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Leadership development

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Fundamentally, management is about relationships between people. Therefore, there is rarely one correct or wrong answer to a management question. With a good leader, employees can be even better than they are alone. They create better results, more value and get more mental energy from their work. Here you will find inspiration for management development that provides energy and creates results.
These days, there are many managers with anxiety, and as a leader you will most likely have to deal with anxiety in some way – yours or others. In my profession as an Executive Coach, I talk with highly competent and resourceful executives around the world about their challenges, problems, and objectives in life and in work. One question that is being discussed in many of my virtual coaching sessions these days is, how one is dealing with anxiety as a leader. My clients are executives in multinational corporations. Some of them are anxious for their families, companies, and countries. Actually, often they themselves are in a quite good position, but because they have a wider responsibility what used to be the normal pressure can become extra intense in times of crisis.

Would you prefer reading the article in Danish? Then you can read it here.

Normally, it is my clients company that pays for their sessions. I’d like to make my expertise available for free to a wider audience in this article as I know, that many people are struggling to deal with uncertainty at this time where Corona is making it absolutely impossible for anyone to predict the future. So in this article, you will get three ways to deal with uncertainty.

If you are struggling with how to lead in uncertainty you could also follow my articles on how to lead in uncertainty. 

Being a manager with anxiety or dealing with anxiety as a leader can feel like a lonely affair. But actually you are not alone. Not at all.

Feeling anxious is very common

Anxiety is a normal feeling – unfortunately. The numbers for the UK is, that 8,9 million people in 2018 were under treatment for feeling anxious and the same picture shows in the Nordics. In Denmark, where I am based, 350.000 people are feeling anxious on a daily basis and 1 out of 10 will experience anxiety for some reason in life. But it’s not only in Denmark that anxiety is a common feeling. All over Europe we are feeling more anxious than ever before measured. Actually 12 % of the EU population are in treatment for anxiety.

One of the major reasons for anxiety is crises. The corona crisis it provoking uncertainty and anxiety. In new time the Brexit was a big player in increasing anxiety and stress for the EU citizens and of course mostly in the UK. This was a time (and still is) with huge uncertainty. All over Europe, therapists, coaches, psychologists etc. were seeing a jump in calls just after Brexit (and the following month over month) due to the uncertainty it raised. But, it is not only the major crises, that trigger our feeling of anxiety. Also, changes in life and organisational changes can be triggers. Because of the fact that anxiety, stress and depression are so common, and all three classified as widespread diseases, the European Union has made guidelines for companies and institutions facing organisational changes. To me, it shows that the EU takes it very seriously and recognize the unpleasant truth about how much anxiety, stress and depression are infecting our wellbeing.

Research points at, that especially big changes can cause anxiety, stress, and depression which infect the common wellbeing.

Uncertainty is a normal trigger

As you can tell, uncertainty is a normal trigger in the brain for every human being. David Rock from the NeuroLeadership Institute has conceptualized the research, that scientists have made on what activates fear and stress in people. Certainty is a big trigger. It is just so, that not many people, especially not people in power, have the habit of exposing their anxiety. But that doesn’t mean, that they are not feeling it. On the contrary, a healthy person will sometimes feel anxiety.

Uncertainty and anxiety

 

3 ways to deal with uncertainty and anxiety

In the following, I will point out three approaches to deal with uncertainty and anxiety. Some of the approaches will feel easy, some will feel hard. It is not all quick fixes, but approaches that can make a substantial impact and improvement. Not just now, but for the rest of your life. Some ways might be more effective for some than others, so feel free to adjust and make them yours. Also, you might need to be able to combine some of the ways or add other ones. Every person is unique and that is one of the reasons why coaching is so effective, because in coaching we identify exactly what is provoking the anxiety in you, and what works for you as a leader dealing with the uncertainty and anxiety. So please consider the following to be more generic.

In times of uncertainty and change, what is good leadership differs from how to lead routine work in steady conditions. The first step is to understand how the difference between technical and adaptive challenges. Because it is in the very problem definition phase that a leader goes wrong.

