What is the Elite Team Concept?

Using friendly competition to boost performance in your business…

Competition is seen as a natural part of life and work. There is always a creation stage when an idea must compete for its place in the world. You have to compete for a new job. The entrepreneurial stage in business is when the start-up must prove it’s worth and activity is primarily about winning customers without which the product or service will not survive.

But not everybody enjoys competition whilst some people thrive on it. Leaders have to be careful that when they frame competition that it doesn’t create anxiety and negative impacts on people’s wellbeing.

Competition increases psychological and physiological activation and exercised correctly leads to creativity and supportive behaviours. Done incorrectly, competition leads to cheating and sabotage as we’ve witnessed by banks leading to long term pain for the organisation, employees and clients.

Competition needs to lead to happiness not humiliation if you want to get positive outcomes.

Here are some key points to consider.

Compete originates from the Latin Competere meaning to strive together to achieve a common purpose. Chances are that competition was a key driver of human progress along with the peak performance flow states that competition can engender. It is important to remember that humans collaborated their way to the top of the evolutionary tree, probably in friendly competition.

Constraints

Introduce constraints and be clear about boundaries and ethical values that you are all agreed to upholding. Research has shown that saying the Lord’s Prayer before a competition decreased the cheating that took place by a group of students in a test when the answers were easily obtainable.

Open to Feedback

As a leader encourage the right behaviours and attitude by modelling them such as being open to feedback. Also, introduce the concept of ‘After Action Reviews’ so that the focus is on improving the behaviours and processes not just achieving the results. Keep it non-threatening and friendly.

Mutual accountability

Measure team results more than individual results so that the team members are mutually accountable to each other not a manager. Peer pressure is more effective than dominant pressure. We feel more compelled to help our own people more than a person who is not ‘one of us’.

Purpose vs Material

Make competition success about improvement and personal growth, don’t design rewards purely based on money or status. If you introduce monetary and status rewards then it can lead to jealousy and resentment. Peer-to-peer recognition is useful as we do enjoy basking in the limelight sometimes, even the quieter team members.

Excellence

Regularly emphasise that the aim of competition is to encourage the pursuit of team excellence. If an individual achieves great results, that process should be modelled and shared with the other team members.

Team Building

Brain storming sessions, quizzes around work, shared social experiences are all excellent ways to bring people together and build esprit de corps.

Egalitarian

In military special forces units, hierarchy is shunned and people are recognised for their indivdual expertise. They’re not encouraged to be clones but have individual skills. If you promote egalitarianism and appreciation of individual strengths in your organisation, then it will encourage creative teamwork but harnessing that creativity is a skill.

Collective intelligence from a diverse group is just as effective as having a lone genius- and there aren’t many lone geniuses around- so work on boosting team engagement.

With everything that has happened this year and how that will impact us all going forward, when would now be a good time to make facilitating effective meetings, decision-making and learning to use collaboration tools for effective communication and coaching, a core competency in your business?

Interested in learning more? Mission Power meeting Facilitation Online Course

The 4 Responses to Big Shifts

About every decade or so there are shifts. Big impacts land which affect personal and business domains. For some people its good news and for others not so.

I personally think this is part of a universal life cycle which encourages evolution. I also think that big changes are happening more often due to advances in technology and because of environmental and ecological challenges which are reaching critical threshold points.
I would suggest that the current situation – in the middle of a pandemic – is only a small wave within bigger ones to come , unless we dramatically transform our intentions, modus-operandi and social systems.
I’ve observed these responses in clients and often a mix of all four and this is how I explain it.
We have four basic operating systems, thinking, doing, feeling and sensing/communicating. Individually we have preferences for some over the others. But we are able to use all four with self awareness and training and need a blend. This is our evolutionary advantage to work as collaborative groups.
Our basic intelligences become archetypes. In paleolithic times it was probably Hunter/Gatherer- Shaman/Scout. Nowadays in business leadership we call them Entrepreneurs/Coaches- Managers/Founders. But again, we can utilise all these operating systems if we’re situationally and self-aware enough to realise what operating system is required and when.
So when we experience change, it’s a good idea as a leader to understand the paradigm you’re in and where the next paradigm will take you and what you need to do to thrive.
Before COVID we all operated within particular societal and personal paradigms. Now we’re not. We’re having to respond to what’s happening. Here are the four responses that we’ll see.

