I’m working with a Managing Director who was facing a potential mutiny by his staff three months ago. His staff respect him immensely for his meticulous issue management but many felt afraid when he interacts with them.
We’ve been working together on distinguishing the differences between two mindsets. The first is the mindset required to resolve issues in a command and control environment. This is the one that the client loves and feels is his real value-adding strength in the business. The second is that required to build relationships of trust, improvement, mutual respect and resilience between the staff and the Executive Team, including the MD. This is the mindset that the client had low personal awareness of and when he did think about it dismissed it as “fluff.”
In our early conversations he defended his professional standards, expecting his staff to acknowledge that operating to high quality expectations was the name of the game. “If they don’t like that they can lump it,” he said at one stage, implying that the problems brought about by his approach were actually caused by those who were suffering.
Through conversations of exploration and reflection he came to see that it’s not a case of “either/or” for resilient leaders but “this and this and this and this.”
Resilient leaders build resilience for their people by they way they embrace multi faceted thinking.
Resilient leaders also build their own resilience by the ways they engage in reflective leadership practice.
In the moment when resilient leaders exercise leadership it seems they bring several levels of awareness from the background of a leadership situation to the foreground.
In that split second before they begin to expel their breath to speak or they flex their leg muscles to take a step, resilient leaders marshall four levels of awareness to help them exercise leadership that will make a difference.
The first is that they bring a deep awareness of the situation that they are experiencing. They have done their homework. They know what the context is. They know the players, their agendas, values, thoughts and dreams. They know the history.
The second is that they have a deep mindfulness about their own self. They have reflected. They have dreamed the dream. They have counted the cost. They have summoned the intellectual insights to understand for themselves what is going on and what needs to be done. They have considered their own state.
The third is that they have clarified for themselves their intention. They have sifted the chaff of all the competing priorities and objectives and possibilities. From all that they have identified a clear intention or a couple of intentions that they find noble, worth the effort and that they hope will be effective The fourth is that they have a deep regard for the followers who are involved and who will be affected. They have developed an appreciation of who they are as people rather than statistics, They have dreamed the followers’ dreams. They have walked in their shoes at least metaphorically.
In the moment when they open their mouths or they take the first step, resilient leaders summon these four states of awareness and leadership occurs.
When my coaching client saw this for himself it revolutionised his approach to his people. Over a couple of weeks of practice he progressively saw that as issues arose, instead of just practising meticulous issue management he also could appreciate how his staff were being affected by the issue. He began to explore with them the processes they were using to solve the issue before he became involved. He began to offer his wisdom on different ways to approach complex problems, not just barking solutions.
In a month the whole office environment changed. Several staff who were contemplating leaving have suspended their plans. Others are tentatively engaging with the MD in new ways, testing the waters to see how he responds and how consistently he engages with them rather than merely seeks to “control.”
The MD is noticing that he has more energy and has recaptured his enthusiasm for his business. He has even been freed up from the unspoken mental anguish that this situation has caused, to allow himself to think about the future strategy again.
If you are a leader at any level in an organisation, this post serves as an invitation. If you are feeling “out of sorts”, “off your game”, if you are losing sleep over an issue involving your relationships with others you lead: get a coach. It may not be me but you owe it to yourself and your people to rebuild your passion for your own life and for your business.
By Ian Sampson – Ian is a Cause & Effective Associate. If you are facing obstacles as an executive, CEO or Director contact Ian here for a no-obligation exploratory chat about how coaching can offer new ways forward.