As leaders, we invest time and energy in learning and applying new skills, but do we ever ask how those receivers could help us? For example, if I want to be a great leader-as-coach, I need to become really clear on the specific behaviours that I want to put into action, for what kind of situations, what reinforcement I need, as well as the benefits staff can expect. And then, I don’t keep it a best kept secret. I make all of this transparent with my staff. Anecdotal evidence for the benefits of this approach are refreshing and help make the learning, stick further.
We are in The Knowledge Economy, requiring flat, networked-based crews with decentralised decision-making. This ‘flat’ collegial way of working, requires an attendance to mindset rather than skillset. By mindset we mean focusing on our underlying assumptions, how these shape our ‘reality,’ and the possibilities for the future.
A vehicle for accessing our assumptions is through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is about creating in ourselves a state of active open attention on the present, on purpose and non-judgmentally. Calling on an integrated three-part approach to becoming mindful, from Shapiro et al 2006, that Intention, Attitude and Attention (IAA), can really pay off. By increasing our awareness of the importance of mindset in our leadership, we become more able to shape our ‘reality’ and the possibilities for the future, including our adaptation to ever changing circumstances.
Respond or React?
Feeling run-ragged by a pile of increasing commitments, and running from one thing to another? It doesn’t really have to be this way. This is called reactivity and it can become a habit. Being reactive gives us an adrenalin boost and in the short -term feels good, because we are seen to ‘save the day‘ so that’s why we get into the habit in the first place.
React or Respond?
When we react, we feel an urgency, a lack of choice. We may feel as though we’re going down a tunnel or blind alley which seems to get narrower and narrower with less and less visibility. Conversely, when we respond, rather than react, our behaviour is based on conscious thought, the kind of thinking that considers options. We are able to take a breath amidst the discomfort, to see and scan the choices. This is the stuff that leadership is made of.
Over-using the fight/flight reaction, leads to wearing us out, literally. Too much adrenalin and cortisol inhibit the production of immune-giving white cell production. Another reason why we need to care what state we’re in, is that we use up valuable energy and head space that we could be using for other more long term benefit things, like strategy and planning. In our blog we give some powerful tips for a sustainable contented life style. They focus around your thinking and what you give your attention to. You are in the driver’s seat after all.
Saying No can be a Big Yes
Saying ‘no’ is harder in a ‘jittery’ climate of organisational restructures. We’re keen to keep our jobs but then we make the leap between saying ‘no’ and losing our jobs. However, saying ‘no’ to more work is part of self-leadership because it is linked with job effectiveness.
Saying ‘no’ is easier when we: are crystal clear on our job purpose; understand our personal purpose and do more of our ‘sweet spot’ activities; know and spend the bulk of our time on our high leverage activities; sort out in our own head that ‘doing it all’ does not equate to feeling valued; set boundaries and expectations clearly with others; jointly find solutions; are proactive in managing changing priorities.
There is no one thing that will get us saying ‘no’ but a clear head, underpinned by a sense of purpose and progress makes it far easier to say ‘no’ in a jittery employment environment.
It’s lonely at the Top. Apparently the more senior we get, the more lonely we can get. Recent research shows that the powerful can become the architects of their own loneliness. Power apparently inspires us to think cynically about others’ motives for their deeds. The very state of being powerful also causes us to feel less connected to others. By implication, we may get an ever-decreasing circle of goodwill.
What can we do about this? Like any challenge, just being aware of the downstream effects of loneliness, does help. Notice how you explain the causes of behavior and events. Not to change anything, but just to notice. As a second step, take a fresh look and test yourself. Differentiate between you and your various roles rather than transfer over feelings of power from one context to another. Be aware of what role you are in at any point in time. Create cues that remind you to move from one role to another. So feeling lonely has its drawbacks not only for oneself but also for our relationships with others. As senior executives it behoves us to be aware and to act responsibly.