Think about the last meeting you were in that was fuelled with stress and anxiety. How did the leaders show up? How did that make you feel? And what did it do to the outcomes of the meeting? Did it cause you to jump to solution mode? Did it limit the creativity or the options for what was possible? Or did it prevent you from voicing an opposite opinion for fear you would be shut down?
Having a good sense of our internal state is so important in our leadership work
Developing a deeper awareness of your overall state of being, physical and mental, and how that can rub off on those around you is part of understanding your true leadership impact. This includes an awareness of your current levels of stress and anxiety. And of calm and centered. Most people don’t pay sufficient attention to these states and as leaders, it is essential that we focus on this.
We are doing some amazing work in our leadership programs with horses thanks to the brilliant Jackie Smith and Judy Brightman. When it comes to kicking your self-awareness and leadership impact up a notch there is nothing quite like the unique ability that horses have to read us. Without language, horses sense our state from the moment we step in the paddock.
We know that our states are infectious, and anxiety is one of the most contagious ones. What does this mean for leaders carrying significant loads and feeling the pressure? We transfer these states to rooms full of people.
The first lesson to take from our equine friends is to practice the art of the pause and pay attention to what’s going on for you. To understand how you are showing up, you really need to tune into yourself and genuinely build the ability to calm your state. When we bring calm we can foster calm in those around us. But we can’t fake it!
What can we do to affect our state?
The science around stress can teach us about how, what we think about stress matters, and healthier stress responses can shift our state and our mindset. As psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains in her TED talk How to Make Stress your Friend “when you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to it”.
To deepen our awareness of our state try a simple body scan each day. You can spend as little as 15 mins connecting to your breath and learning to read the cues your body and mind send. If you’re new to this there are many different apps to support you in a guided version of this. Try it every day until Easter and you might just have formed a habit that will enhance your awareness, wellbeing and create different choices for how you show up.
Remember that every interaction we have with people is a conversation. Whether that is verbally or non-verbally. In the words of Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.