What is rumination? Rumination is a compulsive focused attention on the symptoms of one individual’s distress, and on probable causes, as opposed to solutions. Rumination is related to worry except rumination focuses repeatedly on reliving negative feelings and experiences from the past. If ‘this’ happened before it will happen again. Eventually, excessive worry usually overcomes the potential for productive thought and innovative solutions.
How can you avoid rumination in situations like this? Use any or all of the following recommendations:

  • Before you begin the problem-solving process, concentrate your vitality and time on what you can control. Do not let yourself relive old disappointments of a similar nature, especially avoid personal experiences. Assessments like this will trap you into how unjust the world can be. Instead, begin listing everything that is outside your direct control such as, the stock market numbers or office politics. Along with those elements you do not control, list all resources that are available in solution brainstorming. And, don’t discount others you may not have used before such as, the mail room staff or the accountants in the finance department.
  • Let moods of disappointment or resignation fully dissipate before you examine the facts surrounding an unanticipated challenge. Decisions are influenced by moods. No matter where we are and no matter what we are doing, we humans are persistently in a mood. Before you evaluate the data, the time spent, or how the competition won over you, concentrate on putting yourself in a self-confident or positive mood. This can be done alone or with the team members that went through the process with you. One exercise is to create a ‘failure wall’. Hang a blank banner on a wall, provide markers or acrylic paints and ask the team to write observations, known mistakes, or inspirational quotes that will help empty out the emotionalism that all may be holding. There should be no fear of reprisals, just a release mechanism to release pent up feelings.
  • Decisive leaders never leave the elements of success as a mystery for others to speculate about. These leaders clearly explain their expectations for each task, the owner of that task and the timeline allowed. Then everyone understands why the project is in progress, what is expected of them, what the intended outcome should be, and when to deliver their part of it.

When you catch yourself ruminating over a problem, ask yourself:

  • What do the stakeholders and top leadership expect from you, and your team? If you have worked with these people before, what patterns have you observed in their work behavior? And, are they useful or could their techniques use some higher standards?
  • Have you communicated effectively with all others in determining new solutions to the conundrum you face now? Have you listened carefully to others and given constructive feedback to them so that they may deliver their best?
Decisive Leaders Don’t Ruminate