Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the category “Stress”

Strategy as Stress Survival

Nearly thirty years ago the Thomsons sold out of print newspapers, selling The Times and The Sunday Times to Murdoch. In 2007 they sold their college textbooks arm for a $2bn premium, making an offer for Reuters with the proceeds in the same month Murdoch increased its newspapers exposure with its bid for Dow Jones.

The FT’s article (30/12/09, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson) exploring family businesses and long-term strategic decision-making also highlights the importance of paranoia and values in business leadership.

Without long-term planning and the projection of risk exposures, a company cannot look to add value over time. Past this management speak though, a healthy self-awareness and translation of leadership team stress, paranoia and questioning into strategy evaluation and revision/ actions is fundamental.

Allan Leighton (sits on several boards, inc. Selfridges and BSkyB) is quoted in another FT article (6/1/10, Judgment Call – What is the right attitude for leaders to take this year?):

‘Stay close to the detail of your business, worry frequently, don’t be complacent, and look after your people. Survive and thrive.’

‘Business needs to adapt to the new realities and get on with driving momentum, being proactive and looking for ways to keep edging forward, remembering that flat is often the new up’

Strong leadership is not a one person game. The leader – in position because of knowing what those who would be led need to be led – drives both the momentum and the action, but should also drive the questioning. Historic decisions of even the last month should be re-challenged in light of all current data and experience.

The fulfilment of the mission and big hairy audacious goals should provide the direction and framework; this should equate with the company’s best ability to deliver total stakeholder return over time (defined in both monetary and non-monetary terms).

What happens day to day, week to week and month to month should be guided by a clear bridling of your stress and paranoia as a leadership team in pursuit of the right strategic decision-making/ revision-making.

Continually switching strategies or strategic procastination/ incontinence are both unacceptable. Continually questioning yourself and whether you are doing the right things now – based on your business values – to achieve your long-term mission, is a necessity.

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Talking to Myself Again

Yep. I’m talking to myself more and more these days. I’ve even started emailing myself. The onset of madness, or management for a healthy mind?

In fairness, I’ve not yet got to the stage that others I know have. I’m not giving myself pep talks or motivating myself with inspirational statements. I’m not even really chastising myself for thinking unproductive/damaging thoughts.

No, it’s more of a pressure release valve. For the last year or two I’ve been trying to listen to myself. I’ve been trying to get good at picking up on the signals (for me, normally tension or lightness in my middle chest: the place you feel when you breath in deeper than you normally do….)

Why am I doing this? Mainly because I’ve realised that I’m a very simple creature. I’ve spent the last few years putting in place trusted systems, and learning some perspectives and processes (plus the pop-neurological background….), that have enabled me to strip myself back to my kind of core ‘operating model’

Sounds a bit up it’s own arse I know. It’s just meant to highlight my view that certain things work for certain people. For me, if I take an action when the middle chest place feels blocked or tense, I immediately get back to lightness in that place. That lightness stops me being distracted from the here and now. And as long as I make sure I spend the here and now doing as many of the things that I really want to do, then my happiness is optimised.

The actions I need to take to alleviate the tension are invariably for the future, rather than immediate. Using the trusted systems, I give myself an action, send myself a message (or send someone else a message or action)

So. My advice? Talk to yourself more often.

See /Do /Tag for Happiness in the Moment

So I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. I’m pretty certain that I haven’t because it feels like it contradicts a lot of the things I’m constantly striving to achieve: focus, planning, constancy.

First, an attempt to define something. I’ve referred in previous posts to the feelings of resistance to task completion. Particularly those tasks that are either poorly defined, difficult, overly time consuming, unknown/new etc. I personally feel this resistance in the middle chest/ upper gut as a kind of heaviness.

I have posted on a number of occasions about my attempts to overcome this. Normally the approaches/ techniques I have explored have in most ways been medium/ longer term in the sense that they involve planning/ mental approaches/ chunking down the steps for the task completion etc.

What I have begun to explore more recently is whether there is a certain category of resistance that this approach does not work for. Let’s call it ‘in the flow’ resistance.

There appear to be certain thoughts, tasks or actions, usually relatively minor in nature, that my other-than-conscious throws to the surface of consciousness for my attention. Often I can immediately tag these for later action in a task list. These thoughts(actions) behave like most other non-planned-for creativity: as soon as they’re captured in a trusted system they go away from my mind, and don’t weigh on my chest to be handled.

However, there are certain actions that appear to sit there on my chest and refuse to budge. They create this ‘in the flow’ resistance. It feels like someone else has made a decision that, regardless what else I was consciously planning – or, indeed, regardless of what my initial conscious response is to the action raised – this is the thing I should do. Right here, right now.

The interesting things are:
1. If I don’t do them immediately, the resistance that I can sometimes get (as described above) is felt – often very intensely – even though it is not something I had consciously raised
2. If I do take the action, it feels as though I get disproportionate reward. As though I didn’t realize how important it was to me internally until it was done
3. The actions are very often things (for me) which relate to commitments. To myself and others. As though my other-than-conscious is reminding, but refusing to go ‘on to snooze’

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