Wellbeing tips for leaders

Wellbeing was already a big challenge for leaders before 2020. And when a pandemic hit, every industry and workplace was thrown into disarray, causing chaos and uncertainty for every employee in New Zealand.The pressures on leaders have been magnified 1000x times and seeking help is more complicated than ever. The feedback we are getting from our programs is that there is pressure from employees, bottom lines and industry groups and all are calling on leaders to give input, advice, security and assurance. It’s exhausting, frankly. These wellbeing tips are designed to be a bridging solution for until things settle down.1. Establish a sleep routine. We know this seems basic, but in the midst of a pandemic, all sense of time and place seems to have more or less gone out the window. If you have slipped into some unhelpful sleeping patterns, or simply disposed of routine all together, try your hand at getting into a good one.According to sleep experts, adults should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Things like limiting screen time before bed, turning the lights down and reading something that isn’t backlit or work related is a good way to encourage your body to start producing melatonin.2. Speaking of tech, turn off your emails We all have that one client or colleague who thinks they can email at all hours of the night and expects a response asap. Update your email signature with your work hours and once those have passed, turn off your work email notifications and screen parent calls. You aren’t getting paid to mediate issues, give advice or contribute to workplace projects at 8 pm at night, so don’t.3. During the day, reconnect with your purpose We all know that one of the rewards of being a leader is seeing great outcomes- not just for the bottom line, but for your team and clients as well. Try to find an opportunity each day to connect with an employee or staff member who is getting great results and take a moment to celebrate that with them.4. Connect with your peers It can be hard to explain to someone who isn’t a leader, the challenges that come with it. Find 20 minutes one night a week to jump on a zoom with a few peers from other organisations or industry sectors. Share your best and worst of the week, toss around some ideas and have a general chat. Not only is this connection good for you socially, but it can be comforting to know that other people are having similar challenges to you. Plus, you get the benefit of being able to help and support other leaders as well.5. Build up your emotional resilienceBeing proactive about looking after your physical and mental health can increase your resilience in tough times. Free yoga classes and meditation programs are rife at the moment. If you are in Victoria, you can also access up to 20 sessions with a registered counsellor or psychologist under temporary changes to the mental health care plans.Putting aside time on the weekend to do something you really enjoy is a good way to make sure you have something to look forward to. Sometimes, it’s the little things that help.  

Why human connection and self-reflection are essential for any good leader​

Human connection is our number one intention when we bring groups of leaders together. When we look up and connect with others, wonderful things happen to our brains. It is one of the things I hold most dear when doing leadership programs with groups in Nepal. Most humans naturally love being together. We enjoy the lovely chemicals that we share when we are together to feel connected and a sense of belonging. Spending nine days with a group, we start to synchronize our brains too. With the development of shared values, the group builds cooperation and understanding. This builds trust, compassion, creativity and bravery. Our programs in Nepal are designed to shake things up a little and give participants a new take on their work and lives.Imagine it: no emails, phone calls, notifications, WiFi, electronic diaries, online distractions and social media. A digital detox is a brilliant way for leaders to experience Nepal, to reconnect with what is important to them and to reconnect with humans. Our participants enjoy it so much that they are slow to reconnect again when they are again allowed to. Spending time living and trekking in a mountain village at 2,600m above sea level humbles you. We live structured lives, but nature is always changing. Out there, mother nature is in control and you need to respect the mountains. She will have the last say.Our leadership programs are designed deliberately on a broad framework rather than a strict day by day agenda. Initially, some people find it hard, but with encouragement and time, they learn to surrender control, live with fewer expectations or agendas and go with the flow. They learn to trust our team and then thoroughly enjoy the surprises. There are no disappointments as there are no expectations. How often do you feel disappointed because your expectations were not met? Did you stop to consider if they were realistic and achievable? Surrendering expectations is a wonderful skill to develop. In Nepal, you are not a mother, wife, colleague, CEO, manager or friend. You have no role to play except to show up in the present moment. No cooking, washing, housework, shopping, school drop-offs, homework, social events, meetings, interruptions or work. Just you. Who are you without all these distractions? The opportunity to disconnect from all of this and rediscover yourself is a gift. Each leadership program provides time for daily group reflection to allow participants to realise what is important and to think about where they are at in life. We live and bathe ourselves in nature in a mountain village for three days. Nature clears your vision, changes your attitude, and makes you think of the real worth of living. In fact, nature therapy is now being prescribed by doctors as medicine. Participants come away from the mountain time feeling a little happier, a little healthier and can breathe better. We also focus on building spiritual literacy. In the western world, we are in spiritual poverty. So many of us seek more clarity on our life meaning and purpose and want less of a focus on materials and job titles that bring short term satisfaction.Throughout our programs, we meet and learn from a selection of Nepali people that inspire leadership for the greater good and display values of humility, courage, love and kindness. Participants are also encouraged to turn down the voice of judgement, fear and cynicism and draw on the strengths of compassion, courage and curiosity. We run workshops with Nepali women to deepen our connections, find our human commonalities and add value to each other. It is these human connections and opportunities for reflection and development that give leaders the time to heal, develop spiritual understanding and become more awakened leaders. By Katrina WebbAs a sporting legend, Katrina Webb is no stranger to a Gold medal podium or a star-lit stage. She has received awards and medals most athletes only dream about. Despite this success, her journey hasn’t always been easy. Katrina is an international speaker, leadership and personal mastery consultant, trainer in wellbeing and resilience, and a physiotherapist. 

