6 Ways to Lead Yourself and Others to Peak Performance in Uncertain Times
Performance = Potential - Interference
Coronavirus is first and foremost a human tragedy and we must do our part to stay safe, individually and collectively. Beyond the direct health impact, a global pandemic of this scale will affect us all - how we live, interact and lead! From a business perspective, this means an impact on performance - yours, your colleagues’, and your organisations’. And for us leaders, it raises the question of how we can continue up our game to inspire, motivate and support our teams.
Over the past week, I’ve spoken with clients & colleagues about how they are being affected. From remaining focused in the midst of so many distractions and making difficult decisions about an unclear future to effectively leading remote teams and dealing with cancelled client projects, there is a lot of concern out there. And it makes total sense. After all, large scale uncertainty & volatility that is unexpectedly introduced without a clear end-date can be stressful. However, as we know, challenges are often breeding grounds for opportunities. And often the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity!
As leaders, while we can’t directly control external factors like for how long travel restrictions will be put in place, we can control how we perceive the situation and how we respond. We can choose to be an anchor of confidence and stability that inspires, motivates, and leads our teams, colleagues, and selves to positive action. Thereby, showing up and performing in the way that capitalises on the emerging opportunities.
So, how can you reduce stresses that amplify the challenges and instead increase your ability to perform and find opportunities to excel? Here are 6 key areas to focus on:
1. Stay connected to your purpose.
It can be easy to lose sight of what’s important when the world feels like a never-ending roller coaster. Stay grounded by connecting to your purpose. Remind yourself of your vision for your life (personal and professional), your values, and your goals - these are the things that will keep you feeling positive and drive you to success. The more you focus on the things that you truly want and desire from all areas of your life, the more engaged and excited you will be, and therefore the more driven you will be to realise those opportunities that connect you, and your business with that purpose. And if you are engaged, excited, and focused on the opportunities, it becomes that much easier to engage, excite, and focus your teams, too.
2. Create space to mentally focus.
There is a lot of distracting news and content about coronavirus. A lot! Some of it is useful (WHO’s advice), much of it is repetitive (how many different articles do you really need to read about how to keep yourself safe? Again, I refer you back to WHO’s advice), and a lot of it is just distracting. You may find it difficult to focus on anything else. Add on the fact that many of us are now working from home, which brings additional distractions - family, pets, Netflix. Broadbent's and Treisman's Models of Attention show that we cannot consciously attend to all sensory input at one time in the conscious level. (Want proof? Try this exercise).
To create an environment that supports your ability to concentrate, focus, and keep your attention on priority activities that drive your strategy forward:
Remove all distractions around you. Or move yourself away from the distractions. When working, avoid sitting in front of the TV, turn off phone alerts and close down non-work websites. When spending quality time with your family, put your work phone away and close your laptop. Whatever you’re doing, strive to be 100% in the moment.
Create boundaries with your family and friends. Just because you aren’t physically in the office doesn’t mean you aren’t at work. Tell your family when you are off-limits. Recreate the same time schedule at work. But promise them they get your “travel time”.
Create your unique success formula for focusing. Whether you’ve noticed it or not, there are mental switches that help you focus and get into “work-mode”. Maybe it’s when you step into your office building. Maybe it’s when you see your boss. Or after your morning coffee. Create a new mental switch for yourself. Possible centring yourself using a quick meditation exercise. Or pumping yourself up with some music.
Manage your mental energy. If you’re a morning person, tackle your most challenging work first thing. Bored with what you’re doing? If it isn’t urgent or important, do something else. Been working 3 hours non-stop:? Take a break!
3. Turn emotion-driven reactions into empowering responses.
It makes complete sense to feel stressed at this time. Maybe some fear or helplessness creeps in (“What if my elderly grandparent gets the virus?”). Or you just feel frustrated or irritated by the whole situation (“Ugh. Did this really have to happen in my promotion year?”). Accept those feelings - they are perfectly natural. If you can’t feel scared or angry during a pandemic, when can you? But… just because it’s natural, doesn’t mean it’s necessary. Recognise how those thoughts and emotions are impacting you and the life you want to live (see point 1). How are they serving you? If they aren’t, then stop. Breathe. Think of a more constructive thought and emotion you would like to have and how you would respond differently. Refer back to that more constructive thought when those unhelpful emotions show up again.
4. Take care of yourself, physically.
I’m not a doctor. But I do know that when I’m active, eating right, getting rest, and sleeping well, I feel stronger. Anecdotally, I believe my immune system is also stronger. If nothing else, I feel better and more energised. Keep your body fueled with good, healthy food and water. Take regular rest breaks. Get enough sleep (you may have extra time now, without the commute). And exercise. There are great virtual fitness classes, many of which are currently free. And at the very least, you can walk around your home. Get creative and have fun with it - maybe turn on some music and dance around the house.
5. Find new ways to stay social by connecting to people.
Social connections are paramount to our well-being. Therefore, self-isolation can have a huge impact on not only business performance (because we aren’t interacting directly), but also our sense of balance and satisfaction. But remember physical self-isolation does not mean total self-isolation. The beauty of the world we live in is that we are connected, via the internet, social media, and our phones. But it can be easy to keep that connection distant (text, posts, social media, email). Studies estimate that 70-80% of communication is non-verbal.
Instead of just calling a colleague or friend, try a video chat. Maybe with FaceTime or WhatsApp Video. Or have a virtual dinner party on Google Hangouts or Zoom (I’m setting one up as we speak!). It may feel odd initially but once you get used to it, like my 6-year-old niece, a voice call will no longer cut it.
6. Create a comfortable environment that promotes your performance.
Practical, but important. Temperature, equipment, clothing, lighting, noise - things we take for granted as we go into the office. Think about the last time your office was too cold. Or there was construction going on next door. How easy was it to stay focused and perform? On the contrary, remember how you feel wearing your power suit. Or when all your tech works seamlessly! Just because you are working in a new environment doesn’t mean you can’t get the same things in order. You just need to consciously create the right setting for you.
Change will come - be prepared for it
No doubt, this is just a temporary change in circumstances. But until we get through this (and we will!), find those opportunities to excel in your businesses, connect and support others and perform to your best. Because if you can do that, imagine what will emerge once we get through this phase and onto more exciting times.
Want support realising new opportunities in these challenging times? Want to chat about how you can step up to inspire, motivate, and lead your teams to success?
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or book time in my calendar.