Such was the response from this article on Tapping Potential , that I thought I would interview a well respected professional coach, corporate trainer and NLP Master Practitioner, Shian Chuan, about how the stronger sex, the women, maintain peak performance in the boardroom.
Shian recently spoke to a women’s leadership group of an American MNC about peak performance and energy management…here are the highlights…
MA: Shian, as an expert to business leaders, what are the elements, specific to females that enable sustainable and high levels of performance?
SC: The ability to manage energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance. Time cannot be changed. The biggest mistake high performers wish for is more time, because being “on” for consistently long periods often leads to burn-out. Your internal energy on the other hand is infinite, created within you and controlled by an individual’s ability to spend and renew energy in a conscious and systematic way.
Great business leaders are skilled in managing the organization’s energy. In today’s technology driven, fast-paced and ever-changing environment, adaptation becomes even more important. Leaders must influence attitudes and behaviours within the organization, and are constantly mobilizing or channelling energy to achieve the organization’s goals and vision. Women leaders who focus any remaining energy they have on family, friends and the community, find they have little or no energy left for “me time”. Cultural norms tend to reinforce this mind-set, so it is up to the individual to find the right balance.
Consider these scenarios:
- You race through a 10-12 hour work day, come home to care for the family, and finally by 10PM during your “me-time”, your energy has turned impatient, guilty and you get frustrated that your long to-do list remains unchecked and that you haven’t done more. You spend that remaining time feeling fed up, partially give up and decide to leave it to the next day.
- You are fully attentive in multiple back-to-back meetings but leave frustrated from the way the time was utilized with disagreeable and difficult colleagues and unsolved challenges. During the final few hours of the work day, you struggle to stay focused and feel tired.
- You run your own business working 12 hour work days with your team requiring your constant attention. Your business comes before everything else. The long day leaves you tired and unmotivated to utilize your gym membership and you find yourself gaining 10 kilos over the next few months.
MA: When working with athletes there are signs and symptoms of over training/fatigue but I imagine that they are easier to spot given the physical indicators, but what do we need to look for in the corporate world as to the signs of being drained or in a slump?
SC: To measure what the happiest and most successful women do differently, a poll was taken by New York Times Best-Selling Author Marcus Buckingham on how engaged, energized, satisfied, and successful a woman feels. The below five questions were asked to tens of thousands of women (and men) in the US, the UK, Canada, China, Japan and India.
- How often do you feel an emotional high in your life?
- How often do you find yourself positively anticipating your day?
- How often do you become so involved in what you are doing that you lose track of time?
- How often do you feel invigorated at the end of a long busy day?
- How often do you get to do things you really like to do?
To access how “strong” your life is at the moment, I invite you to answer these questions truthfully. The happiest, most satisfied and fulfilled women find that they can honestly say “everyday” to at least four out of the five questions.
MA: How do we tap into our potential energy?
SC: Our energy source comes from four separate but interrelated areas. A person cannot perform at his or her peak with just that area alone, but needs to rely on the capacity to draw on all four. These elements are all part of an integrated system in every individual and can be stretched, practiced and strengthened through consistent and positive habits and rituals.
Physical strength – Marked by our strength, endurance, flexibility and resilience. Conscious eating is the easiest way to influence physical energy, both in the office and when on business travel.
Emotional connection- Our capacity to flex and move freely and appropriately along a wide range of emotions rather than being stuck or fixed in one emotion. During times of adversity, this gives us the ability to endure hardship, exercise resilience, find hope and happiness, or to receive feedback openly without feeling defensive.
Mental focus – To remain focused over a long period of time and to move between logical and rational thinking to intuitive and big-picture thinking. Top leaders have an open mind and are able to receive and see different perspectives.
Spiritual alignment – To be committed to one’s deepest values and to find purpose and meaning in work, beyond immediate self-interest. Great leaders who are spiritually-connected to their cause do it because they strongly believe in their message or vision. This enables employees to stay loyal and committed to the company’s culture and purpose without much push.
MA: What impact does this have on a) personal performance and b) to the business?
SC: Peak performance requires engaging 100% of ourselves in all four dimensions of ourselves: body, emotions, mind and spirit. They must be fully-connected and aligned for us to be in our “flow state” where everything feels right, things work, and we can see, feel and internally know that we are in sync with what we should be doing.
A person’s overall well-being has an immense impact on how well one can perform. It determines how well one acts under pressure, makes the right decisions, remains clear in times of chaos and still has patience left to keep going and see the big picture. Imagine that you are about to step into a large meeting where you are about to announce the company’s decision to restructure. There will be massive changes and ultimately big cuts made to various departments. How would your staff feel if you looked exhausted, burned out and anxious in your presentation? Would you rather feel invigorated, calm and confident while making that announcement?
MA: What do you advise people do when they ‘catch’ themselves exhibiting one or more of these symptoms?
SC: Honesty is the best approach. Know what is working and what is not. Notice your “symptom”, which is usually the most obvious part. Then determine the cause, which is often an expedient approach that turns into a habit or way of doing things. Lastly, adopt a new and sustainable ritual (a repeated approach) that will result in positive results and increased energy levels in the long term.
Source: The Power of Full Engagement
MA: What strategies can female executives/leaders employ to manage their emotional energy and maintain peak levels of performance?
- Get a mentor or a coach you can trust, who understands what you do and who can point out your blind spots. It takes a different mind-set, behaviour and action to get a different result, so asking for external help can often be liberating and will often produce new insights. It can feel lonely as you move higher and higher up the organizational hierarchy, so it’s common for executives to obtain non-partisan professional guidance.
- Build a strong support group. You don’t need to do it alone. Some women find it difficult to delegate because of the need for control with the belief that they can do it best, faster, therefore find it difficult to ask others for help. However, effective leadership involves learning how to maintain your own energy levels by saying “no” before you are close to burn out, knowing when to step back and to practice a degree of trust and faith in the outcome.
US business philosopher Jim Rohn states that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Relating to the law of averages and relationships, we are greatly influenced by those closest to us. Build a strong support group that will enhance the way you think, your self-esteem and decisions. Surrounding yourself with supportive and positive people will increase your energy and improve your well-being.
- Develop positive rituals congruent with your values and long-term vision. Are you aiming to be a better mother, make a greater impact at work or desire to improve your finances to secure a better future? Positive rituals will enable you to realize your long term vision, no matter what it is.
Work on all three steps above concurrently. Each individual ultimately wants to do and be better. One cannot underestimate the power of our human spirit when propelled by a larger vision and what it can allow us to achieve with enough belief in ourselves and trust in the outcome. Regardless of our backgrounds, we are all connected by a common desire to feel more satisfaction, happiness as well as connection to our highest purpose and personal ability.
Shian Chuan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org