Congratulations you have made the move from a “doer” to a “leader”. You are now experiencing the challenges that come with moving from subject matter expert to generalist, from managing yourself or a small team to leading a business unit or company, from being responsible for your own behaviour to setting the tone for a whole organisation and most importantly from delivering results yourself to delivering them through a team.
The question becomes how do you manage that transition? Where do you acquire the Leadership skills necessary to be successful when likely as not most of what you will be doing in this new role you have never done before. All of this whilst the teams who work for you are watching and looking to you for strength and leadership. Unlike almost and job or promotion the one that moves you into a leadership role comes with almost no training at all. It seems to be expected that great managers or subject matter experts will just transform overnight into amazing leaders.
Enter the executive coach. There is nothing in your working world that is focused 100% on you. Am executive coach is somebody dedicated to helping you move from where you are to where you want to be. Imagine what you can achieve with the support and accountability that comes from someone 100 percent focused on helping you achieve your goals and maximizing your potential. When else in your career will you ever get the opportunity to experience that.
Traditional coaching conventions say that any coach can coach anybody using the right coaching tools. Reality is often different. In the real world, a business coach is also a mentor, a strategic partner and trusted advisor. It is therefore essential to find the right coach for you with the experience and battle scars to help you in your transition to leadership. If an executive coach isn’t something you’ve already considered here are 3 reasons why you should.
As you move into your new leadership role you will find that there are more groups vying for your attention, more decisions to be made, more problems to solve and more stakeholders expectations to manage. As a successful individual you will no doubt seek to meet all of these new demands. More often than not the promises that get broken first are the ones we make to ourselves. A business Coach challenges you to stay accountable to your own development, to strategize and develop your goals whilst meeting all of your other responsibilities.
As a new leader, almost everything you do, you will be doing for the first time. A business coach will challenge your thinking, your strategy and your willingness to continue to grow and develop. As someone who has “been there” and “done that” a business coach can act as a mentor based on the experiences they have had and provide a unique insight that broadens your business awareness
3) To challenge your thinking
A good business coach listens without judgement and is able to ask insightful questions that challenge your preconceptions and open new thought processes. Your business coach has no ulterior motive their only desire is to develop you, your thinking and help you to be the best leader possible. Nowhere else in your professional environment will you find a resource as powerful as a good business coach.
There isn’t a successful sporting team or athlete in the world that does not have a coach, successful business leaders are no different. If success and growth are what you are interested in then a good, experienced executive coach is exactly what you need.
To find out more about executive coaching or to book a free 30 min coaching session speak to one of our executive coaches here
How many of us can really say that we are at the top of our game everyday? It seems that the objective for leaders is to perform at a high level, in challenging environments, consistently. And yet, this is a challenge for many of the executives and leaders that I work with. I often work with leaders who are exhausted. Fourteen years ago I struggled with exhaustion too, I was in a senior executive position and felt that most decisions I made were life or death, of course they weren’t, but that is how I was feeling.
So how does this exhaustion impact our ability to lead? In a recent paper ‘The depleted leader: The influence of leaders’ psychological resources on leadership behaviours’ the researchers sought to find out just how a leaders’ mental and emotional state impacted their ability to be transformational leaders.
As a reminder, transformational leadership includes;
Individualized Consideration – the degree to which the leader attends to each follower’s needs, acts as a mentor or coach to the follower and listens to the follower’s concerns and needs. The leader gives empathy and support, keeps communication open and places challenges before the followers. This also encompasses the need for respect and celebrates the individual contribution that each follower can make to the team. The followers have a will and aspirations for self-development and have intrinsic motivation for their tasks.
Intellectual Stimulation – Such leaders encourage their followers to be innovative and creative. They encourage new ideas from their followers and never criticize them publicly for the mistakes committed by them. The leaders focus on the “what” in problems and do not focus on the blaming part of it. They have no hesitation in discarding an old practice set by them if it is found ineffective.
Inspirational Motivation – the degree to which the leader articulates a vision that is appealing and inspiring to followers. Leaders with inspirational motivation challenge followers to leave their comfort zones, communicate optimism about future goals, and provide meaning for the task at hand. Followers need to have a strong sense of purpose if they are to be motivated to act. Purpose and meaning provide the energy that drives a group forward. The visionary aspects of leadership are supported by communication skills that make the vision understandable, precise, powerful and engaging. The followers are willing to invest more effort in their tasks, they are encouraged and optimistic about the future and believe in their abilities.
