Over the past 6 months, I’ve been boxing a few mornings each week. This is something I haven’t really done before and I’ve absolutely loved it. A good friend of mine Gerry Hussey who is a performance psychologist, does these sessions as part of his overall work with his clients and I’ve been fortunate enough to take part over the past few months. Gerry has imparted many great performance insights through the medium of his boxing training.
I have my first match coming up this week and as luck would have it, we were very fortunate to be joined by Jason Quigley for last week’s sessions. Jason is a professional boxer and will likely be in line for a world title shot over the next year or two. I had never met him before and aside from being an incredible boxer, he is an absolutely lovely guy and a very humble human being. One of the great pieces of advice Jason gave us when we were sparring was the importance of staying relaxed and reducing the fear of being hit. This wastes a lot of energy which will drain resources over the course of a 3 round match and affect ability to think clearly, effectively read your opponent and react as best you can to what’s happening in the ring. My opponent is not going anywhere, he will be in the ring trying to outbox and outsmart me – I cannot change that. What I can influence however is how I perform in the ring and the extent to which I take Jason’s advice in the heat of battle.
We had some greats sparring sessions and as I was leaving the gym, I thought the scenario that played out in the ring is an example of what great leaders should do. Give their people the tools to better navigate and deal with the challenges they face on a daily basis in “the corporate ring”. Jason was the leader in that he gave us advice, tools and techniques to be at our best in the ring. To navigate the fear, anxiety and stress that can come with having a boxing match and in our case being inexperienced boxers (if I can even call myself that 🙂
What about you as a leader? Are you enabling and empowering your people to navigate the demands they face in your organising? What are their stress and anxiety levels like? What are their beliefs about stress and are they serving them? Are they equipped to deal with their current demands at a mental, emotional and physical level? Do you know? Do you care? Some leaders will say Paul, it’s not my role to ensure my people can deal with this, that’s up to them to figure out….I’m here to run a business and make profits for my stakeholders. Let’s play this and look at outcomes and results that this type of leadership will likely manifest among many employees:
- They will not perform anywhere near to their best.
- Decision-making capacity will be impaired
- Effectiveness of communication will be diminished.
- Ability to focus and prioritise will be reduced.
- Creative ability will be impacted.
- Ability to problem solve under pressure will be impaired.
- They will be less effective in leading themselves and others.
- Stress levels may be overwhelming.
- Physical health will likely be diminished.
- Emotional health will deteriorate which will impact brain chemistry.
- Brain chemistry will in turn affect blood culture.
- Blood culture ultimately can negatively impact immune system functioning.
- Diminished immune system will result in getting sick more often.
- This contributes to higher susceptibility to serious illnesses like cancer and others.
- Quality of personal relationships outside of work may suffer.
- Being truly present and being genuinely engaged with children may be impacted
- This can lead to conditioning children to live in a similar dysfunctional way as they grow up.
In this scenario, many of the above outcomes are not necessarily visible to the naked eye but they are happening and nobody wins here. I’m not suggesting that everybody will be impacted in this way but many will. If I’m an employee in this type of environment, my employer and my colleagues are not getting the best of me. My wife is now married to a lesser version of me. I am setting a poor example for my children to follow. My health is suffering and overall I am a not as happy and fulfilled as I could be.
So what’s the alternative approach for somebody in a leadership role? A different path is simply putting some support scaffolding in place to enable your people better cope with the day-to-day challenges they are facing. The business demands won’t necessarily be reduced but rather your people are better equipped to deal with them. This support scaffolding can take many forms including:
- Measure the overall health and wellbeing of your people so you have a starting point on which to build.
- Consider how your culture can be evolved to better support your people. If you want to know what your current culture looks like, put 20 employees in a room and ask them to describe your organisational culture in one word. Chances are you have an accurate snap shot here of your culture.
- Implement a corporate health and performance programme to address the areas of concern.
- Start at the top with senior leadership and enable them to coach others.
- Make use of technology to build online human performance learning centres.
- Make use of existing business, social and support structures within your organisation to better support your people.
Enabling your people to better navigate current business demands does not need to cost a fortune and chances are you have some simple quick wins available right now. This isn’t about taking people “out of the ring”. Your people are in the ring by virtue of the fact that they come to work every day. It’s more about you being in there with them in a meaningful way and giving them some support, guidance and practical tips to enable them box better. Everybody wins here, they perform better in your organisation, their health and wellbeing improves and they in turn are better with their families.
Leaders in organisations set the tone of the culture. Their people show up every day in the ring and do the best they can. In the same way that Jason couldn’t determine what I did with his advice, you cannot determine what your people will do if you give them the tools and resources to better manage themselves. It goes without saying that they have to step up and make use of them. However, what you can do is what Jason did for us in our training sessions – he enabled us to better navigate the environment we were in and show up as best we could. I sometimes think leaders underestimate the reach and impact of their actions (or non actions). What’s the impact you want to have on the people you lead?