Collapse

Some sectors like hospitality are experiencing a collapse. With the best will in the world, the pandemic is going to be here for the rest of 2021. It’s not likely that some industries will ever come back the same, if at all. When that happens all is not lost, there is potential within the people which can be re-directed. Firstly, it needs acceptance of reality and as Buckminster Fuller advised:

Don’t Fight the Existing Reality,

Create a New One Which Makes the Old One Obsolete

It then needs a Founder mentality to create new ideas and bring together people with renewed purpose. People can re-organise, make new connections and create something new. Much like the mythically Phoenix, rising from the ashes they’re often a lot more resilient after experiencing post-traumatic growth.

Consolidate

Some people and industries will find themselves in the enviable position of being able to consolidate their position. This time around, the circumstances have suited the incumbent and they’re able to reap a fine harvest, push ahead of their competitors and even aquire some of them.
For them, they were in the right time at the right place. They’ll probably carry on their modus-operandi by managing the basics well. It would be prudent to remember that whilst they’ve been fortunate this time around, next time, and there will be a next time, the paradigm shift might not be so accomodating and smaller competitors may leapfrog ahead of them. It would be useful to remember:

All Glory is Fleeting

Change

When shifts occur, some people will find themselves not in collapse or consolidate but in a fight for their lives. This is when the manager will make changes and prune the organisation looking to cut costs. The entrepreneur also comes back into their own and motivates the team to tackle the challenges head on. Of course:

Lessons are Repeated

and it will often need more than change to survive in the long term. There maybe a need for some radical transformation and creativity.

Create

Whenever there is a crisis there will also be equal and new opportunities. But it will take a Founders mindset to spot the:

Diamonds in the Dirt & the Gold in the Grit

Then it will take a collaborative and highly engaged team to bring the new ideas, products and services into existance. They will become the foundation for a new paradigm and may even become the next dominant players, utilising all the latest technology and achieving more with less.
We’ll probably find that we’re implementing more than one of the four responses mentioned. This is when leadership skills are important. Leaders must rise above the storm and get clarity on the situation, then leverage the potential of the situation and people.
If you need a sounding board to help you get clarity, get in touch
Martin Murphy – Catalyst

What are you going to Stop-Start-Recover & Adapt?

Scientific philosopher, Thomas Khune, stated that ‘advancement is not evolutionary, but rather a series of violent revolutions and in such revolutions one conceptual worldview is replaced by another’. Khune called these revolutions in worldviews ‘Paradigm Shifts’

As I was explaining the universal life cycle to a client yesterday, the pandemic was a useful example of the latest paradigm shift.  Every decade or so, we experience upheavals because shifts happen. As much as we’d like the world to be certain, it seems that the second law of thermodynamics regarding entropy of systems always comes to pass.

A shift is when the world as we understand it suddenly stops working and we go into some sort of emergency event. Examples of shifts I’ve experienced are 9/11, the Great Recession and now we’ve got Covid-19 and the fall-out from that in terms of second and third order effects are yet to be fully realised.

Right now, the pandemic has disrupted our lives and business behaviours but it is also an opportunity to create new beginnings. Winners of the present paradigm however, are not very good at accepting reality and adapting, especially when it comes to giving up power, status and wealth. So, it is vital that whilst the incumbents are wrestling to maintain the status-quo, that we get busy challenging, connecting dots and creating a brave new world.