Idealized Influence – the degree to which the leader acts as a role model for their followers. Transformational leaders must embody the values that the followers should be learning and mimicking back to others. If the leader gives respect and encourages others to be better, those influenced will then go to others and repeat the positive behavior, passing on the leadership qualities for other followers to learn. This will earn the leader more respect and admiration from the followers, putting them at a higher level of influence and importance. The foundation of transformational leadership is the promotion of consistent vision, mission, and a set of values to the members. Their vision is so compelling that they know what they want from every interaction. Transformational leaders guide followers by providing them with a sense of meaning and challenge. They work enthusiastically and optimistically to foster the spirit of teamwork and commitment.
The researchers measured the impact of anxiety, depression and alcohol consumption on either transformation leadership or abusive supervision. They defined abusive supervision as ‘inappropriate verbal or non verbal hostility’. They found that leaders who had high levels of anxiety or depression or alcohol consumption were more likely to be abusive supervisors, whereas, leaders low in these domains were more likely to be transformational. They concluded that the mindset of the leaders and their psychological well-being is an effective predictor of their ability to lead.
So if you want to lead effectively the state of your psychological well being is fundamental. If you want to lead well, consistently then it requires conscious effort to cultivate your personal resources. Sacrificing your own mental and emotional health, may lead to short term gain, however, if you want to lead effectively and sustainably then you need to start to take care of yourself!
Clare Goodman works with leaders to build resiliency and personal sustainability. Her workshops and coaching sessions provide practical tools and techniques to help you create healthy habits. Contact Clare on email@example.com if you would like any more information.
The depleted leader: The influence of leaders’ diminished psychological resources on leadership behaviours (2014), Alyson Byrne, Angela Dionisi, Julian Barling, Amy Akers, Jennifer Robertson, Rebecca Lys, Jeffrey Wylie, Kathryne Dupre, The Leadership Quarterly 25 pages 344-357.
” Shhh… we’ll just tell them it’s business as usual. They won’t notice that the company is restructuring, redundancies are happening and targets are getting exponentially tougher!!” Well, I exaggerate a little but in my Corporate career I have heard this kind of view emanating from many senior leaders.
As anyone who has worked with me knows, I physically cringe at the BAU catchcry! The phrase is used to communicate a sense of status quo, to reassure employees that there is ‘nothing to see here, just focus on your daily tasks’. Although this can be done with good intention, employees are not stupid and even if they don’t know the details of the changes, they will know something is happening.
Our brains are amazing predictive machines and we get a brain based reward (dopamine) when we successfully predict the future. It gives us a feeling of satisfaction and pleasure when we skilfully predict the outcome of a masterly ‘who dunnit’ movie, or when we skilfully predict someone’s behaviour. So when our leaders say it’s BAU but all the behaviours and other evidence point to change occurring then this lack of congruence can trigger a threat response, leading to higher levels of stress and more informal conversations where employees are trying to piece the puzzle together. So saying it is BAU when it clearly isn’t can cause more disruption and stress from employees than just being transparent!
Change is a constant, in fact the Futurist Bob Johansen goes further to describe our current business environment as having four major components- volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity or VUCA. So from Johansen’s point of view, change and uncertainty is indeed pervasive, however, it seems strange that we, in the Western world, are seeing this as a ‘new’ trend – Buddhists know it better as impermanence.
The answer isn’t to pretend that it is ‘business as usual’ but equip our employees to be able to develop mental and emotional resilience and agility.
Bob Johansen “Leaders Make the Future” Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2009)
High risk and ambiguous situations – perhaps I mean mining or banking, in fact there are great leadership lessons for corporate leaders from the fire service. These leaders face highly dangerous and ambiguous environments and have to make life and death decisions quickly and under pressure. So what can corporate leaders learn from leaders in high reliability organisations?
Benjamin Baran and Cliff Scott were curious and conducted exploratory research in 2010 on the Fire Service in the US. The researchers collected near-miss reports from stations across the US and analysed the results for key themes and patterns. This was an inductive process and they were able to identify a number of strategies that these leaders used effectively in highly ambiguous and dangerous situations.
They found that leaders were able to organise the ambiguity through;
Framing - leaders were able to make sense of the environment for others and provide direction setting and a degree of knowledge
Heedful interrelating - leaders were able to communicate with others by clear verbal communication, along with role modelling desired behaviours and role acting which is behaving in alignment with role expectations. Another key component was trust.
