Put on your own oxygen mask first
This article has been inspired by two industry events from 2021 and some life events I have heard of and experienced. At the Master Joiners Conference in Hamilton, we were privileged to hear Mike King speak about mental health, in a way only he can do, particularly men’s mental health. The engagement of the audience and the conversations after Mikes presentation demonstrated the underlying awareness, concern and need that exists among us.
In Wellington, at the NKBA conference, Nathan Wallis, a Neuroscience Educator spoke to us about the human brain and how different parts of the brain control our body’s response to the environment and how stressors in life can trigger emotions, neurochemicals, hormones that ultimately affect our behaviour and how to learn and respond to the world around us.
The focus on mental health during the last decade is helping. However, in NZ, too many people still die by suicide. Many others continue to struggle in life with internal challenges, depression, anxiety and stress. However, more people are now receptive to seeking help. I believe we all have a responsibility to recognise and aid this process as appropriate.
As business leaders we often take on more in life than is necessary, sometimes to overload. We think we must be strong and be in control of our emotions.
We rarely take time for ourselves, and we suppress our feelings and emotions and “push on” being tough and continue to “work hard” because that’s what we think we “should do”.
I will summarise one of the concepts from Nathan Wallis: Humans are the only mammals with the ability to have conscious thoughts, apply reason and learn languages and music. This part of our brain (Cortex) is what we use to solve problems, develop relationships, make conscious decisions, train each other, most of the things we aspire to do well at in business. However, suppose the rest of our brain (brainstem), which other animals possess, is activated and we are stressed. In that case, we are essentially in a state of high alert, ready to be triggered into the fight, flight, freeze mode, into anger, violent language or violent behaviour, withdrawal, or to completely freeze.
If humans are in this “stressed mode”, then the brain stem is ruling the moment. The cortex is essentially “turned off”. In this state, logical reasoning, thinking, rational choices, brain development and learning are impossible. So, children and adults in this state cannot respond in the way you think they should. In addition, they cannot absorb, understand, or learn anything at all whilst remaining in this state.
To illustrate, Nathan described a pair of scales, with the brain stem on one side and the cortex on the other; as one increases, the other declines. If the brainstem is activated like the illustration below, then the cortex is essentially turned off.
So how do we practise some form of mind control? You may have noticed your awareness of this already, through publicity and from others who practise some kind of mindfulness, meditation, yoga etc.
You will also notice that schools are educating families on this subject. In some countries, it is already an established daily routine in school and at home.
A great start is to recognise and observe this happening in ourselves and then practise calming our brainstem to achieve a more helpful, healthy state of mind.
With practise, we will develop the ability to show compassion and reasoning and to deal with and lead others in a much more meaningful, helpful, and effective way. The effect on others and the culture of our organisations will be of enormous benefit.
“When angry, count to 10 before you speak. If very angry, a hundred,”
Conscious breathing, relaxing activities, and some music can calm and decrease brainstem activity and allow a state of clarity to exist. The result will be clearer thinking, control of emotions, and sharp wisdom, ultimately leading to a healthier, fulfilling state of being.
Of course, this takes practice, discipline and making time for yourself and overcoming negative thinking and behaviour that can become barriers to something that is 100% in our control. We already know this, so I challenge you all to make some small change to benefit yourself, then those around you will also benefit.
If we look after ourselves first, we will be in a much better state to do what we wish to do; achieve, train, help others, make a difference, create a great culture, and ultimately be happy.
For more information visit:
https://www.nathanwallis.com/ You can also find lots of videos on his YouTube channel, including many on brain development in early human life.
Ian Featherstone is a business advisor and leadership coach, and the owner of Glass Half Full. He specialises in the construction industry, particularly the joinery & cabinetry sector. For more information or to find out how you can move your team forward, please visit www.glasshalffull.co.nz
COMMUNICATION – WE ARE HUMAN, NOT ROBOTS
In today’s world, it’s easy to become task driven and go from one thing to another and lose sight of what is going on around us. When we feel like this and have so much to do, some of us will become even more focused and be even less aware of what others are doing or what they need from us.
In the last 2 decades, we have become surrounded by more communication devices, channels, systems, and apps, both socially and for business. These all provide an endless stream of information and alerts and disturbances that make it harder and harder for our human mind, which has hardly changed for hundreds, if not thousands of years, to focus, and be happy.
It’s easy to forget that humans are social animals and the best way we send and receive information is face to face, accompanied by gestures and other body language to acknowledge and verify that the message has been understood and received. We are not robots.
Many of us focus on systems, software, machines, processes, KPIs etc to find improvement. The effectiveness of these are multiplied hundreds of times, if good interpersonal communication and leadership is applied as part of the process.
Great leadership question is to ask ourselves are “what is the quality of our communication?” right now? Today? this week? in our business? People like to know where they stand, to get feedback, to be informed, to have clear expectations and to simply have the information they need to do their job. If we work to improve our communication to others, learn to observe ourselves and how others receive, then we have a wonderful opportunity to communicate better, to become a great coach and an effective leader plus be a better person for ourselves, our family and the community.
Key areas to work on at work are, job and team briefings, tool box meetings, company updates and how you might handle issues or crises that arise. Delivering feedback in a constructive way that helps people learn, grow, and be challenged in a positive way.
I would argue that 90% of your customers place more value on the way they are treated, kept informed and handled by your team, than on the products you make.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”― Maya Angelou
In the right environment, with the right inputs and energy we can grow ourselves and those around us in a sustainable, agreeable way.
Any good communication requires some planning, shooting from the hip, is sometimes required, however, most of the time, a few moments to think before we speak is much more effective.
Remember, unlike our systems, devices and apps, every person is different and has been programmed differently throughout their life, so understanding them and considering how they might receive, decode and respond to your message, and also how you interpret their response in return completes the cycle and understanding.
For those of use that like diagrams or models, see the one below from Daniela Ilieva-Koleva and Rosaliya Kasamska.