As we kick off the new year, I’ve been thinking about one of the major subjects I am passionate about, which we also see as a game-changing opportunity for our clients: Conscious Leadership.
What I mean by conscious leadership is; adopting a coaching approach to your leadership style that embraces; Inclusion, Emotional Intelligence & Diversity of Perspective.
This approach encourages staff to feel safe and heard and it will be of no surprise that when individuals and teams feel this way, they are more engaged, more innovative, quicker at solving problems, more productive and you’ve guessed it more profitable!
Why is this so important now?
Covid changed the world and in turn changed the way we behave: at work and in our personal lives. How a company and its leaders lead, has become a priority in attracting and, as importantly, retaining talent.
In 2022 we witnessed the Quiet Resignation and the Great Resignation and we don’t see this going away any time soon. If individuals don’t feel valued by the organisation and its leaders, they won’t hesitate to either disengage, or leave.
Today’s shifting workforce now looks for equity in their organisations. They seek fair treatment, access and opportunity that is equal for all. What’s interesting with this, is the benefit is not just seen in a moral sense or ‘doing the right thing’, equity and inclusion now carries an inherent uplift in business fortunes as well.
“Companies with more inclusive business cultures and policies see a 59% increase in innovation and 37% better assessment of consumer interest and demand.” International Labour Organization.
I grew up in an amazing City, with a diverse upbringing where I experienced a range of beliefs and cultures and met an assortment of talented people from all over. It made me realise that magic comes from thinking differently and our different lived experience and I have seen the richness this brings to both society and business.
So how do we break down and measure conscious leadership?
Conscious Leadership consists of a framework of 10 behaviours, that define emotional intelligence and with it, inclusion:
These are behaviours that can be measured, understood and most importantly: coached.
Dan Goleman, one of the leading voices on emotional intelligence talks about a ‘triple focus’ for leaders. They need an inner focus to be aware of their own feelings, values and intuitions, and to manage themselves well. A focus on others allows a leader to read people well, which is key to managing relationships – the art of leading itself. And an outer focus lets a leader understand the larger forces and systems that he or she must navigate to lead their teams.
These are the three areas of development for leaders who want to walk the walk and with each come opportunities to enhance inclusion in your business.
1. Inner Focus
‘To thine own self, be true’ William Shakespeare said, and this matters deeply when it comes to leadership. If you want to compel your team it is vital that you communicate openly and with authenticity.
Self-knowledge offers the ability to recognise how your emotions will affect your own personal opinions and attitudes.
Self-control is the capacity to regulate and check your emotions; giving yourself the time to pause and think rationally.
Self-reliance is the facility to be independent in your planning, execution, and leadership decision-making. Crucial, when you want to go your own way.
Self-Confidence arrives when you respect and accept who you are, authentically. This can also be about accepting your faults and maybe even talking about some of these, in front of colleagues, as part of wider briefings.
Where inclusion fits: being aware of your own biases and responses, as well as a sensitivity to impacts on others. An ability to take on board the input of others, regardless of different backgrounds and experiences.
2. Others Focus
The key to building a successful business culture is how you relate to others.
“Empathy is an antidote. People who have it attuned to subtleties in body language; they can hear the message beneath the words that are spoken. Beyond that, they have a deep understanding of both the existence and the importance of cultural differences.” Harvard Business Review
This stuff is not a side issue or “fluffy”, it truly matters if you want to make people feeling included in your workplace. Any efforts you make to improve the way you relate and make connections is hugely valuable here. In this area, the catchall for ability is commonly known as Emotional Intelligence or EQ. Now the huge thing about EQ is that, unlike a person’s IQ, it can be trained and developed, to improve an individual’s leadership potential.
Empathy is a big part of it. How do you understand the thoughts and feelings of others. What capacity do you have to learn about their lived experiences but equally, how much do you value their differences and unique perspectives?
Relationship Skills arise from empathy and other traits. How do you come across, in person, online and in team situations? Can you show, by example, the best ways of collaborating to give your teams positive experiences, and expectations.
Being Straightforward – do you communicate your beliefs, feelings, and thoughts in an open, clear and unambiguous way? Can you cut through variances in background, experience, and ability, as a clear communicator?
Where inclusion fits: caring about others, irrespective of backgrounds. An ability to be open and vulnerable.
3. Outer Focus
We have had the pandemic, Brexit and myriad other external shocks that challenge us to pivot and adjust – so how robust is your external focus, when it comes to leading the team?
Adaptability is key when you need to update and change your emotions, thoughts, and behaviour to match rapidly changing times. Being receptive to new ideas from diverse voices is a major plus now (it may also be the only way your company thrives).
Optimism is the fire that keeps the best leaders going. Those folk recognise and seize opportunity and talk about what can be achieved - even when the chips appear to be down. Genuine, deeply felt optimism offers resilience to the slings and arrows of misfortune and allows your outfit to bounce back from roadblocks.
When challenged in all of these areas, it is self-actualisation that sustains leaders, long-term. This is the sense of purpose and long-term balance that compels leaders to keep on learning and to remain optimistic through long periods. Commitment to goals and an ability to see the big picture is what defines great leadership in this area.
Where inclusion fits: bringing a sense of purpose to the table. Seeing the value in the views of others, as well as sharing your own learnings with others.
So where can conscious leadership take your business?
That’s all well and good and you might say but what does this matter to my company or team? The answer lies in the ultra-competitive and fast-shifting world of work and talent and not just there…
The latest research tells us that business leaders can no longer rely on pure authority to cajole their teams, they now need to manage their own emotions well and to be influencing the emotions of others, in order to lead and enthuse. These attributes will attract and retain the best talents.
“We’re competing on the basis of time and talent. How you attract, retain, and motivate your people; how you treat your customers and how well your company is led, are the vital differentiators in business today.” Martyn Newman, founder of Roche Martin, one of the most trusted names in emotional intelligence and leadership and creator of the ECR, the psychometric tool Inventum use to measure Conscious Leadership.
A better grip on diversity and inclusion
When leaders are switched on and in touch with their organisation, they understand the competitive advantage diverse team building affords them. People from different backgrounds will tackle problem-solving from alternate angles and will be able to relate to customers using their different experiences as valuable narratives and inspiration. If people feel a sense of belonging, and feel included, they will perform at their absolute optimum.
According to a recent McKinsey study, there is a still a cast-iron business case for both gender and ethnic diversity. According to their analysis more diverse companies are more likely to outperform than their less diverse peers on profitability. In 2019, they found, top-quartile companies outperformed by 36% on profit-making compared to those in the fourth tier.
People talk about a growing sense of flux in the working world. You can argue different takes on what is happening with the quiet and great resignations but it is clear talented individuals want a reason to belong to your organisation.
That much sought-after feeling, that feeling that allows your people to feel included and thrive comes from a conscious leader.
This can be coached, this can be you!