Welcome to 2018! As we work hard to achieve new goals and successes in this brand new year, it’s important for us to make a little emotional checklist of the things we need to pay attention to in order to be the high performance leaders we expect ourselves to be. Let’s go through a rundown of four of the important emotional challenges (there will, inevitably, be more than four) leaders will face this year.

1. Relying on technology but keeping the human touch. So much of successful business requires the human connection between customers, employees, suppliers, and the marketplace. But the technology we now rely on puts us in jeopardy of losing much of that human connection. Technology accelerates the speed of business. It improves the employee education process. It does many good things. Leaders have to take advantage of these benefits while making sure they don’t lose sight of building positive and trusting relationships.

If today’s leaders could choose to visit an employee whose office is down the hall or send an email, the tendency is to do a “tech-touch.” The temptation is strong. The visit might take a few more minutes, but, in the end, you’ll be enhancing the relationship in a more positive way.

2. Focusing on what you want. For years, I’ve been teaching the principle of focus — the benefits of focusing on what you want and removing focus from what you don’t. Focus brings energy and energy keeps things living and growing. Why do you want to continue to feed energy into something you don’t want? You can either focus on what isn’t working or what is, what you don’t have or what you do, what you believe in or what you don’t.

In 2018, it will be important to focus on new issues and problems — they will very likely be different from the ones you faced in 2017. If you continue to focus on yesterday’s issues and problems, you’ll miss the answers to the next set of problems about to bowl you over.

3. Managing or downsizing your stress. I teach a lot of stress management to my clients, and stress will more than likely increase in 2018. As the pressures of the marketplace continue to mount (be the fastest, be the best), the pressure on leaders increases. There is no work–life balance any longer; there is only balance. The lines have blurred into non-existence.

Remember, the real culprit is not what is happening outside ourselves, but what’s happening inside. How do we respond to stress? Learning how to handle our triggers, stressors, and emotions will dictate how well we enjoy life and work.

4. Letting go of old emotional baggage from 2017 (and 2016…). While the previous challenge deals with moving forward, this challenge deals with the baggage you’ve been lugging around while trying to do so. These are old emotional problems we’ve carried around for days, months, or years — old hurts, resentments, or anger. It can also be some old guilt, failure, or fear. We get comfortable with these things after a time. So comfortable, in fact, that many people go to their graves without being able to let it go.
Let it go. Suppressed emotions take a serious toll on us mentally, physically, and spiritually, and emotional baggage is one of the biggest stresses that can affect you.

Do me a favor. Write down all your old hurts, pains, and fears on a piece of paper. Once you’ve done that, tell yourself that you’re going to wad it up and throw it in the garbage — not just for now, but forever. When you throw it in the garbage, you’re also going to release it from yourself as well. Let it go! Do it today. Seriously.


Tony Richards is an organizational and executive development expert and CEO of Clear Vision Development Group, a leadership and strategy firm in Columbia, Missouri. He is one of Inc. magazine’s top 100 leadership speakers and thinkers. His firm’s website is www.clearvisiondevelopment.com. Follow Tony on Twitter @tonyrichards4.

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