Is it a technical or an adaptive challenge? Why people sometimes get it wrong to identify challenges and solutions in times of change and uncertainty.

As an Executive Coach, I get to work with some brilliant people. These people are leaders in multinational corporations. Most of them have very strong technical skills, which made them successful and brought them to the leadership position that they are in now. In this regard, despite their unique personalities and trait, I believe they are rather representative of most executives.

Are you more interested in reading in Danish? Then you can find the article here.

Closing the gaps?

For many leaders, minimising risk and uncertainty is imperative, or at least, is at the core of leadership. Sometimes the solution involves hiring consultants that can provide a detailed step-by-step process with the objective of closing the gaps. But this doesn’t always work, especially not now. No one really knows where things are going in these times of great uncertainty and it can be rather unproductive to take a technical approach to something that is really an adaptive challenge.   

The hardest thing is not to learn new ways, but to unlearn what used to be the right thing to do.

Is your challenge technical or adaptive?

There is a difference between technical and adaptive challenges. It’s really important to understand how these differ to lead in uncertainty, solve the challenges, and be agile.

Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky, researchers at Harvard University, identified two types of challenges in change: adaptive and technical challenges. 

How we manage our mental energy and how the mental economy is managed in companies and societies are often overlooked. As an executive coach, I have a question for you to reflect upon and some techniques that can boost you and your organisation. Join me for an experience designed to inspire and ignite through inspirational speeches and good food!

You are invited:

The Executive Boost Event hosted together by Top Chef, Henrik Jyrk and me.

Where: at Henrik Jyrk’s restaurant – Ibu on Vesterbrogade 56
When: October 8th at 16.00 – 17.30
RSVP: Purchase your Executive Boost Event tickets here. Bring a colleague or business partner. The event is in English.

The Executive Boost Event programme

  • 16.00 – Welcome
  • Clear or Hooked? Inspirational speech by Executive Coach, Josefine Campbell, on managing personal and professional energy
  • Food boost. How you can use food to boost energy and recharge your batteries by Top Chef Henrik Jyrk.
  • Serving energy-boosting food
  • Networking
  • 17.30 – End of programme. You are welcome to stay and can book a table for dinner.

In this video, Henrik and I share a bit about what we are planning for you.

You might know Henrik as the TV chef from Go’ Morgen Danmark or from his previous restaurant, KUL, that received a Michelin star. This event takes place at his present restaurant, Ibu that specialises in Asian fusion, located on Vesterbrogade 56 in Copenhagen.

IBU Copenhagen
Ibu Copenhagen

Also, I mentioned earlier that I had a question for you…

The question is, am I hooked or am I clear?

Am I hooked or am I clear? This is an intelligent question to ask oneself from time to time, especially when under pressure, lacking sleep or when your nutrition or diet is poor. Whenever you experience fatigue or stress, the more sophisticated parts of the brain become vulnerable and can get hijacked by the primitive, yet powerful reptilian brain. When the reptilian brain takes over it ignites the oversimplified responses of fight, flight or freeze. This can be disguised in emotions and thoughts that we automatically identify with.

The cost? Bad decisions, which can lead to bad results or bad relationships. The most powerful leaders and top athletes, it happens to us all. Sometimes we are too low on mental bandwidth or energy, and our brain gets hooked. Once it is hooked, that counter-productive internal dialogue can take over. How to counter this? You can read more on this topic from my article on agility.

“It doesn’t happen to me”, some might say. But, what about your people? And, what is the cost for you on that account?

Harvard Published author, Susan David writes,

Leaders stumble not because they have undesirable thoughts and feelings—that’s inevitable—but because they get hooked by them, like fish caught on a line. This happens in one of two ways. They buy into the thoughts, treating them like facts (It was the same in my last job…I’ve been a failure my whole career), and avoid situations that evoke them (I’m not going to take on that new challenge). Or, usually at the behest of their supporters, they challenge the existence of the thoughts and try to rationalize them away (I shouldn’t have thoughts like this…I know I’m not a total failure), and perhaps force themselves into similar situations, even when those go against their core values and goals (Take on that new assignment—you’ve got to get over this). In either case, they are paying too much attention to their internal chatter and allowing it to sap important cognitive resources that could be put to better use.

