How a positive culture and subtle behavioural changes can give you the resilience you need to get through a global pandemic
It’s unlikely that there has ever been a more stressful time for business leaders across the world.
The opening months to the 2008 recession could be a possibility, but then at least we could be in our offices, face-to-face with our staff, making the plans that would see our businesses through the next few months and years of hardship.
Here at The Positive Profitability Co, we know from extensive research, countless studies and our own anecdotal evidence, that it is possible for you to make far-reaching changes to your mindset and behaviour that will build your resilience and better equip you to deal with stress.
These changes need not be made simply to benefit you in the face of the challenge brought about by Coronavirus; they can have a much longer life than that. Indeed, they can benefit you throughout the remainder of your career, and the legacy you leave behind you at your organisation as well.
Leadership resilience is more than simply being able to deal with pressure. It is more about coping, even thriving when faced with a challenge. Whatever challenge you are facing now, if you positively condition a psychological environment that will build resilience, you will be pleased with the results.
- Perhaps your challenges are specifically tied up with the Coronavirus pandemic; managing relationships between furloughed and non-furloughed staff, dealing with the fallout of reduced hours, different routines or simply trying to keep the team as “together” as you can.
- Perhaps there are members of your team who are frustrated by the lack of direction from their boss, and have called out your apparently self-interested behaviour.
- Indeed, perhaps you are ashamed to say that you aren’t performing as well as a boss as you know you can; that you aren’t continuing to treat your people well under the added pressure of leading a team who is working from home.
- Perhaps there is unfair pressure upon you from chief executives to keep the wheels turning and the staff morale up despite far-flung working arrangements.
Prolonged stress caused by any of these sorts of situations is very bad for you. Not only can it affect your energy levels and emotional intelligence, but it’s unhelpful for clear thinking, analytical reasoning and motivation too. Much better to remain in a low-stress, high-performance state instead.
Whatever your personal challenge, the good news is that you can indeed correct your own behavioural or emotional instability to become more resilient, and more prepared for success no matter what circumstances you are working in.
It is not a case of “trying harder”
The quick truth of the matter is that willpower is not enough to change the way you think, and prepare you to come through stressful challenges in business. True positive thinking is a learned behaviour by which you will create new, physical pathways for optimism within your brain.
When you are able to recognise the power of habitual path-taking within your brain, you will focus on going down the paths of your goals and forging a more positive way of thinking.
Without rehearsing this better way of thinking, your brain will not know how to function when faced with stress. It is a serious business too, since stress can trigger chemical changes that will cause your higher brain functions to fail, and generate hormones that lower your performance.
But if you have already taken the crucial steps to become a resilient leader, you will demonstrate admirable direction among your subordinates and even drive a surge in profitability – even in times like these.
What are the steps?
To achieve the deep psychological resilience that will allow you to eat pressure for breakfast, you need to hone an unconscious routine. Plenty of positive psychology research proves that you will build this resilience by spending time in a positive emotional state.
Doing so will trigger the chemical and synaptic changes in your brain that manifest as improved ability to push through challenges, navigate setbacks without losing momentum and survive stressful experiences.
All traits which sound particularly enticing at the current time.
So how do you spend time in this positive emotional state?
1. Firstly, you must understand that if your unconscious expectations are solely positive, you will affect the balance of your workplace accordingly, whether that happens on Zoom or in person.
2. Through positive self-talk you can promote a more positive culture and become the version of yourself that you aspire to be at the same time. Simply by avoiding the sorts of words that trigger negativity – like “but” or “problem” – you are subtly programming yourself for positivity.
3. Try upgrading your stock response to “how are you?” to reflect just how wonderful you’re really feeling! Use positive language to prime your staff to follow your lead, and avoid making the throwaway comments that can exacerbate feelings of fatigue or nervousness.
4. Go so far as to record yourself saying some sentences that tell your story the way you would like it to be, from a third-person perspective. By saying these things out loud and listening back to them, you will condition yourself for positivity more so.
5. Mentally rehearse taking the positive approach under stress before anything even happens to cause that stress. Imagine the sorts of challenges you might face and decide now what the most positive way to deal with them would be. Then take the time to sit and think your way through those thought processes that will lead to the more positive response.
6. Don’t be afraid to graciously call out the sorts of behaviours that you are trying to eliminate – whether it’s you, a senior leader or a member of staff who is displaying them. Without noting the need for change, change can’t happen.
Own your positive culture
Commit to exposing your own behaviour to scrutiny in this way, and positive culture change will follow.
And there really aren’t many things more important than getting culture right within your organisation. No matter how your team is coming together at the moment – whether that is during daily or weekly Zoom calls, socially-distanced within a large workspace or in some other incredibly-technological manner – it is an opportunity for a change for the better.
Use this time apart to make sure that when you do reunite for good and the country starts to move forward again, that your organisation is a cohesive one that happily pursues success together.
Even if you have no plans for your workforce to be working physically closely for a long time, if ever again at all, a positive culture is at least equally important, and probably more so.
Be open about your pursuit of a more positive way of thinking in the workplace, and seek the input of your team now to lead a collaborative approach towards a good culture.
Consult your team; ask what they want and expect, listen to them and respond appropriately. There might be requests that cannot be met, but if that conversation hasn’t happened, you could easily fuel resentment.
Don’t simply focus on messaging the values you hope will turn into a better culture either. Follow it up by overhauling your process for assessing and rewarding staff performance (which can still be done on Zoom, no less!).
Without meaningful consultation and a collaborative approach like this, you simply cannot expect staff to behave in the way you aspire they will.
If you are able to persistently apply those countless small behavioural and thinking changes in every individual in your organisation, you will home in on a positive change in culture. It will take time, but you will get there.
And what better time than a pandemic to begin to set your organisation up with an enlightened ethos for greater strength, resilience and increased returns in its future?
Just remember, willpower isn’t the way forward here. Unconscious cognitive restructuring is, and it starts with you.
Change your mindset and lay the foundations for positive thinking and behaviours that will build your own resilience now, and let it be the catalyst for deeper change within your organisation moving forwards. You probably aren’t the only one who is feeling the pressure, after all.
Our founder, Graham, goes into a lot more detail about dealing with stress and improving work culture in his book, Positive Leadership, Positive Change which you can find on Amazon NOW.