HOW TO STAY ABOVE THE LINE OF CHOICE​

Have you ever heard of the line of choice? It’s a really impactful tool for leaders and organisations to measure both where you sit, and where your team and organisation sit in terms of accountability, ownership and teamwork.Below the line thinking usually manifests itself in organisations with cultural issues, where teams or individuals don’t feel comfortable, or don’t want, to accept shared or singular responsibility for the outcomes they produce. There is a lack of willingness to take personal responsibility. This is particularly true where the outcome is less than desirable. It is also really understandable; as Brene Brown explains in her Ted Talk, ‘blame is the discharging of discomfort and pain’ by putting it on to another person. On the flip side, individuals and teams who sit above the line are usually in an environment where they as a team and as individuals are happy to accept and be responsible for the outcomes they produce- not just the excellent ones, but the not so good ones as well. In these environments, colleagues usually experience a high level of psychological safety and are able to work collaboratively with each other. Antony Maxwell, Senior Leadership Facilitator at WLA, said of the model: “Staying above the line is actually really challenging for most individuals and teams. Personal responsibility can be really challenging. You also see different individuals, pairs and groups working above and below the line depending on the project and the interpersonal relationships at play. “For example, you might have two members of your team who work really well together and consistently operate above the line. But when those two individuals are part of a bigger group, they fall below the line due to the interpersonal relationships at play. “It is really important to acknowledge that everyone falls below the line, if not every day then certainly most days. It is about psychological safety, personal responsibility and a feeling of insecurity and inadequacy. Leading by example and actively reaching out to support team members who consistently display below the line behaviours can really help to bring the entire team above the line.”Recognising and addressing below the line behaviours: Below the line behaviours will fit into one of the following categories or personas; Defend, Blame, Justify, Quit, Victim, Deny. These can manifest in a number of ways; for example, if you are in a meeting with a member of your team and discussing a project that perhaps wasn’t managed as well as you would have liked, they might say ‘I could have managed it better except I didn’t get the support that I needed from (team member/department.)’ That’s an example of the employee making an excuse or justifying the outcome, and in the process, blaming the other person or department involved. In this example, you also need to see personal responsibility being taken by every member of the team in order for everyone to be working productively; both the team member who is tempted to blame another department and the department that they believe didn’t contribute to a good outcome. Some coaching questions can be helpful in this situation; countering that response with something along the lines of ‘Okay. What could you/we do differently next time to better manage that team so that you work better together?’ or ‘What are some things you could do to help them to be more involved or take more ownership of the project?’ Hopefully, this will encourage your team to take more ownership by empowering them to think about how they can take more personal responsibility for the outcome.Recognising and encouraging above the line behaviours: In terms of recognising above the line behaviour, it is summarised by the acronym OAR: Ownership, Accountability and Responsibility. This can manifest in a number of ways; for example, if you are working with your colleagues on a project and someone in the team has not met a deadline, they will feel comfortable to put their hand up and say something along the lines of; ‘sorry, I didn’t get that done in time. I know this will have an adverse effect on the project. Once it is done I will try to support the team in other ways until we are all back on track.’ That’s an example of an employee feeling comfortable within their team and organisation to take personal responsibility for their actions and the compromised position they have put the team in.In order for the above to happen, your team has to feel supported and psychologically safe in the workplace. An employee or team who feels they are not valued, that they are in a precarious position in the workplace or that they are not well-liked by their team or manager is far less likely to feel able to take personal responsibility for their actions and the outcomes they produce. It has to be said that one of the most important things you can do as a leader to encourage above the line behaviour is to demonstrate it yourself. As good leaders we know that our employees aren’t perfect, and neither are we. We also know that at least once (probably more) we have been guilty of demonstrating that below the line behaviour. By demonstrating to your team your willingness to own your own mistakes and take responsibility for them, you create a culture that makes it easier to do the same. Identifying where you sit on the line of choice: Antony is a strong advocate for teams utilising ‘walk and talks’ to connect with their fellow colleagues and to identify where they are perceived to sit on the line. “I would recommend that you start with people you are close to and work your way out from there. People are far more open to receiving feedback from people that they have a close relationship with and feel psychologically safe around. Focus on identifying one thing you could work on in the next 30 days and then really actively focus on it.Over time, expand your conversations to other people that you work with, your supervisor and even people in other teams. Knowing where you are perceived to be is really important.”​

