Executive life is awash in stress.
The two are so interwoven, sometimes trying to disconnect the pair feels impossible.
For me, that stress hit me every morning during the daily standup call. Dread would find me every morning as I tried to navigate through the call as the only female director among male VPs and C level hosts. I felt like an imposter as these upper-level executives spoke about business development and used vocabulary that while was second nature to them was a foreign language to me. I felt like a 5th grader trying to learn French all over again but found myself flailing in my attempts to articulate even the simplest of messages.
The standup leader had been hostile and skeptical about the need to have the head of User Experience Design in his meeting. Despite knowing he found it superfluous to invite me onto the call, I found myself requesting an invitation anyways. Finding myself in uncharted territory with a hostile senior executive sparring with me every morning compounded my feelings of imposter syndrome.
Every executive has felt what I felt.
We may build up seemingly impenetrable walls of defense to protect against stress. But like a mouse, stress will take advantage of even the smallest crack or hole to find its way past our barriers and into our day to day lives.
But hey, even the most zen-like of executives get stressed out. What matters is how we manage stress and how we deal with it so that our negative emotions don’t impact business performance.
It’s this realization that led me to SHIFT.
Emotional Impact On Business Performance
Stress and business results are at odds.
Neuroscientist and author of Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership, Alan Watkins, has found that business results don’t depend on how much adrenaline is in your system or how relaxed you are under pressure. Rather, the oft-overlooked aspect that drives business results is whether or not you’re in a positive emotional state.
Diagram 1: Adapted from Haine and Arnsten, Learning and Memory, 2008, Copyright BEabove Leadership, 2016
Your brain is constantly reacting to external stimuli by producing a bottomless concoction of hormones and neurotransmitters. A positive state of mind that ensures positive work-related results is one that has just the right balance of dopamine and norepinephrine. Too much or too little of these productive chemicals renders us foggy, negatively impacting the efficiency of our decision making, memory, empathy levels and black and white thinking.
It’s an inability to achieve chemical equilibrium that Watkins says gets people “stuck in any one particular perspective about people, situations, and outcomes.”
The problem is getting there. The solution is SHIFT.
SHIFT gifts you the chance to augment business performance by equipping you with a psychological tool that helps you regain control of your emotions.
Negative emotions lead to negative business results.
Putting yourself in the right frame of mind to make crucial business decisions means quickly being able to change your mental state. Reap the rewards SHIFT can offer by reigning in your emotions.
How To SHIFT Your Emotional State
Diagram 2: Copyright of Complete Coherence
Think back to the last time you felt angry, frustrated, or anxious (Diagram 2 - Red Dot).
You heard something that upset you, ran back to your computer to try to fix the situation only to be confronted by an urgent email in need of an immediate response. Before you can answer the email you realize you have a video conference call, the first in a parade of online meetings. Now you don’t even have enough time to answer that urgent email let alone go to the bathroom.
It’s at this time that you need to SHIFT.
Diagram 3: The SHIFT Skill. Copyright of Complete Coherence
In this moment of anger, frustration and anxiety you can further produce feelings of anxiety and stress or you can stop and shift yourself into a calm emotional state of passion, enthusiasm and motivation (Diagram 2 - Blue dot).
Direct your attention to the center of your chest and breath in through your nose and follow the breath down into the center of your body and into your chest.
INDUCE POSITIVE EMOTION
Recall a peak moment in your life when you felt amazing. Really feel into that highlighted moment and relive it fully. Drink in the positive energy of that experience and remember how it felt in your body.
If you can’t think of a peak experience, think of music that moves you (Happy by Pharell Williams), or a scene from a movie, a line of poetry (“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi), a leader you admire (Chesley “Sully” Sullengerger landing US Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in 2009 and everyone survived) or how it feels when you fully connect to someone or something you truly love.
Keep breathing in these positive loving feelings and sustain the emotional warmth in your chest for 30 seconds.
Turn On Reason
Your rational mind will come back into balance as your emotions shift from negative to positive and you regain control over the response to the situation and those around you.
Now, you will be ready to take the video conference with your client from a positive emotional state. Imagine how much better your phone call will go coming from this place.
Whilst people will often use exercise, alcohol, having a moan with friends or relaxation to deal with negative moods or stress, none of these can be done in the “heat of the moment”. Learning how to emotionally self regulate is a game-changer, and not enough people know how to do it.
What makes SHIFT so powerful is the speed with which it can be done. Unlike other forms of self-regulation, your heart energy is always positive and always with you. If you can tap into it, you can shift.
My invitation to you is to breathe in the people, family, friends, guides, pets, plants, music, art, poetry and invite them into your heart. They are all pieces of you, all members of your internal orchestra, waiting to be awoken by you, the conductor. In this moment, and the next, let's make it a harmonious, melodic and blissful one.
Schedule a complimentary appointment now to learn how to leverage neuroscience to make you a more impactful leader and open the door to greater power and influence.
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Sally Grisedale is an executive coach for leaders working for the world’s leading technology companies. Before coaching, she was a product designer, design manager, and executive who built products for companies like Yahoo!, Facebook, and Apple.
Sally is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (UK), a student of Chinese Metaphysics and Neuroscience in Leadership Development.