I wrote “Freak Out” in 2007. Still has legs.
I read somewhere a few years back ( I think it was in Harvard Business Review ) that the right level of stress/frustration for an executive is when “There are only 2-3 days per month when you want to give up, set the building on fire, and start again”. This comment was very “eye opening” for me, I had thought that I was the only one who “suffered” thru these days.
It was good to know that I was not alone in the Monthly “Freak Out” or “Pit of Despair”. Turns out that we all have these days, but how does one deal with it under the microscope of a team looking for direction? How does one act? Do I wear it on my sleeve? Or do I attempt to hide it? Teams are tough investors because they are making the toughest investment of all ( their time & careers ). There is also the challenge of executive pay. It is well known that corporate pay scales resemble the “long tail’ curve. Thus teams’ have little sympathy, they expect “positive” direction and answers from executives. They probably “Freak Out” more than me.
Unfortunately giving teams what they want and hiding the “Freak Out” is exactly the wrong thing to do. No one can predict the future. No one knows the “exact” path to success. For example, Burton Malkiel’s famous investment book “Random Walk Down Wallstreet” notes that Wall Street analysts can do a great job at crunching the “historical” numbers for any company, but the “valuation” of a company still requires a “forecast” of the future. Thus Wall Street analysts valuations are “educated guesses” with batting average like success (i.e. 20% or less). An executive can do no better , trying to predict the future will only focus ridicule and crushing morale issues in your direction.
The best policy is to keep the “story” open all the time (ie share the pain ), celebrate every success like there is no tomorrow, be organized in describing/tracking “the journey” to success, keep modifying the story as it changes (’cause it will… Nothing moves in a straight line), fail often, and try again. It takes a lot of courage & hard work to do this in the open, but it is the only way I know to get the team to buy in.
In closing If you are not “Freaking Out” regularly, then you’re probably not taking enough risk to succeed” . Also, if you’re having this day today, you can look forward to the ~17 good days per month where “you truly believe that you’re gonna change the world”
Note: I found the above more important when I was a low level manager …. ’cause I didn’t think I was an executive yet. I may have been far down the food chain and closer to my team, but I had little information with respect to the “whole project” and hence got myself in even more trouble when I tried to directly address a “Freak Out”.
Dark Side Please take the time to track your “Freak Outs”. If they start to become too frequent, it is time to move on. I made this mistake in the fall of 2000 Your health is more important than your dream.