JULIA GILLARD ON HER NEW BOOK; WOMEN & LEADERSHIP: REAL LIVES, REAL LESSONS​

Last month, Julia Gillard, along with her co-author, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, released their new book; Women and Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons. We were delighted to sit down with Julia on launch day and have a chat to her about the book, women in leadership and why gender really does make a difference to how women are allowed to lead.Dr Janet Smith: Perhaps we could begin, Julia, with you telling us a little about why you've chosen this particular genre which I so admire.Julia Gillard: What we wanted to do with this book was really drill down into the psychological research which is increasingly available about how women leaders are seen. That psychological research is strong but it's inevitably done under laboratory-style conditions. Those great universities, they come up with experiments, they might get groups of students or other people and test their reaction to women leaders in contrived situations, ones that have been modelled for the experiment.We wanted to take what came out of that and see whether or not it lived in the real world and in the lives of women leaders, hence really the marrying, in the book, the academic scholars and research and the storytelling that you point to. And wanting to achieve all of that we had to think really carefully about how are we going to structure it? Where are we going to tell each woman's story chapter-by-chapter but if we did that then I don't think we would have been able to waive the research in.So we went instead for a kind of style where each time we came up with a hypothesis based on our own lived experience or the researcher, a combination of both, and then tested it in the lives of the women's leaders through their words. And so that's the structure of the book. And then we wanted to make sure that people left it feeling energized, ready to go, wanting to make a difference in the world and that's why the last chapter is our standout lessons. And we've been very careful to make them not just for women because we think the work of achieving gender equality has to be for everyone.Dr Janet Smith: Thank you. You suggest in the book that conversations with women leaders should typically begin with why it's wonderful to be a leader. And I enjoyed reading about your mentor, Joan Kirner, who always reinforced the why. And we also reinforce the why about leadership in all of our WLA courses. What's your current answer to that question, Julia, why do you find it wonderful to be a leader?Julia Gillard: Thank you for starting with the positive side because one of the traps I think we can easily fall into and we point this out in the book is we do want people to understand what's still different for women. And we do want to correct that difference, and we do want to strive for gender equality, but in doing all of that it means that we're pointing to the negative not the positive. And for me, the why, the positive is really if you got a sense of purpose if you're motivated by a change of gender, if you've got a passion to create a better world, then really there's no better way of making that come true than being a leader.Leadership has got it stresses and strains but the impact you can have whether it's in politics, business, law, civil society, news media, technology, is heightened by that leadership platform. You too can make a real difference for the lives of others around you. Leadership means role modelling, it means you get the ability to bring a team together and get the best out of them, to coach, to mentor, to create the next generation. For me at this stage of my life, there's a particular delight in that. One of the things that I most like to do is spend time in the company of young women, and I walk away from the exchange much more enriched than anything that I've given out when we've talked. That keeps you thinking, keeps you learning, and that gives you more energy for the next bit.Dr Janet Smith: I really enjoy listening to your podcast One's Own. I typically listen to it when I'm out walking, and each time I listen I'm struck afresh by your introductory words; 'I'm offended by the lack of women in positions of leadership and the way that those that do make it are treated.' Each time I listen to your introduction, Julia, I'm really struck by the strength of your word 'offended' and also just how personal it is. My question is, what is it that most offends you about the situations that women leaders face?Julia Gillard: To just give the snapshot statistic, we put a lot of statistics in the book but the big summary statistic is if we look around our world, 70% of nations have not been led by a woman. Only 13 nations have been led by more than one woman and only two have been led by three women, Iceland and of course, New Zealand with Jacinda Ardern. I think we should find that offensive because if you believe as I do, that merit is equally distributed between the sexes, then that must mean that time after