There are three responses:

  • You can create some new ‘things’ to do.
  • You can stop doing some things.
  • You can recover and adapt whatever you were doing before.

However, in the recover and adapt stage, one has first to recognise and understand why something collapsed in the first place. Then work out what you need to do to make that ‘thing’ more resilient, valuable and sustainable.

Whilst we might not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, it will be necessary to adapt otherwise you head into the realm of ‘lessons are repeated until they’re learnt’.

When that happens, the weak point will become more difficult to recover in the future. Moreover; lessons are repeated more often and cost more resources often leading to a slow death. How long organisations bounce up and down from collapse to recovery and back again, depends really on how much money they have to waste.

A better response if you don’t feel adaption is going to be beneficial is to indulge in some creative destruction, get rid of the old and create something new.

Ten Benefits for Implementing the Elite Team Concept in Your Business

Notes: HERE 

For a complimentary digi-copy of my book, ‘From Mercenaries to Missionaries – Designing, Developing & Leading High Performing teams in Your Growing Business’ send a message using the form below:-

Great Leaders are Learning to Paradigm Shift

“The biggest paradigm shifts happening right now are ironically the increasing awareness of the existence of paradigms…”

Paradigms are a worldview shared amongst a group of people so they can experience group identity
and achieve a common purpose. Our world is governed by them very much like seas influence the
life of a fish.

Examples of paradigms include the idea of countries, money, religion.

They are a set of beliefs, values and stories which enable collaboration with greater numbers of people and even with people living different locations. It is our ability to use paradigms that enabled us  to climb to the top of the species hierarchy.

One monkey left on a deserted island might survive more ably than one person might (unless he’s Bear Grylls). But if you put one hundred people on the island, then they would organise themselves more effectively than the monkeys.
But there are a few problems with paradigms….  Read More

From Mercenaries to Missionaries

A favourite quote of mine is Buckminster Fuller’s, “You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.” I’ve been looking for a way to implement this philosophy into my work.

I spent some time with overseas intelligence officers last year, teaching leadership. For amusement I used the opportunity to subversively challenge their worldview under the guise of improving decision-making skills. By challenging them to argue for their enemies’ viewpoint, it soon became apparent that both sides had ideas worthy of consideration. People are complex beings. Ultimately though, the officers realised that after leaving the course, they would hit the paradigm inertia present within consolidated organisations and governments and have to continue working on the assumptions they held before.

So, upon my return I wrote a book called ‘From Mercenaries to Missionaries’. It’s a fusion of

Blank bookcover with clipping path

experience, observations and research whose purpose is to help business owners evolve into leaders who can unleash more of the purpose, passion and potential of the teams in growing businesses. Within society entrepreneurial people are creating wealth by selling products and services. To be successful they have to compete for their place in the Universe and bringing a product to the marketplace often requires a Herculean effort.  I realised by working with business owners, that once they achieve a certain measure of success, they can be persuaded to challenge the present paradigm, much like I did with the intelligence officers.

Businesses usually follow the ‘growth for growth sake’ mentality. This leads to growing teams of people who become less engaged, trading their time for money, constantly in need of a pay rise to maintain the levels of dopamine they get from opening their payslips. It’s the mercenary approach.  It becomes soulless and frustrating working in mercenary organisations as people become widgetized to remove uncertainty. But I help leaders harness the complexity and creativity within the team, not hide from it.

To challenge this paradigm in larger, consolidated organisations, is possible but it meets more paradigm inertia. So, this book helps founders and entrepreneurs develop high performing, intra-dependent teams who can make ecological decision which don’t sink the ship. This then allows the entrepreneur the freedom to solve other more meaningful problems and they can be guided to help their communities thrive too. I would say:

‘Inspirational leadership is ordinary people doing extraordinary things in a constantly shifting world. Leading themselves and, by example, others into a better world for everyone. A world which is environmentally sustainable, socially just, and a personally fulfilling place to live and work’.

