I was working with one of my great government clients the other day and we were discussing challenges we were having. They centred largely around the things we can control and influence and how we can manage these effectively. It was an insightful discussion as we shared current examples and insights.

One of the comments raised by this government leader was the concept of “the grit in your shoe” and how it was relevant to all of us. He was referring to the concept of the small things that hold us back but have a larger impact than they should have on us, our thinking and our response to circumstances, events or actions. This is very similar to having a rock or something in your shoe that is very annoying or painful, with another example of this being akin to going to bed with a mosquito. Small things in stature but can be enormously frustrating and challenging to see past or work through at the time.

In reflecting on this insight, it is similar for all of us as leaders. It may be the challenge we are having with technology, the one client we are having issues with around locking in a date for a workshop or receiving payment for work undertaken or a staff member who we are having to spend a lot of time with in comparison to other team members who are high performing. These small things tend to unnecessarily cloud our judgment, increase our frustration or make us lose sight of the real positives we may be experiencing at a particular point in time.

As government leaders, we need to look at the bigger picture. It might mean we lose a couple of battles to win the war or put up with something inconvenient short time to achieve a bigger outcome. This is imperative to allow us to remain positive, focussed and drive the right behaviours with our team rather than becoming fixated on items that in the scheme of the things, don’t really matter.

We can do this by remaining positive, reflecting on the achievements and milestones in our life and work, as well as trying to perhaps understand that we don’t just learn doing good times but some of our best insights come from when we are challenged. I find that reflection, journaling and planning all allow me to get into this space more quickly than when I have time to think about what went wrong and then start to analyse why.

I know this is easier to write than do but for the next thirty days, analyse how much time you spend thinking about the grit or stone in your shoes. Empty your shoes of these small items regularly and watch your mindset move from one centred around your current challenges to one balanced with understanding that perhaps these stones or Mosquitos are necessary elements along your path to success.