When the Executive is Surrounded by Sharks

Focus Mindfulness

When the Executive is Surrounded by Sharks

Long before I founded VIM Executive Coaching, when I was heavily involved in entrepreneurial ventures, I was subject to the same daily pressures as any other executive. In fact, it was because of those pressures, along with my lifelong fascination with Japan and The Far East, that set me on the coaching path.

I know all too well what it is like to be beset with multiple projects, multiple stressors and multiple challenges. They don’t all have to “business” related, they may also be highly personal. Sometimes one will lead to the other.

Sharks in the Water

The analogies abound; sharks in the water, gathering clouds, rough seas, a million fires to put or most anything else that can be imagined, reference the impending sense of defeat. It is a crushing sense of going under and being overwhelmed. If you have never experienced this feeling in your work or even personal life, then congratulations, you are one of the lucky few. It is almost a guarantee that the higher you advance in your work life, the more likely these feelings will come to you – and at you.

The point of all of this is, “What will you do about it?” What mechanisms do you have in place to keep the sharks at bay? How do you cope when things overwhelm you? Do you simply react to everything?

One thing is certain: we all have stressors and problems and they will never go away. The problems will always arise. The stressors will flare up when we least expect them. If you manage more than one person (other than yourself!), it is a guarantee that there will always be issues.

As my own career evolved, and I began to do more coaching, writing and training, I began to access my interest in mindfulness meditation. My desire was a simple one and yet it is deceptive in its attainment. I wanted to be as authentic a person as possible. In meditating and in responding to the problems confronting me, rather than blindly reacting to them, I began to have greater awareness.

Shark Repellants

If you are aware and sensitive to your surroundings and yourself, I find that two things will occur: an increase in compassion and an increase in authenticity. I said above that stressors and problems will always arise and that’s true. Nothing that VIM Executive Coaching will ever teach you from a business coaching point of view will ever change that. Whether you live in Denver or in Tibet the sharks will find you.

However, if you can train yourself to be more mindful and authentic, you are not only compassionate in your responses but you are consistent. Consistency is a very important thing. For example, in a contentious relationship between two employees, after the situation has been resolved and unfortunately, then flares up again, a consistent and authentic manager will know exactly what her or his position was in resolving the original dispute.

In being consistent and in being authentic, should one of the employees angrily say, “That’s not what happened!” or “You’ve changed your position,” you will know exactly how to respond. You will authentically say, “That is exactly what I said,” “That is the position I have always taken.” Authenticity is your truth, and always your touchstone.

The best “shark repellant” I can imagine is meditation. I understand it sounds almost counterintuitive. In meditating, we bring the mind not so much into sharp focus, but to a sense of stillness. In this stillness, focusing on the breath, we can push away clutter and center ourselves. Centering is a very valuable tool that enables the executive to reach his or her authentic self. In reaching authenticity we have an effective framework with which to respond to stress.

Sharks will always be there, but our triumph and our mission, if you will, is to respond to each crisis as it arises and to do so with consistency. By dealing with each challenge authentically, we will create a happier workplace for ourselves and our employees.

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