I had quite an exciting coaching session this morning with a client of mine. The depth we naturally moved to, was how my client can cope with so many urgent tasks and pressing issues in such a tight time frame?
Most of the senior leaders nowadays face the same challenge again and again. They operate in an emotional space that disallows quality thinking. Solutions = quality thinking. In the 21st century organisation, unfortunately people are encumbered by suffocating emotions and feelings of anger, frustration etc., which impart to them the energy to complete the DEADlines. What is their thinking capacity within that space? Because quality thinking, which equals solution, cannot be forced into existence. It is possible though, within a limited time, but only when the person trying to acquire it, has a full reservoir of high energy. Imagine how excitement and joy, inspired by a task itself, could lead to a finer performance.
So what happened during that exciting session?
I asked him, “How can you move from a place of DIS-ease to a place of EASE?
He started to reflect and the first thing that came on his mind, was to start putting on paper all of the pressing issues (or tasks) in two columns: Q1 Necessity & Q2 Extraordinary productivity (including proactive work, high-impact goals, creative thinking, planning, preventing, relationship building, learning and renewal).
I asked him first to list all the tasks that belong in the Q2 Extraordinary productivity column – they were all strategic, long-term, visionary, related to his passion for value creation. One of those were teaching others to turn complex issues into simple ones. I asked him, “What is the emotional space you operate in while you are working on these tasks?” He said excitement, joy and love. Love because Sharing is Caring!
Then we moved to the Q1 tasks…. these were all operational tasks: emergency meetings, last-minute deadlines, pressing problems, unforeseen events. I asked him, “What are noticing here?” All the words he had used created quite a suffocating emotional space, which is the space of “survival” emotions. And these are the emotions which create DIS-EASE.
How does a leader usually operate, when placed under such conditions? My client’s default was to keep on doing, on his own, everything needed in a fast pace. Which obviously didn’t work for him. He was on the verge of breaking down and was feeling heaviness in his head. I asked him “What other solutions do you see?” He said: “To transfer the stress to my team through “delegating””. Was this the “right thing” to do? This was simply overflowing the DIS-ease energy to the others and put them in the frustrated tightness within the DEAD-line frame.
This didn’t feel healthy for me as an outside objective observer and witness of his inner struggle. My next question followed naturally: How sustainable is this? …. silence….
Subsequently, I asked him:
“What do you do differently with your team when working on Q2 tasks?”
He said “I teach them, because I care! Because sharing is caring!”…. and then the breakthrough moment happened for him!
“I will teach them…. I will allocate time to involve them and excite them, because Sharing is Caring!...” And a leader’s task is not only to share knowledge or expertise, so that he gives the tools to his team to perform better in a complex and tight environment. It is also important to share his emotions, struggles and his needs… it is to demonstrate confident vulnerability.
But before demonstrating vulnerability, the leader needs to create inner space for himself. Interrupt the unhelpful headache and heaviness, coming from unhelpful thinking patterns.
My client’s new born INNER SPACE formula is:
Take a breathing space with a few conscious breaths! This is the best, less time-consuming way to move from chaos to inner orderliness, which is the foundation for creating solutions.
The conscious control of our breath is not a new concept; indeed many disciplines such as public speaking, playing a musical instrument, sport, yoga, martial arts and meditation all teach people the importance of correct breathing.
Dr Alan Watkins (Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership) says that the first step toward coherent breathing (leading to inner balance) is rhythm (fixed ratio of in-out breath), the second step is smoothness (even flow rate, in and out) and the third is location of attention. He believes it’s important to focus on our heart or the centre of our chest, because:
Dr. Watkins says that the easiest way to remember this breathing technique is through the BREATHE acronym:
From that place you can start creating quality thinking and allowing solutions to come instead of forcing them. And much more solutions emerge in a shared space of emotionally engaged people (not stressed and forced with DEAD-lines people).
What’s the end of the coaching story?.… We finished the session 30 min earlier because my client’s excitement of the emerging solution was there and I wanted him to follow the natural flow of his energy and keep the momentum.
My question to you is:
What would you like to share with your team today, because you really care?
Sharing is Caring!