What does it mean to be embodying your life and truly living, not just surviving, in a humane organization?
We are all always bumping up against each other’s energies and impacting one another. The question is, what is the degree and nature of this impact? Does it facilitate positive, wanted growth in a desired direction or is it (real or perceived) negative or destructive energy taking us, or our work, off-course?
When you embody something it lives in your cells. It’s who you are. It’s how you operate and how you “be” in the world. All behavior – what you do or don’t do, how you do it – starts in the mind. It starts with an idea or a thought. Then we experience an emotion associated with that thought. E-motion = energy in motion. It is emotion that puts that thought to action. If your body is the car, your mind is the engine, your emotion is the gas that energizes and activates the car.
Newtown’s first law of physics states that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. An “unbalanced force” is anyone else who has an energy stronger or different than the one you exude that effects and impacts your movement forward.
The Creative Moment
Truly embodying your life means two feet grounded in the present of the realities in which you find yourself. You are not unduly dwelling on the past or over-striving for the future. It means you are here now, informed and shaped by the lessons and wisdom of the past and working in context of the future with clarity on what that aspiration is. The past can inform the present. The future can bring context and purpose to the present. But if we are always looking somewhere else, we miss the power of now, the creative moment.
Balancing States of Being
The challenge is experienced in how you hold the dynamic tension of all these three states of being, with a biased toward the present, as all action takes place in the now. When you overlay this self-management of your orientation with bumping up against your boss, co-worker, employee, significant other, children, friends, as we all move about our days, and you have a lot going on.
Drivers & Motives
In the context of work, your drivers and motives may be very different than your boss or your co-workers or those on your team. And yet you are dependent upon one another for your overall success. The challenge of leadership is as hard and simple as understanding what drives you, what drives your various constituents, and how to satisfy all your needs, in sustainably humane ways, where you are able to achieve your collective goals.
When you are truly embodied in the present moment, you have a greater ability to be affected by others, and to affect others. The question is, what is the effect you are having and experiencing? Is it bringing you closer to who you want to be and what you need to do/achieve? We often leave the beingness out of it. When this happens, we may achieve something but either it doesn’t mean what we thought it would or there is significant fallout (burnout, alienated relationships, etc.).
Once you go into OVERdrive – mind or over matter (i.e, physical body needs like sleep, food, exercise, downtime gets sacrificed for the goal) – for too long, something dramatic happens: usually you burn out, get sick or relationships suffer. It’s fairly predictable. Everyone has a different threshold. The task is to understand your threshold and needs – identifying the continuum of where your unique sweet spot of energizing ambition and drive is, and where too much stress starts lead to exhaustion, sickness or strained relationships.
Finding the Sweet Spot
Your sweet spot is different than your employees or co-workers. It’s about helping each other identify and honor this place for themselves so everyone can thrive. It’s about honoring self-care and negotiating what I call we-care – how do we get the collective team’s needs met and cover what we need to get done? This last question has been at the forefront as team’s had to pivot in crisis this past year.
Team thriving starts with embodying our true selves and being seen, recognized, validated and supported by our differences. When leaders cultivate this kind of team culture, it typically fosters a sense of community and true belonging.
In Today’s DealBook section of the New York Times, Corinne Purtill’s article Companies Can’t Stop Overworking explores the notion of how organizations condition embodied habits and ongoingly foster cultures of overwork. She stipulates that the driver for many is fear of losing social status. Smart, passionate high achieving professionals want to be around others like them who are driving themselves. Essentially, they fear if they rachet back hours, they won’t be seen as a player and eventually rendered obsolete.
Times to Temper
I specialize in working with passionate, high achieving leaders who often have a quiet internal war going on with themselves. I have worked with dozens of executives who have a high motivation to achieve that often needs to be rationalized with their value of family, relationships and downtime. Much of the work has to do with identifying and working with where and how they can recalibrate themselves for pulling back maybe 10%. They are not going to be a completely different person, but if they can shave off some hours, refocus their work strategically and qualitatively, temper some intensity, it has great effect on creativity, productivity, sleep and relationships. Counterintuitively, I typically see clients realize even better results.
Better Results, Less Time
I have one client, who is going through a divorce with young children, while navigating a disruptive and challenging work environment. We have talked about their allostatic load and work both on strategic thinking and stress management. They have been amazed that when they have cut their hours, they are now up for a promotion. We talked about what are they really being paid to do? Hire great people, develop them, set or execute on a clear and compelling vision, align the organization on the vision and make great decisions. They have cited how they have hired amazing people, empowered them and delegated well, which effects how many hours they are actually needed on the job.
Developing Whole People
In order to thrive and contribute at optimal levels over time, it is critical for each individual to understand their unique rest, productivity and driver needs. It’s also critical for leaders to allow for this collective exploration and dialogue amongst their teams so that they are creating cultures that develop whole people, not just disembodied resources.
Much of the above may not feel like new information. The key question is, how are you actually living it? What are you noticing right now, as you read this? Notice your thoughts, your feelings, your bodily sensations. What is this information telling you? How is it informing you – about who you are? Who your people are? The work, and what needs to be done? How can you tune in and attune to what is really going on – within you, around you and with others? What can you do today to be more embodied, truly present, in this moment – knowing all that has gone on before and all that needs to happen. What do you see that maybe has been right in front of you all along? Noticing matters.
© Copyright 2021 Sage Leadership Strategies, LLC. All rights Reserved.
Suze Shaner works with passionate, high achieving leaders to help them manage their emotions and think more strategically for better outcomes. Executive Coach and Leadership & Organization Effectiveness Consultant. She also teaches yoga and meditation – tools to keep one sane in uncertain times. www.sagelead.com.