Until we change the way we operate in society, I’m on a mission to challenge the entrepreneurial lifecycle helping them become purpose focussed instead of purely profit driven. By unlocking more of the potential of the team’s collective intelligence, organisations can become platforms for developing a new world which makes the old world obsolete.

Martin Murphy

Available on Amazon: http://www.tinyurl.com/ELITETEAMCONCEPT

 

Developing PRIDE to get the best results from your team

PRIDEIn the past I’ve noticed that I like working with some clients on projects and then there were others, that didn’t leave me with such a good feeling. For various reasons the relationship with the client or project wasn’t one I’d like to repeat.

Similarly, I’ve noticed when coaching in organisations, there are certain things that need to be in place before the people I’m working with, judge themselves to be in a great job. Having these variables nailed means that people feel inspired to excel and are not purely motivated by the money (although it’s still an important component). With 70% of work forces being disengaged –according to Gallup- it seems like it would be a good idea to understand what’s going on here.

After a period of research and reflection, I came up with a few key factors that lead to higher project engagement and job satisfaction both for me personally and in the teams I’m working with. When these factors are understood and the conditions created to make these factors accessible, I believe leaders will see a rise in overall performance. There are four motivational ones which are at the ego level and one that is at a level of contribution. Altogether they instil a sense of PRIDE in the workplace:

Paid: As the career analyst Dan Pink recognised, expecting people to be intrinsically motivated to work on your project when they don’t know when the next meal is coming from is “comical”. Some people might even tell you money isn’t everything, but try not paying them. Actually don’t, take my word for it!

Some personalities value material things highly, so they love to be paid handsomely. Others will say money isn’t as important to them, but that’s only because they’ve disowned that side of their personality. As a leader you want to raise people up from the level of survival to a place where they can become more conscious instead of activity driven in work.

Starbuck’s recent media announcement regarding a pay rise was probably hoping to tap into some valuable PR. But as time went on, seasoned baristas noted that the pay rise was aimed at attracting new employees. As a result a lot of the baristas signed a petition on Coworker.org in frustration at not being paid enough to live on. You’ve got to pay people a reasonable wage, if you can’t afford to pay them, then you’ve not got a viable business model. Starbucks and Wal-Mart cannot be classed as great businesses if the state has to support their workforces. It’s exploitation because if those employees could secure another position and earn more elsewhere, they would leave those companies. Paying more money past a certain point doesn’t’ get better performance, especially if they have to think creatively, but you’ve got to pay people enough so they don’t spend time worrying about money and just as importantly you don’t want them complaining aloud to the world.

Recognised: It might seem intuitive to appreciate people for their efforts, but actually it doesn’t happen an awful lot in the workplace. People are too busy and don’t realise the importance recognition and appreciation play in motivation. People begin yearning for validation at childhood because it makes us feel good. Leon Seltzer PhD. concluded that recognition is important because:

“such recognition assists you in perceiving yourself as desirable, valuable, and esteemable. In a word, special.”

A useful exercise is to write each team member’s name on a sheet of paper and pass it around. Everybody else has to write something positive about each person. Even if they don’t like other attributes about that person, just focus on the positive ones and record them. Everybody gets a list of their positive qualities and behaviours. What gets recognised gets repeated and as Mark Twain noted:

“I can live for two months on a compliment”

Inspired: Being inspired at work allows people to transcend their ordinary experiences and limitations. This works because when team members are contributing to something out there, their own self disappears. It plays a significant role in enabling states of flow to arise; when time flies in a state of pleasurable effort when more potential and creativity is accessed.

Psychologist Todd Thrash and Andrew Elliot uncovered three core aspects to inspiration which are transcendence, evocation and approach motivation. These elements give us the ability to rise above animalistic self-concerns so we can actualise a vision of something meaningful and reach what the researchers concluded were the heights of human motivation which:

“…spring from the beauty and goodness that precede us and awaken us to better possibilities.”

