Today’s headlines point to an economy in a state of unusual volatility and uncertainty.
The ongoing energy sector meltdown, the decline of metals, minerals and gold prices, weak aggregate demand, as well as a Chinese growth and currency crisis have all been contributing factors. The mixed global economic outlook led the US Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen, to announce that the Federal Reserve would not increase interest rates following its most recent Board meeting. The Bank of Canada twice this year lowered it overnight rate target – it now stands at just one half of one percent. The current macro-economic situation is, no doubt, posing additional challenges for many senior executives of North American corporations.
In my coaching practice, I have a number of clients who are challenged by many serious and complex issues ranging from the ongoing viability of their companies, to changing the corporate culture, to successful succession planning and executive renewal. This is compounded by the severe time pressures weighing on them in our 24/7 connected world. Some feel as if they are just doing whatever it takes to get things done by squeezing everything into “in-between” or “on-the-way” moments. They know deep down, however, that they will never be able to get it all done. “At least that’s out of the way”, they tell themselves; only to realize that they are falling farther behind. These executives feel an urgency to have more time. “If only I had fifteen or more hours a week” is a refrain I frequently hear. And many try bravely, even heroically, to find them, neglecting health and family. Is it any wonder that these executives are anxious, sleep-deprived, and lose perspective? They are caught up in old patterns that no longer serve them, and which stop them from being the leaders they can be, and that their organizations desperately need them to be.
Successful leaders, on the other hand, cope and thrive in these trying situations. Paradoxically, they do this by slowing down. The most effective leaders choose purposeful, mindful, awareness over impulsive reaction. They embrace the need for reflection, consultation, strategizing and, yes, physical exercise. They make sure to carve out time from their busy schedules accordingly. These leaders elect to delegate the important and routine to concentrate on what they feel can make a real difference. They search out new, innovative, ideas that can help their organizations move forward successfully. They simplify complex situations into easily understandable components, and prioritize them according to their organizations’ strategic directions, ROI and ease of execution. Successful leaders diligently analyse the issues they are facing with a fresh perspective. They see old problems and patterns in a different light and they will find some promising ways to work on perennial challenges. They search for the opportunities that often lie hidden within the issues they are confronting – if but seen through a different lens.
While successful leaders are not immune to anxious moments, they have the resilience and inner resources, including a strong belief in their capabilities, to achieve practical, effective and lasting results. They demonstrate the confidence, creativity, flexibility, discipline and insights to successfully manage the unexpected.
In our ever more turbulent and complex world, the need for aware, purposeful and successful leaders is paramount for the health of the companies they lead and, more generally, of the overall economy. Typically, senior executives lack an adequate support system. Overwhelmed executives need assistance and guidance to be successful, while purposeful leaders often need support, perhaps in the form of a confidante, to help sustain them.
A good mentor or an experienced executive coach can offer valuable assistance by providing leaders with perspective, insights and feedback within a safe and confidential environment. Increasingly, successful organizations see this as an investment well worth making.