David, S. & Congleton, C. (2013) Managing Yourself – Emotional Agility. Harvard Business Review. Available from: https://hbr.org/2013/11/emotional-agility

Learn more at the Executive Boost Event. I hope to see you there.

Tickets can be purchased here.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to write to me at hello@josefinecampbell.com.

Read the Danish version of the article here.

There is no innovation without agility. I am not talking about agile methods, but agility as a mindset. When I started working with innovation back in 2008, innovation was nice to have. Today, most leaders confront a situation where innovation is need to have and many have experienced the difficulties actually turning innovation ideas and projects into business value and tangible results.

Learning to access more agility is the answer to several of the challenges that leaders confront in the face of everyday change, innovation, new technology and stress. You can try to work more agile, but if you do not increase your individual agility, it is difficult for your organisation to actually become agile.

You may be familiar with the leader who ended an otherwise successful project to minimise risks. This was simply because there were too many unknown factors which were too difficult to predict and too potentially challenging of an outcome to control. Perhaps, you have made a similar decision.

In a stable environment, this is definitely the right thing to do. This is the type of environment where you can anticipate customer behaviour 18 months or more ahead, where you are not in danger of being disrupted, where you are not threatened by stress or new technology, and where success is created by doing the same thing as usual. Yet, in a constantly changing and unpredictable environment, being agile is needed and necessary.

This article is about developing your agility and leadership.

Navigating uncertainty with coolness, keeping a calm mind, being fearless and dealing with any discomfort you experience – this is what it feels like to be agile. Lars van Hauen is Chief Innovation Officer of E.On. Denmark, a European energy company with 43,000 employees. As an innovation leader and officer, I consider Lars to be more agile and innovative than 95% of other leaders I know. With tips from Lars, I will share what it means to be agile and how to develop your agility and leadership.

Agility and leadership advice from the agile and innovation leader, Lars

Currently, I am preparing for a speaking tour this autumn in agility and leadership for Lederne, The Danish Management Association. I will use Lars as an example of an agile leader to illustrate some points on agility and leadership. On several occasions, I have noticed how unbiased Lars is. When I asked Lars for advice on he keeps an open mind, he told me, “Go to a rock concert! Or make sure you frequently get a new experience, expose yourselves to new impulses. I truly believe in this”.

Lars is right! Exposure to new things and new people enhances your emotional agility. Emotional agility is the ability to not react immediately to emotions, but instead to just observe them. This means taking time to understand the possible causes of emotions and using intention to decide how to manage them. Emotional agility is key to having an open mind. Spending time in unfamiliar situations, with new people, and in new places, will help you become more tolerant and accepting of your own discomfort. This increases the confidence in your ability to navigate ambiguous situations, which is something that is essential for innovative leaders. Fusing emotional agility and leadership will turn you into a better listener, strengthen your interpersonal skills as well as develop your empathy. Essentially, these traits will create a more flexible mind.

Thoughts for growth and the science behind this advice

In the Harvard Business Review, psychologist Todd D. Kashdan writes about the mental benefits of vacationing somewhere new. In a study conducted with 485 adults in the United States, Kashdan explains how exposure to foreign travel links to a greater ability to direct attention and energy. This is important because it helps people function efficiently in diverse situations and enables the appropriate use of verbal and nonverbal emotional signals. Visiting more countries (breadth) or experiencing immersion into local culture (depth) enhances these effects. These positive benefits also remained after the study subjects returned home.

So, when Lars and I recommend going to a rock concert or trying something you have never done before, you too will obtain some of the benefits described in this study. This will in turn enhance your own agility and leadership development.