Developmental: People are learning animals. In the workplace, people will be learning regardless of whether it’s conscious or not. I explain to clients that the team will either be spending time learning who won X-Factor or the football or something more productive. That’s the leader’s choice. As such it’s a great idea to make that learning rewarding and profitable for both organisation and the individuals.

According to the Campaign for Learning:
92% of people finding learning enjoyable
71% of learners believe learning increases quality of life
72% of people believe more time should be spent on personal development

I prefer my work experiences to be learning and growth experiences. I want to benefit in some way by developing as I work.

Great companies nurture the urge in team members to become more. A mind expanded by new ideas cannot shrink back. The ability to learn is something which supports organisational transformation. Not developing people leads to sclerosis of attitudes which is a killer when an organisation enters new territory. Agile learners, according to researchers from Columbia University, stand out in particular for their resilience, calm, and ability to remain at ease and are:

“continually able to jettison skills, perspectives and ideas that are no longer relevant, and learn new ones that are,”

Ecology: Ecology is about relationships. Relationships are the most important survival factor to human existence both on a personal level and with the world at large. Close, supportive relationships are a source of great joy and they’re very beneficial when life is not so great. Gallup considers close and supportive relationships at work key to significantly boosting engagement. Tom Rath, Gallup’s Global Practice Leader says:

“Our favourite moments, jobs, groups, and teams revolve around friendships with other people.”

As effectiveness author, Dr Stephen Covey believed:

“Interdependence is ten times more challenging than independence, but it the only viable long-term solution for effectiveness in our relationships at work and at home”

Strategist Max McKeown supports this view believing that corporate strategy is only useful when people support the company in its efforts. So without great relationships, a leader’s effectiveness in influencing the team and the organisation’s performance and productivity is greatly stifled.
I prefer to work with a client in a collaborative fashion. I find if potential clients don’t, then the work will not be as fulfilling and they won’t get the best of me.

Creating the Conditions for Olympic Level Success at Work

lightthroughI was listening to an Olympic coach discussing the attributes which lead to success at the Games. After years of working with the best athletes in the world, he and his psychologist friend had come to the conclusion that there are certain traits that mean all the difference when it comes to medal winning performance. They became known as the CORE model and can be applied to any realm of human endeavour.

What had become obvious over time is that athletes who displayed these traits began to pull away from the rest of the pack. They were goal focussed and rebounded from setbacks quicker. They were problem solvers and ambitious to get to the next level of success. With this level of self-motivation it is easy to understand why people with these traits would rise to the top and be dynamite to a business’s productivity, results and profits. As an inspirational leader, your job is to create the environment that promotes these behaviours.

The CORE traits are:

Commitment: The top performers are totally committed to their goals. Most people approach a challenge half-heartedly, often dipping a toe in the water with the other foot planted firmly on dry land. They don’t fully commit themselves to a new approach or goal until they know how it’s going to work out. Unfortunately for them, challenges often require complete commitment in order for them to succeed. Conversely top performers, after careful preparation, jump in with both feet because they know it takes courage to achieve great things. They understand that there’s no action, opportunity for success or growth on the side-lines. The ancient Greek warriors understood this idea.
The element of risk is a trigger of flow states, that zone when you’re able to perform at your highest potential because you have to be fully immersed in the endeavour to succeed. The Greeks possessed an unwavering attitude towards victory and commitment. When the Grecian armies landed on their enemy’s shore, the first order the commanders gave was:

“Burn the boats.”

Ownership: Top performers take ownership. Even if there is a problem that is caused by something or somebody else, they will take charge of the problem and solve it themselves. Peak performers will not accept excuses or reasons for not overcoming a problem, they implement solutions. In business, if people don’t have a sense of ownership in their work, then engagement declines. The antithesis being if you can increase the average level of ownership in a team, you will likely see profits increase. When leaders ensure the team members have some skin in the game, they enjoy the benefits of better relations between managers and workers; higher productivity; less waste; a self-regulating culture in which team members watch each other’s backs. This leads to an unleashing of problem solving and innovation that accelerates growth. As gold medallist Mia Hamm put it:

“I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match.”

