Are you OK? The surprising leadership question
I’d spent two hours with John discussing how to restructure the management team in his stores and how to shuffle the staff around to make the most of the resources and ensure that all the shop’s opening hours were covered.
“Are you OK?” I said. We were sitting side by side at a cluttered desk, in front of a computer screen in the back office of one of our stores. Performance charts lined the walls showing how every store under his charge was doing in terms of sales. A blue headed pin lay on the table where it had fallen off the wall. One of the charts was hanging down, as if it was holding on for dear life. We knew that something needed to change. We’d been talking about those changes for the last two hours. John’s face was red as if he’d been running a marathon. I noticed my knuckles had almost turned white I was gripping the pen so hard. I’d noticed that my state of mind was not good. I’d taken a deep breath and the question just popped into my mind. I had no idea where it had come from. “No I’m not actually.” John said.
I fell into a healthy state of mind and wisdom showed up
The short conversation that then took place had more impact on him than the previous two hours put together. Now that I reflect on what happened, I realise that I hadn’t needed to go through everything in minute detail with him. What I realised is that it was more important for me to attend to his state of mind, because in a healthy state of mind, he could access his wisdom and he had all of the answers he needed. He knew his job, he was an experienced manager, he didn’t need me to tell him what to do. All I needed to do was attend to my own state of mind. When I took that breath, I fell into a healthy state of mind and then the question that needed to be asked popped into my mind. Then he fell into a healthy state of mind too. I realised that paying attention to my state of mind, so that I can rest in a good state of mind more of the time, is the best thing that I can do for my team.
How did I know to do this? I hadn’t planned to ask him that question. I’d been attending an online leadership programme and we’d talked about inner wisdom, consciousness, raging bulls and coke bottles and somewhere along the line something had shifted in me that I hadn’t realised had shifted. In the moment I was able to notice something I’d never paid attention to before. The quality of my own state of mind, and that had made all the difference. In doing so, my state of mind shifted and my inner wisdom surfaced, my innate leadership capability showed up, and the very question that I needed to ask John popped into my mind. That made all the difference. And it was so easy.
True story as related by a Regional Manager of a large UK retail operation
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