By Vanessa Poolian (2020)
More than ever before, it is necessary to shift into a new paradigm concerning business ethics, operations and principles. Existing business structures are no longer sustainable on a long term basis, and more and more, leaders are exploring new ways in order to balance the welfare of their teams with creating revenue, that is not engineered from corrupt methods that exist within some large corporations at their highest levels.
At the moment, the closest conscious structure that we have in place, is to provide employees with corporate responsibility programmes, which assist in mental health and well-being. As proven, these methods are short term and short lived i.e. they do not address the root cause to why many employees fall sick each year and are unfulfilled with their roles.
Personally, I can see that many people are attempting to relive the current ways of operating in business, but I can also see that this is clearly not working for the majority of the collective in both the short and long term. Therefore, a new way of doing business is required. I feel that a conscious leadership movement is what we need, in order to create a better world for our businesses, our acquaintances, and our social networks, as all these areas are interlinked in some way or another. For example, what occurs in the workplace, can affect what happens in the family home and within our social networks.
There are still high levels of anxiety, worry, illness, and a lack of true contentment in many roles that exist within the current structure. As a professional coach, even though clients begin their sessions by talking about goals and strategies, ultimately, the emotional aspects of that work and activities that are outside their employment, become the forefront of the conversation. This is because we are all emotional beings, some people may express emotions more than others, but we are all products of our emotions. As this is being more and more realised, the shift towards a more conscious leadership involves addressing how we relate to each other within organisations, but with more awareness of how and why we are conducting such activities.
I have decided to be a party to conscious leadership, because through my work as a professional coach since 2014, I have concluded that addressing the emotions behind behaviour, actions and attitudes really help individuals to progress and be the best versions of themselves.
So what does conscious leadership entail? From my own perspective, I feel that conscious leadership is about bringing awareness to decision-making. In the sense that individuals are more present when evaluating which direction that they choose, taking into consideration the bigger picture, and bearing in mind that the end result is towards the common good of all those involved (rather than just focusing on the instructions from right at the top of the business chain.)
At the moment, within my own business, I do not lead a team, but have managed teams in the past and have found that many previous meetings have been unproductive, when trying to achieve goals set and those goals were not collectively set , but only set by whoever was running the organisation at the time. Instead of jumping from one business meeting to other meetings, conscious leadership would be questioning the value of the meetings in the first place. Also, if they are truly valuable to the mission of the organisation or the individual, or if they are just another tick in the box so to speak.
An example of this would be, when conducting a business meeting of employees, who are seen and valued as contributors, that all those involved are on a level playing field with regards to authority , i.e. working “with” a company as opposed to them working “for” a company. In practical terms, a typical meeting would commence with a three minute mindfulness meditation to bring awareness back to each individual to focus on the agenda items that are to arise in the meeting, as opposed to feeling flustered from tasks before the meeting takes place. These types of meetings would not be rushed as in rushing through information, mistakes are more likely to occur. Not that there is anything wrong with making mistakes, as this is the way in which we all learn. But adopting this approach, means that objectives are more likely to be reached, without having to spend time in correcting mistakes, that perhaps would have not occurred, if each individual was more present when discussing the item or task in hand.
In addition to this, a constant monitoring of feedback would be required, and a safe space for all those concerned to speak openly, respectfully, and with integrity about operations on a day to day basis. For example, a performance improvement plan would be replaced with how the conscious leader would support their team in bringing up to scratch an employee, and agree and set fair and achievable objectives going forward, when it is believed that the employee does not quite have the skills in order to perform their role.
After all, the hiring managers need to uphold their responsibility when it comes to hiring their staff. If they have not hired the correct person for the role, and the candidate has not been honest about their skills, then at the point of interview, this needs to be identified through thorough open and honest questioning. The hiring manager could specify at the start of the interview to set the scene, that this is a conscious organisation and is truly based on integrity and honesty. There are many companies that state that transparency, honesty and integrity are a part of their mission statement or values, but in truth, they do not maintain these values. It is a two-way process between employee and company.
In my own business day to day running, I currently employ conscious leadership with my coaching clients i.e. I work with clients and not for them. This means that we are creating a win-win situation and the power balance is evenly distributed. For example, I would never tell a client what they should and should not do within a situation, but merely advise them and ask for their feedback as it is ultimately down to them which steps they must take, going forward.
For example, in a traditional company, whereby they have used metrics like Performance Improvement Plans, 360 Degree Feedback, etc. These traditional models can be replaced with open discussions, documents that are written consciously with more meaningful purpose and therefore removing the fear of consequences of speaking out. If at any point any of the parties act in a state of fear, i.e. they are not being transparent, revert to the old model of competition instead of collaboration, then an open discussion can be had so that they then move on to another company that is more in line with where they need to go in their professional journey.
So, the traditional co-dependency model no longer applies, and the roles that some employees and managers traditionally have undertaken, no longer apply (i.e. victim, rescuer, and perpetrator). The power balance is evenly distributed, and the organisation realises that all employees are a reflection of each other and if one individual struggles, then it is the responsibility of the rest of the organisation to support them, as it is understood that they are all in this together, so to speak.
Also, there will be no reprimand or chastisement because the individual decides to move on to something else that is more suitable for them. Therefore, this removes the guilt and shame placed on the individual and the perpetrator role, that has traditionally been created by those who take a position of authority. In a nutshell, when an employee decides to leave, both parties can let go and move on and are able to respect the employee’s or manager’s choice. Essentially, conscious leadership leaves behind the modes that are based on a childlike, dependent structure and moves the business collective into a paradigm that is driven by mature behaviour.