Right results focussed: High performers make quantum jumps in performance by adjusting to immediate feedback. In the workplace, there is a subtle difference in the way systems of feedback are used, some are effective for peak performance and others, not so much.When feedback and ‘kpi’s’ (key performance indicators) are used to control the behaviours of the team by a manager, they can actually cause a different problem. Hitting targets becomes the goal, instead of achieving success for the organisation.

An example of this apparently happened within the NHS. A kpi from hospital hierarchy was passed down to the casualty department. It was regarding how long patients were allowed to be left on a gurney in the waiting rooms and hallways of the hospital. A time limit, it was thought, would facilitate quicker processing of patients through the already overstretched department. As a gurney is a wheeled bed, the staff simply took the wheels off the gurneys and this transformed the gurneys into static beds.

Innovative but not what management was looking for. The nurses were not bought into the higher purpose and so focussed on the wrong results. Outside motivation is helpful, but it takes self-discipline to achieve the top spot.
Excellence: The path of excellence is not the pursuit of perfection or competition with others. Olympic athletes are only really comparing themselves to their previous days or weeks results. A constant process of evaluating the results, adjusting course and setting new goals to be accomplished is the path of excellence. This is how climbing the mountain of Olympic success is achieved. A long period of head down struggle, only to look up one day and find themselves on the top of the podium. As Mark Spitz remarked:

“I’m trying to do the best I can. I’m not concerned with tomorrow, but with what goes on today.”

What lessons can be transferred to the workplace?
Team members must have buy-in to the higher purpose and mission of what you’re trying to achieve. Arbitrary targets, with penalties if they’re not achieved, rarely work over the long term. There is a need for real-time feedback, preferably not just the opinion of somebody but recorded results are more helpful. I often use video feedback to help sporting clients. That’s not always possible, but feedback systems should be utilised in a way that empowers team members to be able to alter their own behaviours accordingly.

A clear goal is necessary but also aligned with a purpose. If team members understand the goals, why they are important and know they can influence the strategy, you’re going to get clarity of focus on the right results.
As opposed to having managers, it would be better if the systems and hierarchy in place were seen as the supporting role in the drive for success. As much as we all focus on the star who has won the medal, enlightened leaders know peak performers don’t achieve success by themselves. But it’s important that the invaluable leader and support staff don’t take away autonomy or a sense of ownership from team members. As Lau Tzu said:

“When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves.'”

Leader insight, entrepreneurial intuition and the extreme sport of business

Martin contemplation sunriseI lived and worked in Scotland for a while giving talks on entrepreneurial thinking at colleges and coaching business owners. In the evenings I would often go running in the hills nearby. There were several reasons for doing this. I loved the scenery, it was a good way of keeping fit and it also helped me tap into new insights. I would arrive home with fresh ideas with which I would write articles or design new models for my work. It never failed to occur unless I was particularly stressed about something. I wondered how this worked and if it was possible to re- create the conditions that produces insights, intuition and peak performance in the workplace.

One could argue that the reason we’re at the top of the evolutionary tree, is that we have the ability to remember and predict where danger is and relate that information to others. I believe this was the turning point for us. Instead of reacting to danger, we avoided it. Others could pass on information vital for our survival and we’d pay special attention because of our ability to empathise. We felt their fear. When scary emotions are attached to memories, it makes them easier to access. This was humankind’s advantageous evolutionary trait and as an off-shoot, it’s useful today in lots of social situations. A disadvantage to this style of thinking is that it is difficult to turn off. In fact, even though there are less predators, whilst we’re awake, our mind is busily predicting and remembering. In fact you might even be predicting what I’m going to write ….. next?

