March 9, 2016

Talk yourself into creating a more productive organisation

A business leader’s state of mind can influence the whole company’s performance. Workplace wellbeing teacher Michelle McQuaid shares her tips for creating a mindset for flourishing.

We’re constantly striving to make sense of the world.  As part of that process, we tell ourselves stories about why things are happening and what might happen next.

“These stories have a strong influence on what we think, feel and do,” says author and workplace wellbeing teacher Michelle McQuaid. “The good news is that, by deliberately choosing our stories, we can use them to help us to become confident, energetic and passionate leaders.”

Is this story true?

Many people are unaware of their internal dialogue. Those who tune in are often surprised to hear what they’re saying to themselves.

“Our stories are often coloured by negative beliefs that we developed early in our childhood,” says McQuaid.

The most common include:

  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m sure something bad is going to happen
  • I’m going to lose something important
  • I’m always letting people down
  • I’m going to be harmed in some way.

“As adults, we can consider whether a story is serving us well and, if not, whether it’s true,” McQuaid continues. “There are usually equally credible alternatives so we can choose to work with one that supports a mindset for flourishing.”

Developing intrapersonal intelligence

Listening to what we say to ourselves also helps to build intrapersonal intelligence, a term coined by psychologist Howard Gardner in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

“Intrapersonal people know themselves very well and can anticipate how they’re likely to react to various situations,” says McQuaid. “Those who lack intrapersonal intelligence tend to go straight from the challenge to the outcome and assume that nothing happens in between. But research supports the idea that we can choose the tools we reach for and the way we approach a challenge, so they’re missing out on the opportunity to make use of these choices.”

Five steps towards flourishing as a leader

“We have a good 10 years of evidence that, when a leader is flourishing, people throughout the organisation are more engaged and productive, generate more sales, have happier customers, make better leaders themselves and are less likely to burn out or leave,” says McQuaid. “I believe that these five practical steps can help any leader to flourish.”

1. Challenge your mindset. Tune into the story you’re telling yourself when you’re facing a challenge, criticism or failure to see whether it’s serving you well. If not, generate as many alternative explanations as possible and choose the one that makes you feel best.

2. Balance negative influences such as stress, anxiety, pressure, fear and anger with heartfelt positivity. That doesn’t mean slapping on a fake smile but rather taking every opportunity to generate joy, pride, amusement, gratitude, serenity and inspiration.

3. Stay engaged by identifying your strengths – the things you’re good at and enjoy doing – and helping others to identify theirs. Research suggests that spending just 11 minutes a day doing something that gives you pleasure makes it easier to reach your goals, reduces stress and increases your feeling of wellbeing.

4. Build good relationships. It’s the number one way to reduce stress and improve concentration and focus throughout an organisation. It can be as simple as sharing a positive emotion such as joy or curiosity, or asking questions such as: “What did you enjoy most this week?” or “What are you looking forward to?”  And taking the time to look people in the eye and match their vocal tone or body language helps to create a mutual feeling of warmth and trust.

5. Cultivate meaning. In job satisfaction surveys employees are increasingly putting meaning ahead of money, flexibility and job security. Good leaders help them to see their work has a positive impact – for example, managers at Facebook invite people who have used the platform to reconnect with loved ones to share their stories with the coders who made this possible.

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