Adjusting – the ability to rapidly adjust behaviours due to changing conditions
The researchers found that this mixture of behaviours, actions and processes were linked to managing high risk situations with lower numbers of injuries or casualties. When there were gaps in these components the injury rate increased.
Future leaders need to be able to lead confidently in ambiguous and complex situations where they may not know all the answers. They would do well to reflect on the leadership strategies of these firefighters.
Organizing Ambiguity: A grounded theory of leadership and sensemaking within dangerous contexts by Benjamin Baran and Cliff Scott, Organizational Science, University of North Carolina – 2010 Military Pyschology
”The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character and will. No one is compos sui if he have it not” William James.
Mindfulness has been linked with Buddhism and other religions and yet in recent years science has combined with religion to explore why mindfulness and meditation works. This has been driven by many including the Dalai Lama, who has a fascinating with looking at the science behind the tenets of Buddhism. He has held a number of conferences with hard core Neuroscientists to discuss the connections. Practicing Buddhists have also been asked to be used as guinea pigs by scientists, inviting them to be involved in mainstream experiments using fMRI scanners. The most notable practicing Buddhist was Mathieu Ricard who was involved with many experiments with Richard Davidson. What they discovered was that the practicing Buddhists were able to a) switch their minds from one state to another quickly and b) had a greater capacity for compassion.
“The Dalai Lama has noted that the most powerful influences on the mind come from within our own mind. The findings that, in highly experienced meditators, there is greater activity in the left PFC, therefore happiness is something we can cultivate deliberately through mental training that affects the brain” The Plastic Mind by Sharon Begley.
What scientists and Buddhists do agree is that your mind can be trained to cultivate more positive emotions.
Default vs Direct Network
What we do know is that there is a default network that we go into when we day dream. We go into the default when we allow our mind to wander. Scientists agree that it is our default so when we give our mind a rest and break from focus on work we will unconsciously go into the default state. It can also be called the narrative or rumination, it can be a useful state to ponder over things that have happened and embed memories and make connections. A recent lecture by Assistant Professor Golnaz Tabibnia from Carnegie Mellon University in the USA states that the default network includes;
Thinking about self (medial PFC)
Thinking about others thoughts (Dorsal medial PFC)
Thinking about others actions (Lateral temporal lobe)
So when you slip into default and start thinking about yourself and start to wonder about what others may be thinking about you, it is quite normal. However it can have a downside. For many of us our rumination leads to catastrophising or a downward spiral. The rumination may start with reliving something that someone said yesterday and then that may trigger another memory which could lead to a threat response.
The direct experience network is when we are aware of our bodily sensations, so our attention is on our senses. When we activate our direct network, we shut off the default network and vice versa. David Rock in his book Your Brain at Work writes:
“When the direct experience network is active several different brain regions become more active. This includes the insula, a region that relates to perceiving bodily sensations. Also activated is the anterior cingulated cortex, a region central the detecting errors and switching your attention. When this direct experience network is activated, you are not thinking intently about the past or the future, other people, or yourself. Rather you are experiencing information that comes to your senses in real time.”
So when the direct experience network is turned on the default quiets down. So if you are walking to a meeting and ruminating that the meeting is going to be bad and you feel yourself getting more stressed then switching to the direct network and feeling the sun on your face, or become aware of your feet on the floor or just breathing can prevent the increasing limbic response and keep you cool under pressure.
Leaders who regularly meditate and practiced mindfulness found that they were;
Better control over the default circuit.
Better able to regulate emotions
Become more aware of their unconscious processes
Able to change their attention
Improve self control or willpower
Have greater cognitive control
Reduces stress – including lowers allostatic load (prolonged stress)
Increase cortical thickness
Benefits higher order cognitive functioning – including working memory and ability to process information.
Mindfulness is becoming more accepted as a ‘power app’ for leaders, a great antidote to our fast moving, complex work lives. Mindfulness is a great way to take care of your mind, to value it and to make sure that it is in good working order when you need it. Most of us are unfortunately not employed for our good looks, but we are employed for our minds. Yet like a neglectful tradie we mistreat our greatest tool, like leaving a valuable saw out in the rain, and yet still expect it to work magnificently when we call upon it.
For those interested there are a number of courses that can help you take the first step into developing mindfulness in your worklife. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.