’s available in other people’s homes.

The assembly goes ahead quickly. Screws are screwed in, dowels are sunk, panels are put together. Then comes the big moment – the back has to be nailed down to give the cupboard its stability. I don’t have a proper hammer with me, but there is one in every well-stocked household, right?. So I ask for the tapping tool and a few seconds later I’m really surprised to be handed this:

What I’m holding in my hand is not a hammer, it’s a tiny one. Small, fine, but only conditionally suitable for sinking the small metal pins into the chipboard with full vigour. But well, you take what you can get. So I go back to work, cursing a little inwardly (and perhaps also a little outwardly) about the not quite efficient tool. It works, but not really well. Precise aiming is necessary, and the tool doesn’t really have much power either.

Since, as already mentioned, Pax has brought his brothers with him and they also want to be brought to life, there is simultaneous screwing, hammering and occasional swearing in various places in the flat.

After a while I come to the point where another back panel wants to be joined to the corpus, but the little hammer is in use. So I ask if there is another hammer in the household so that I can compete against the other team in a parallel back wall fixing competition.

When my question is answered in the affirmative, I catch myself thinking that perhaps this time a proper hammer will be found. A short time later, I am once again surprised, because I did not expect what was handed to me.  

I wasn’t aware that such delicate hammers existed at all. I am also not entirely clear about the actual purpose of this tool. At least stapling back panels can’t be its main task. In the absence of an alternative, I nevertheless set to work and simply hammer on.

More time passes and I find myself holding the first hammer again – that  hammer I was so unhappy with in the beginning. I start to strike, work on the nail, and that’s when it happens. I think: “Wow, this is going well“. The little hammer that I cursed so much at the beginning really does well compared to its miniature buddy.

By now you will probably be wondering what the author is trying to say with this little anecdote and what the whole thing has to do with a blog about leadership and management.    

What became clear to me at that moment was how much our evaluations and assessments depend on context and expectations. In my head, I had imagined a really neat hammer. I had been correspondingly disappointed when I had to do my job with a children’s toy. It was only after using both hammers that I realised how good I had actually been with the first one.

Tool Set on Plank

But what does this have to do with leadership? Well, as already mentioned in “Are you still failing or are you already learning?“, you cannot lead others effectively if you cannot lead yourself effectively. Self-view and self-reflection are important tools to be able to look at situations from multiple perspectives and to make better decisions.

In addition, leadership is not easy. Anyone who says so, is is not a leader. Contextual considerations can help to perceive supposedly bad situations as not so bad. 

The unsuccessful sprint can be taken as an opportunity to take another close look at what can be improved in the team. The lower-than-expected salary increase does not seem so annoying if you are already on a high salary structure and make that clear to yourself. The boss who is currently annoying you and making you think about changing employers may not seem so bad in retrospect when his successor turns out to be an even bigger evil. All situations that seem much easier when you change your view of them.

I remember that I used to have sleep problems regularly. I would wake up early, sometimes one or two hours before the alarm was supposed to ring. And what happened to me then? I was annoyed. I felt deprived of my well-deserved sleep, angry that I didn’t wake up later. I assumed that now I would not be refreshed enough for the next day. Needless to say, with all the anger in my head, I didn’t fall back asleep and was indeed wiped out in the morning.

When that happens to me these days, I just change the context. I know that if I lie down for 20-30 minutes in the afternoon, I am much more rested afterwards. I then use this knowledge to say to myself: “One more hour before the alarm goes off? Cool, 2x midday nap. That’s enough.” As a rule, I fall asleep again shortly after thinking about it.

The more often you use this technique, the more positive your thoughts become. On the one hand, this helps to motivate your employees in crisis situations. On the other hand, it also has an effect on daily cooperation if you approach tasks with a more positive aura. Because your employees sense when you are always negative. And whether you like it or not, as a leader your mood has a strong influence on your team. Strengthening such thought changes in your employees and training yourself can have an extraordinarily positive effect on cooperation and help to increase trust and psychological security in the team.

These are just a few thoughts that were triggered by a small hammer that, in retrospect, turned out to be not as bad as initially thought. Perhaps they will inspire one or the other to take a closer look at the topic. I will go into more detail about the influence of positive thoughts when leading employees in another article. Until then: “Always look on the bright side of live” or at least try to 🙂

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