Decrease bias and increase empathy

There are even more benefits to going somewhere new. When you move to a new city or travel somewhere foreign, your bias decreases and empathy increases. In the study mentioned before, those who had travelled abroad showed a greater ability to delay their judgment. They could look beyond the surface qualities of age, sex, race, or ethnicity. As a result, they became more capable of recognising whether another person’s actions mirrored deep-seated personality qualities or if it was situational factors influencing their behaviour. Researchers in China found similar results in a survey of 197 adults before and after travelling. The study reported that those who had travelled to multiple countries developed a greater tolerance and trust of strangers. This had a positive influence on their attitudes toward strangers as well as colleagues and friends back at home. Additionally, they became more appreciative of people with new knowledge, philosophies, and skills.

Learn more ways to decrease bias to help you make better decisions; It will transform the way you think about your own leadership.

Travel, rock concerts or something alike – agility and leadership growth

In other words, try new things! It doesn’t need to involve traveling somewhere foreign or going far away. Attending the upcoming Roskilde festival to listen to new bands you have never heard of might be a way to get a new perspective of the world. This is where Lars plans to be next. If you don’t want to venture too far out of your comfort zone, there are many other ways to explore and experience the world. I encourage you to visit somewhere new or listen to opinions outside of your own closest circles. You could also taste a new type of food or challenge your body with some physical activity. Curiosity for new adventures and a willingness to listen to perspectives which differ from your own will improve your agility and leadership. Stepping away from the familiar can actually expand your view.

Discover how you can strengthen your leadership.

Stay connected

To stay up to date with new articles and videos, sign up for my mailing list. There are many advantages to being on the list. You will receive invitations to events in the Leaders Saloon where you get new inspiration in reflection with other leaders, HR specialists and leadership developments professionals. You can also learn more about me here.

Decisions guided by bias affect your decisions

Many managers’ decisions are guided by bias. There are approximately 200 different types of bias. A bias is actually a mistaken decision. It is an automatic and unconscious mechanism that gets in your way of making clear decisions. We all have a different levels of bias and they are context-dependent. When dribbling a ball on a basketball court, it may be a kind of bias that affects your decision about where to move. For managers in sales meetings, you may have a bia that affects your choices and how you develop a  strategy. Your decisions are often consciously or unconsciously guided by bias, which can have positive and negative affects on your leadership and those around you. Read more to learn 7 ways you can make better decisions and minimise bias.

I have a natural ability to see the potential in people. Somehow, we are all like uncut diamonds. Executive coaching can accelerate leadership and talent development. Business results, leadership and the manager’s personal strengths and challenges are largely linked. Therefore, executive coaching is effective in creating results in the company.

I am very grateful for what I received, and it helped me to clarify the opportunities I have and how I really feel about them. It has helped me pursue some things with more focus and put others at a lower priority.

David Gram, Senior Innovation Director, LEGO Group

Josefine Campbell mainly works for global corporations such as Novo Nordisk and The Carlsberg Group. Read more references here. 

As an executive coach Josefine Campbell works on building on the strengths you already have. After a session, you should be more aware of your head and more equipped to handle the challenges you will face as a leader. Josefine Campbell practices a combination of pragmatic coaching and counseling combined with mental training and strategic thinking.

The session will always be adapted to you, your work and the challenges you face. You set the agenda, and we are therefore talking about what is yours. Josefine Campbell supports and challenges you in a safe and confidential space.

Executive Coaching approach

  • Starting from the challenges you have.
  • Practical approach to coaching so that you can get real results quickly and you can benefit from the coaching.
  • Coaching with expertise in innovation, management, business development, growth, balance and stress. That’s why you not only get coaching, but also expertise and advice.
  • Coaching is offered both online and offline, so we do not have to be in the same city to work together.

You are working. Time flies by and suddenly you discover that you are hungry. You have actually forgotten to eat. Sometimes it’s also like that with your breathing. You forget to breathe properly. There may be things that make your breathing tense. A tense leader, is not a good leader. It is important to pay attention to breathing deeply, which gives oxygen to the brain and makes your muscles relax. This little gadget from Spire helps remind me.