Q3 · 2022It’s a good time to take back control

As I write this edition of Spotlight on Performance, many business leaders (at least, those of you in the northern hemisphere) will have recently enjoyed a summer break. If you are among them, I hope you’ve had a chance to relax, recharge, and reconnect with your loved ones.

Whether or not you’ve just returned to today’s demanding world of work, it is this incredible intensity of modern business life that is the topic I’d like to address in this issue of Spotlight on Performance. That’s because I sincerely believe the pressures on leaders now are greater than they’ve ever been before. Let me explain why.

Just a few years ago, in one of my books, “The Melting Point”, I discussed the many stresses on business leaders, including “always on” business culture, which have been hugely accelerated by forces such as globalization and advances in communication technology. Here’s a flavour of what I wrote:

“The notion of a ‘global village’ is now reality. We’re clicking our way to a huge online marketplace, an ever-expanding social network, and a more streamlined work environment, with business colleagues in another continent as accessible as those in the office next door. And all because technology has revolutionized the way we communicate.”

“This means the lines between work and play are becoming blurred. The technology’s flexibility is undeniable – we are freed up to work at home, and we can now be productive wherever we happen to be. The problem, however, is that we’re not ‘switching off’ ourselves. And that lack of downtime contributes to elevated levels of anxiety and stress.”

Now, consider the fact that I wrote all this a few years before Covid-19! Think how these pressures are so much greater now, particularly with working from home being much more common.

Of course, as we adjust to a post-pandemic landscape, not all companies continue to offer their executives the option to work from home. Some take a flexible approach, allowing or encouraging some homeworking, balanced with some days in the office. But I also work with companies where their people now work remotely 100% of the time.

As a result, many of you are likely to be consulted instantly whenever something needs your input, however large or small, whether that’s on workdays or weekends. Such demands, on a regular basis, can leave your mind constantly occupied, less able either to concentrate fully on the task ahead, or disconnect completely in the limited time you can have away from work.

Thankfully, there are some steps you can take, and techniques you can apply, to mitigate these pressures. I would like to suggest an approach for you that is not only focused on coping with this intensity, but much more importantly, on helping you to grow, both personally and professionally.

As my book explains, the “melting point” is the point at which perceived pressures become too much and lead to dysfunctional behaviours (or even breakdown). My goal for you is to raise your melting point to the maximum, enabling you to become more robust, to the extent that you can perform with playfulness and have an amazing life, even under highly pressured circumstances.

One of the ways you can do this is by properly “disconnecting”. Rituals at the end of the working day are key to helping you achieve inner calm, a clear head and, most importantly, the right frame of mind in which to experience deep connection with your family, friends and people outside of work. Disconnecting in this way will also help you gain the high-quality sleep necessary for your sustainable high performance. Whether you work from home or not, you need to mentally transition between the worlds of work and home. I strongly recommend a form of meditation to help you when you stop work in the evening (which is a subject I’ve covered in another recent Spotlight on Performance).

Equally important is regaining control over technology. I recommend putting all devices away in one specific room at home, like your dedicated office or computer room, so they don’t intrude into your personal and family life when you decide that you’re not working (unless there is an emergency, of course). Developing a habit like this may take time to get used to – approximately three months before it becomes automatic – but it really does help you focus on the “here and now” from the moment your leisure time begins.

Overall, I would like to inspire you to build and establish ten key behavioural patterns, which will give you the concrete guidance you need to stay cool under intense pressure and deliver sustained world-class business performance. In addition to disconnecting, mentally transitioning between work and home, and regaining control over technology, these patterns also include:

  • Defining your deeper purpose, visualizing it on a daily basis, and being inspired by it
  • Systematically preparing for your key performance moments, so you can be at your best when it matters most
  • Making progress on a daily basis on the key topics that only you can move forward
  • Adopting good habits to save at least 30% of your energy for life beyond work
  • Establishing boundaries by introducing rituals for improved focus
  • Building up reserves for constant personal and professional growth
  • Pro-actively managing work-related politics
  • Creating and cultivating a supportive network of inspirational people.

In today’s post-pandemic, always-on world, these patterns are more relevant than ever.

Wishing you every success as the year advances,