COVID 19 has put the business world in a spin.
Leaders in many organisations are navigating unknown and very unpredictable waters, whilst also having to maintain positive morale among team members. It can be anxiety-causing in itself but believe it or not the best defence comes in the way of the mind.
The ancient yogis would say we can’t control or predict the future but through our actions, we can influence outcomes. Rather than posturing for predictability and trying to control outcomes, try building the life skill of managing your mind to consciously choose your actions and so create new behaviours to adapt to uncertainty. This is how we build, not just mental resilience but emotional connection and thriving in an uncertain world.
So this is great for the ancient yogis but how does this help you, as a leader in an organisation, where you need to deliver bigger and better results with the same and sometimes fewer resources? When your targets are changing every few months as the organisation adjusts and responds to market changes and the COVID 19 crisis?
Right now, close your eyes, take three, long, slow deep breaths through your nose and notice how you feel. Without judgement or rejection, simply acknowledge how you feel and then read on.
The yoga tradition has a wonderful metaphor to describe the interconnectedness of all beings and our connection to a higher, eternal energy. Imagine a wave on the ocean, that wave is the same as the ocean, comes from it and returns to it. So whilst the wave can appear to be separate from the ocean, it is inextricably linked to the ocean and the ocean is an integral part of the wave.
In the same way, leaders are the waves that lead teams towards the shore and like waves, they are inextricably linked to their teams, peers and others they influence in their work.
To be clear, that’s not to say that you will not be tossed around like a boat in wild seas from time to time due to the events that you experience. But perhaps the wild seas are not as intense, and your ability to chart a course through the storm and arrive in calmer waters is significantly enhanced.
To help you to lead others through disruption, you must first learn to lead yourself and so develop a compass, if you like, to help you navigate volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
As a leader, you not only have to manage your own mind and emotions, you need to curate a culture that enables your team to thrive too. A positive work culture improves performance, motivation, discretionary effort, engagement, creativity and conflict resolution. There are many studies that show the impact (good and bad) of workplace culture on business performance. In the recent Royal Commission into banking, Commissioner Hayne found clear failings in culture and governance which led to poor conduct on the part of some financial services providers.
Many leaders fail to realise the impact of their behaviour on the culture they create for their teams. Whilst an organisation aspires to have a single culture, the reality is that culture varies from team to team and this is due to the manager of those teams.
Research shows the characteristics of a positive culture are:
- genuinely caring for work colleagues as you would for friends
- being kind and compassionate when colleagues are suffering
- avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes
- inspiring each other at work
- emphasizing meaningfulness of the work
- treating each other with respect, trust, integrity and gratitude
But it all starts with you. In order to lead others, you need to lead yourself.
What conscious choices are you making as a leader?