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Ripple Effect Leadership

Stay energised and focussed and in turn create a positive ripple effect!

We recently held a HR Directors’ networking session, facilitated by Claire Walton, leadership performance coach.

Claire highlighted some recent statistics indicating the increasing levels of overwhelm and burnout.

According to a Mental Health UK and YouGov poll of 2,099 working adults in the UK, March 2021:

46% of UK workers feel ‘more prone to extreme levels of stress’ compared with a year ago (March 2020) while only 15% feel ‘less prone to extreme levels of stress.’

 According to HRD – The HR Director Magazine:

Searches of  ‘signs of burnout’ were up 150% in 2020, closely followed by ‘burnout syndrome’ which were up 110% in 2020. Searches of the question ‘How to get signed off work with stress’ were up 80% in 2020.

Claire also shared a simple description for burnout: ‘a state of physical and emotional exhaustion,’ with common signs being:

  • Feeling tired or drained most of the time
  • Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated
  • Feeling detached/alone in the world
  • Having a cynical/negative outlook
  • Self-doubt
  • Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
  • Feeling overwhelmed

When asked how many of the group has experienced one or more of these symptoms in the last 18 months, everyone replied yes, at least one. Several people had experienced more than one and some said they had experienced all the above.

Claire asked the group to consider the ripple effect of leaders experiencing these symptoms. As leaders we cast a shadow to others. Our energy and focus, or lack of it, is contagious. Research has evidenced emotions and behaviour as contagious. We are either radiating energy and focus or draining it from others. People also see us as role models, they consciously and unconsciously follow our lead.

During the session, Claire asked us several useful questions to get us thinking more strategically about how we spend our time:

  • What are the most critical strategic goals that need YOUR attention?
  • Who will benefit most from YOUR attention?
  • What are you doing to maintain a fresh and enthusiastic approach to what is on your plate?
  • What are YOU doing to influence your key stakeholders on what is most valuable and most critical?
  • Are you giving the time, resources, and energy these things need?

This provided much food for thought for the group of HR leaders attending the session. During breakout sessions the HR leaders shared their answers to some of these questions and it was evident in these discussions that a conscious effort is required to maintain a strategic focus on how we spend our time. Some of the insights from the breakouts were:

  • The need to Identify what’s going to make the biggest difference to the organisation
  • Keeping close to the business and its purpose as direction for energy and focus
  • Less is more!
  • Being honest with yourself and appropriate others about how you are feeling
  • Never make assumptions, stay curious and seek to understand before responding!
  • Work collaboratively and share/delegate people priorities across the Senior Leadership team.
  • Ensure the Senior Leadership team works well together for mutual and organisational benefit.
  • Build a strong relationship with your boss and ensure you understand each other’s agenda and needs
  • Make the most of data to influence/support decision making
  • Maintain effective external networking

Claire emphasised, strategic decision making isn’t just on behalf of the organisation – it is also for the leader to think strategically about their time and energy! She offered some further questions to reflect on regularly:

  • What are you ultimately trying to achieve?
  • What will you therefore not do/stop doing?
  • What must you do?
  • What is the priority order for these activities?

Note: Priority is singular. You cannot have more than one priority, but you can have an order of priorities.

Claire shared one of her favourite models for prioritising.

What is my highest contribution? 

When we reflect on contribution, we consider both the organisation’s needs and how we uniquely bring to bear strengths, experience and capabilities. The word  contribution captures a sense of purpose, citizenship and service.

What am I passionate about? Motivation and energy fuel action.

So, when setting priorities, get clear on what brings you inspiration in your work today.

Which tasks should you prioritise?

Focus on those that align your passion with where you can contribute most. Tolerate, elevate and delegate the rest.

Claire is a Leadership performance coach and author of best-selling book ‘Super Neuro You.’

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