We also know that there are different levels of brain wave activity thanks to the work of Hans Berger who developed the EEG machine. The more relaxed we are, the slower the brain activity. There is a difference in the types of thinking we can do based on our state of arousal. Generally when stressed or scared, blood drains from the brain and we practically stop thinking. When we’re busy mentally predicting and remembering, we’re in the Beta or busy zone. When we’re relaxed, we move into the slower Alpha zone. We can also slow right down and drift off into theta and deeper delta which happens when we’re asleep. So mentally we can be stressed, busy, relaxed and focussed, relaxed and unfocussed or asleep. Guess which is the best state to be in for peak performance?

I’ve used this understanding about arousal and the way we use our brains to help people become more effective. Whether it be in sports, therapy, business or coaching leaders who want to access their deeper intuitions and insights at will.

For example, if a client wants to ride their horse more effectively, I’ll ask them to use their busy beta mind to focus on a simple task such as counting the horse’s footsteps. The busy mind – the part you can hear talking to you – has always got to be doing something, so direct it. This allows the body mind i.e. muscle memory and intuition, to ride effectively because there is less interference from the busy mind that wants to predict disaster scenarios. I’ve found that the busy predicting mind and peak performance are mutually exclusive, but as mentioned previously, you can’t just shut it off. If you want to perform at your best or access deeper wisdom, we have to do three things. Achieve a sense of calm, control the busy mind and connect with the deeper reservoir of our wisdom mind.

Calm-> Control-> Connect

My running in the hills followed the model above because the running would fill me with endorphins calming my body mind. I’d focus my busy mind on counting my breaths in and out developing into a rhythm. This would soon lead to me being able to connect to my wisdom mind. Ideas would begin to pop into my awareness. If I started thinking about anything stressful, I’d let it go by returning my attention to my breathing.

Intuition vs insights

Good Ideas (2)Intuition is our ability to access information without having to consciously figure out the answer. As humans we like to reduce the amount of conscious thinking we do – because it uses up a lot of energy- by making everything a habit, an unconscious process.

All the knowledge and experiences we’ve amassed becomes programmed into our intuition or gut instincts. So again, referring back to ancestral times, we didn’t need to make a conscious decision about whether a predator might be dangerous, we knew intuitively.

In the workplace, problems we’ve encountered before and resolved successfully can be become part of the knowledge and experience we’ll use as our intuition in the future. Experience in the workplace therefore is valuable and is more easily accessed if you’re relaxed. Stress is the antithesis of peak performance and hence why happy people are judged by researchers at Warwickshire University to be more productive and profitable.

Insight is primarily an unconscious process like intuition, but it is looking into the future. It often involves accessing disparate sources of information and making unusual connections to arrive at new conclusions. Think about Einstein dreaming about riding on light beams and coming up with his theory of relativity or Newton relaxing under a tree, having an apple fall on his head and discovering gravity. In my experience, the workplace generally doesn’t tap into our ability to insight as much as they should.

So the ability to solve challenges based on previous experience, when done in a relaxed state is through the use of intuition. Producing novel solutions done in a deeper, relaxed way I refer to as insighting.

Entrepreneurship, the extreme sport of business
Entrepreneurs are often very intuitive. Generally they tackle challenges with their intuition and jump to solutions. Being tolerant of risk is an essential ingredient in the ‘start-up’ stage of an organisation. The autonomy to make snap decisions despite the risks, being fully immersed in the activity, creatively solving problems and setting clear goals are all triggers that lead to flow states which are autotelic – that’s psychological code for addictive. Most flow research is done with extreme athletes because they often access flow states in the pursuit of their sport.

