Well, an easy answer is leading with presence by thinking about it …
Although, as with all things, that would be way too simplistic a view. To be a conscious leader we first have to invest time in understanding self – in fact to be any kind of fully functioning human being we probably have to do this! Let’s stick to leadership though…
How much time do you spend, as a leader, looking at your own reflection to truly see your impact and know your morality? In our current working climate this is of course even more important to check in on as our people face different and difficult work pressures and set-ups, often combined with family demands and situational anxiety. As we grapple with all this uncertainty and the Covid ‘rules’ changing we need to be acutely aware of the impact our decisions, actions and behaviours have on our people (and, of course, on ourselves) and ensure we are leading with heightened empathy and compassion to support the well-being and success of our teams.
Respecting the home-work divide
I heard just yesterday that a senior team member in a global telecommunications business has had their contract confirmed as a permanent home worker. I can imagine this will begin to happen a lot. For this particular individual it is a good result, however, they have worries for some of their younger team members who are struggling with home working because they find the space too small, the routine isolating and the lack of social contact debilitating. For those of us working from home, it can feel that there is little escape from work. Zoom and Teams meetings can drag on and spill over into evenings, technical hitches can cause delays, there are always emails needing responses and work times are no longer clearly delineated. Being ‘always connected’ is now a life hindrance.
As leaders, we need to stop and check if remote practices are actually working or if they are leading to overstepped boundaries. Are we encouraging behaviour we should actually be discouraging, such as replying to emails late at night and expecting online availability outside of normal working hours? By respecting, and role modelling, ‘switching off’ times, we encourage healthier hours and allow our team much-needed downtime from work pressures.
What is your influence on this? How much, if at all, do you speak about your own regime for self-care (assuming you have one). I suspect many people are hanging on to the notion that the restrictions of this pandemic will soon be over and ‘normal service will shortly be resumed’ – I don’t think that will be the case. I am not being a pessimist, that’s not in my nature, I am simply thinking about how we protect ourselves and others from a potential reality of a long winter in stricter lockdown (even if it’s not as full on as before). Planning now how to stay well physically and mentally is vital. I have been walking lots to increase my lung function post Covid and I have realised it is as good for my head as it is for my body. I have also taken up Hatha Yoga to encourage meditation and deep breath work (again to help my lungs – and also, my head). These practices are crucial for my day. What are yours? How can you encourage dialogue and debate with your people to help them find their ‘thing’?
Recognising online fatigue
There is no doubt that online working is becoming less alluring than it was at the start of the pandemic. It was more of a novelty then and now, it’s frankly tiring. It’s odd to constantly have sight of ourselves as we speak to others, and it’s hard to keep up with who’s speaking and when to interject. Our lives are now so much online, with work and social life both predominantly onscreen – even though it is possible to see people face to face, the communicative disconnect is exhausting us. In an online meeting, we have to pay closer attention than we would in a face-to-face meeting, making extra sub-conscious efforts to pick on the usual non-verbal cues and deal with the over-stimulus of so many faces to read, as this National Geographic article highlights.
So, how will it be possible to limit virtual meetings and revert to calls and other forms of catching up? Is there any possibility of meeting a colleague for a coffee? I heard from a client just this morning who is working from home and taking the opportunity, where possible, to cycle to meet with colleagues … a double bonus of a face to face connection and exercise!
We are unlikely to go back to ‘life as usual‘ for some time to come. So, some creativity is required as we look to build working practices that can thrive in the coming months. Conscious leadership can undoubtedly play a key role in ongoing team success and these aren’t just our views … check out this short and inspired article by Jennifer Cohen in Forbes Magazine - conscious leadership.
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