With a sustained focus on ‘delivery’ becoming how we measure success in the workplace, and therefore our own value – how do we expect to keep ourselves well and thriving in the modern world of work unless we redefine what good looks like? And as long as we’re only ever delivering, how do we satisfy our human need to matter?
Conscious leadership is a movement towards getting to know who we really are and what we truly need, in order to thrive in the working environment that we now find ourselves in.
Look after the machine
You buy a car, you look after it – you don’t just stick fuel in it and keep on driving and driving until you drive it into the ground. You make sure it’s regularly serviced, the tyres are okay, and the engine oil is topped up, and you pay attention to any odd sounds coming from the engine. Why? Because you’re acutely conscious it won’t perform well if you don’t.
Yet as leaders and employees, do we pay the same attention to our own mechanics – of our body and our mind? Are we programmed to notice when our own machinery isn’t functioning properly? Are we conscious of how to keep ourselves firing on all cylinders? The evidence suggests we’re not.
- 14% of us work over 15 hours more than we should.
- UK office workers only take 16 minutes for lunch each day.
- More than a third of UK adults don’t take enough exercise.
- Sleep loss is the most prevalent impact that stress has on UK adults.
The machine is working at full pelt
We’ve been working at full pelt for so long, we’re now seeing the aftermath – where people are suffering the consequences of poor working patterns – characterised by long hours, out of control workloads, ineffective leadership, and job insecurity.
This has partly been driven by an economic need for organisations to do more with less. Over the last couple of decades, businesses have become really good at delivery, output, performance, optimisation, and effectiveness. But by the very nature of that focus, something’s had to give, and that something is the wellbeing of our workforce.
Take performance management for example, a practice derived from a need to manage under-performance in an environment where there’s less money to go around. Bell curves, nine-box grids, and rankings – using delivery-based criteria.
It’s all been about driving the machine harder, but we’ve forgotten to look after it. We’ve triggered so much anxiety in our organisations that people have decided that the only way to survive is to work harder and harder, until there’s nothing else to give. Yet we can’t go on like that, we can’t keep on throwing more of ourselves at the problem.
The need for speed
Despite all of the amazing benefits that technology has brought us, it’s also fuelled the need for immediacy. Response times have shortened, the ways to reach people have increased, plus home and work boundaries have become blurred.
Get conscious – the machine is YOU!
Going back to the car analogy, ask yourself this: are you running it into the ground? Because the machine is YOU. And today’s working environment demands you learn how to become more conscious of what your machine is saying to you.
It means being able to sense what you need. It involves paying close attention to your thoughts, feelings and actions – and reviewing whether they’re working to your advantage or not. It means getting to know yourself better, learning to listen to yourself, and becoming more conscious.
A model of consciousness
Look at the model below that demonstrates the benefit of conscious intelligence.
If you’re consciously aware of yourself and others, you’re able to flourish and grow – because you know what changes you and others need to make, to perform brilliantly. Unless you’re conscious and in control of yourself, you’re unlikely to sustain your performance and your wellbeing will be affected.
Without a good level of consciousness, without the self-awareness and social awareness to recognise what you and others need, you’re likely to be limiting yourself and neglecting others. Yet the overwhelm and stress has led us to become so disconnected from ourselves and reality, that we can’t even tell If we’re happy and well anymore. If we know that we’re not happy or we’re exhausted, or keeping getting ill, we often don’t know why. We don’t know how to fix our own machine.
Have you been conscious today?
Being conscious is something we all need to learn to do. It demands paying attention to ourselves, listening, noticing and acting on what we see, feel and hear around us. It involves a commitment to becoming conscious of our own habits, inner monologue, our energy levels, and our reactions – the way we behave each day.
Think about today – have you been conscious of what you’ve been doing, and has it been useful for you? Have you felt well? If not, do you know why? The fact is, you can’t focus solely on delivery the whole time without negatively impacting your wellbeing.
Permission to get conscious – don’t wait until the machine breaks
As a leader, your people may feel they need permission to get conscious. In a working environment of pure delivery, it may be frowned upon for employees to put themselves first.
This was certainly the case in a North American study where 20% of workers said they worried their bosses wouldn’t see them as being hardworking if they took regular lunch breaks, while 13% worried their peers would judge them.
Too often, organisations wait until the car’s broken before they fix it. Instead, if they’d paid attention to the cues coming from the car, they could have intercepted and prevented the break. If you’re going to spend money somewhere, why not spend it on keeping the machine functioning well rather than paying for it when It’s broken? Yet often organisations struggle to justify any more time or expenditure that contributes towards employee wellbeing – they don’t see that they spend it anyway when things go wrong.
It’s time to get conscious
In summary then:
- There’s ample evidence to show we’re running ourselves (our machines) into the ground.
- A focus on sustained delivery comes at a cost to wellbeing.
- Unless we’re paying attention to our own machinery, it’s going to break.
- Getting conscious means that we can make better decisions to keep ourselves well and deliver sustained performance.
To find more content on our how mind is effected in the workplace, click here.
Natasha Wallace – Chief Coach at Conscious Works, Author of ‘The Conscious Effect: 50 Lessons for Better Organisational Wellbeing’, Chair of the Engage for Success Thought and Action Group, and ex HR Director.
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