time after time, there are women of great merit who aren't getting to come through and provide leadership.In this complex, contested, fragmented world in which we live, why wouldn't we want to have the best leaders out on the field doing the job for us? And then it really disheartens me when a woman gets there and she's doing, as all leaders do, a mix of good things and some things wrong and instead of actually dealing with all of that on its merits, you'll pick up media and it'll be about appearance or kids. Something that would only happen to a woman leader. A male leader would never have any of the oxygen, the time, the precious minutes of his leadership taken up with that sort of carrying on and so that offends me, too.I think we can't just let ourselves accept it as routine, or the way of the world, or answer it with a frustrated grunt, it has to be a more active emotion than that. Not striding around the world grim-faced, but feeling that sense that this is deeply wrong is what helps me to stay on course with that true north about a gender-equal world.Dr Janet Smith: One thing that I really noticed in reading the book was that you refer to many tight ropes that women must balance in their lives and their leadership. For example, I noticed you said that women leaders need to be seen to be man enough to do the job, in other words, take on those socially-constructed characteristics of male leaders, but they still need to be female enough to be likable. And they mustn't make things sound too easy because it turns other women off, yet they don't want to put too much emphasis on the difficulties because that will turn people off too. So both the superwoman and the super honest woman are both alienating role models as is the pseudo male or the super female woman leader.Reading all of this just reminded me how difficult it is for women to find that sweet spot. And I know that that's referred to as the Goldilocks principle which is sort of like trying to find baby bear's porridge, not too hot, not too cold, just right. I just had this sense of women trying to find this really hard place and I could see that it was really hard for you and Ngozi and the other women in the book to find it too. Apart from how difficult it is, it just takes so much energy, time and vigilance to be second-guessing yourself all the time. My question is, how do we find that sweet spot, Julia? And is there a way even that we can now expand that zone?Julia Gillard: I ultimately believe we need to enlarge the zone and in fact enlarge it so wide that women can be leaders in any mode. The psychological research at the moment certainly does tell us that people can have quite extreme reactions against women who are seen to be offending against gender stereotypes.I was quite startled when we looked at a piece of research from Yale University. They got two groups of voters, put them in two different rooms, got a man to address one room and a woman to address another room. They were pretending to be candidates for the Senate, in fact, they were both actors but pretending to be candidates for the Senate.But they used exactly the same script. And it had lines in it like, "I'm the kind of person who gets things done. I might step on other people's toes to do that but I do get things done." A line like that from a man, fine. A line like that from a woman, a reaction that the researchers use words like 'contempt' and 'disgust' to describe, that's how deep-seated it was. It's telling us that women can come forward as leaders, they need to not look too soft or people won't think they can do the job, but if they come on as too ambitious, too power-hungry, then revulsion will be the response.Women leaders have to have this dose of strong and caring the whole time. Each of the women leaders we spoke to, and they come from countries and cross-sections around the world, Liberia in Africa a poor country, faced the Ebola epidemic, Norway in the icy North, one of the richest countries in the world. The two women who led those nations who spoke to us said both of them were aware of this and self-limited behaviours because of it.For women who want to step forward for leadership right now, all I can say is, "Be aware that there is this conundrum and you need to think about how you're going to present as a leader." But I am optimistic that the more we have women lead, the wider space and terrain becomes. For example, Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand is very conscious that she's got a greater terrain than if she'd been the first woman. Theresa May says that about the United Kingdom as well.Whereas I think when Hillary went to be the first president of the United States it was still an incredibly narrow path for her to try and walk. Things to think about as an individual, but ultimately the solution is a collective one. We've got to change this all so we have more women leaders come through.Did you enjoy this interview? You can read the rest, and watch a live recording of the conversation, on WLA Connect. Join today.​

Three Recommended Leadership Books

Looking to be challenged, inspired or for a different perspective on things? Here are three recommended leadership books.

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Suzi Finkelstein shares her intentions for 2019​

five people putting their hands together over a wooden table for teamwork

I often quote Maya Angelou: `I have great respect for the past. If you don't know where you've come from, you don't know where you're going.’ This was a `practice what you preach’ moment!

Over the holiday break, I created some space to look closely at 2018 in readiness for some forward gazing. I noticed there were many moments that made me proud. In my close of year message, I described the activities in detail so I remained at a higher vantage point.

There were moments when I stood tall, when I stretched myself, when I backed myself, when I tested my resolve, when I surprised myself and often times when I surpassed expectations. 

There were also moments when I felt disappointment, dissatisfaction and overwhelmed by distractions. 

I recognised the ingredients for development and also more opportunities for further growth. 

Last year I had a set of words that I ‘partnered with’: words that I drew on for inspiration, insight and to boost my courage when I felt the ‘wobbles’

  • Calm: to remind myself to breathe and notice what the moment was truly requiring.
  • Considered: with all decisions and responses, this was my reminder to slow down my reaction to be reflective and informed.
  • Confident: I have reached a place where I have much to draw on and it was finally time to recognise this. This was a reminder to consider myself as a valuable resource.

 

These words served me well. They reminded me to search within and find the voice that could give me clarity and strength. These words were not only drawn on in moments of stress, but they also created the space for foresight and planning. 

To motivate more of this positive growth, I went about finding my set of words for 2019, and arm me for the next year in my career.

In the book The Power of Moments:  Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip and Dan Heath (2017), I discovered the power of a defining moment and the essential ingredients to create one. In these defining moments that can often be life changing, we need at least one of these four elements:

  • Pride: ‘defining moments capture us at our best - moments of achievement, moments of courage. To create such moments we need to understand something about the architecture of pride - how to plan for a series of milestone moments that build on each other en route to a larger goal.’ (p. 13)
  • Insight: ‘defining moments rewire our understanding of ourselves and our world.’ (p. 13)
  • Elevation: ‘defining moments rise above the everyday.’(p. 12)
  • Connection: ‘defining moments are social. These moments are strengthened because we share them with others.’ (p. 14)

 

These words not only excite me but they create a steppingstone that is quite dynamic. I have tweaked them in order to suit my purpose. I intend to also use these to guide the targets I will set to measure success and to give myself a framework to recognise my powerful moments:

Pride: a reminder that ‘what gets measured gets managed’ (Drucker). To celebrate the steps as they will be celebrations in their own right and of course will inspire more. 

Elevate: this will serve as a reminder to stretch and back myself. To rise to a higher platform. I believe my role requires this of me not only in terms of the stretch but also with regards to creating the space between the doing and acting. I need to be more strategic with my engagement and time allocation.

Insight: this will serve as a reminder to once again draw on my knowledge and also to increase mine as I am informed by others. 

Connection: I am a social being and my community is important to me. I can easily strive for my targets and have little energy left for the ‘people’ element. This also serves to remind me to slow down and reconnect to self. 

To take this up a notch from my experience in 2018, I intend to be more proactive and create these moments, not only reframe and reflect upon them.

 

`We can be the designers of moments that deliver elevation and insight and pride and connection.

 

These extraordinary minutes and hours and days – they are what make life meaningful.

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