It’s also risky setting up in business so one could argue that entrepreneurship is the extreme sport of the business world because the mental and emotional activity is similar. However, if the entrepreneur is moving into uncharted waters just as an extreme surfer might choose to, they need also need to be able to penetrate into the future with insight.
It’s a common misconception that extreme athletes are tolerant of risk to the point of being foolhardy. Actually the opposite is true, they spend a lot of time in preparation, minimizing the risk as much as possible. Once they’re committed to action they quickly move into a flow state and use intuition to guide their actions. Their lives depend on using both insight and intuition skills to the nth degree.

The rise of adaptable entrepreneurial leaders
An adaptable entrepreneurial leader also needs to be able to tap into both insightful and intuitive powers at the appropriate times. When you’re looking at complex situations, normal busy mind will not be effective and jumping into novel situations using only intuition isn’t always the ideal answer either.
This need to be able to understand and access various mental states has become an important part of today’s entrepreneurial leader skill set. It means developing the ability to move instinctively then think strategically and then be able to jump back again as the situation requires.
I use and teach the following method for accessing paradigms shifts into new territory so leaders don’t just solve problems, they soar to new heights:

If in doubt …SOAR!

Suspend Judgment: Not jumping to conclusions sounds easier than it is because we’re meaning searching animals. Our minds don’t like not knowing all the answers, so we come to quick conclusions about situations even if we don’t know the answer. We’ll often fill in the blanks based on our intuition and biases. In rapid succession we’re constantly making ‘judgements’. To stop doing this, we’ve got slow to down and be more self-aware or as its becoming more commonly known; be mindful.

Developing insight can mean the difference between coming to a symptomatic solution or a fundamental one. For instance, you might be stressed at work, come home, kick the cat off the sofa, drink a bottle of wine and begin to feel better. That’s a symptomatic solution because you’ve escaped feeling stressed…for the moment.

The next day when you go back to work, you find that the same problem is still there and giving you more headaches to add to the one you’ve already got from drinking the wine. Furthermore, when you go home after another stressful day, your cat’s not speaking to you and because you’re spending so much time on the sofa sulking, you’re getting unfit and less able to handle the stress of work. A vicious cycle ensues.

A fundamental solution is to be able to come up with an insight that solves the challenge once and for all. It doesn’t mean that all your challenges will disappear, you begin to get better problems though. So what’s the next step?

Observe keenly: Just as a General doesn’t command a battle from the front line, you need to get some space, at least mentally, from the situation. You’ve got to achieve an enlightened perspective. Remember a beach ball might look a certain way to you but from the other side the colours are different. You’ve got to see not only many sides, but also into the future too.

An entrepreneur at this point would probably take a glimpse of a situation and then jump to a conclusion. Filling in the blanks as they go because they’re use to having more control. A leader of a growing business has to deal with more complexity due to the increasing numbers of people involved. It also can’t change direction or recover from mistakes as easily. Intuition is okay when you’ve a small agile team, insighting is also necessary when you’ve a bigger organisation.

Allow time for wisdom to arise: When I first go out running or walking or I decide to meditate, everyday ‘stuff’ intrudes in on my mind. This continues until I’ve burnt some energy off or done some deep breathing and the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, are slowly replaced by calming endorphins and others which allow access to different areas of the brain. Steven Kotler of the Flow Genome Project, describes this as the ‘release’ stage of entering into ‘flow’ states.

Emotions are mutually exclusive. You can’t be stressed and calm at the same time just as you can’t be drunk and sober. Different bio-chemicals produce different ‘states’. If you want to access wisdom thinking and peak performance, you’ve got to become relaxed and focussed.

This state takes a bit of effort to achieve with will power alone. It’s easier if you focus your attention on something mundane and repetitive, like washing the dishes or counting your breaths. You’ve probably found this happening when driving your car, although that’s probably not ideal!

I will often pause a coaching session after the observing stage and ask a client, who is dealing with complex issues, to go away and sleep on the problem. This letting go of effort also enables them and me time for processing the information. I find clients will often come back with fresh insights that they wouldn’t have access to without some release time in between. Don’t rush to conclude the process, let ideas percolate up from your wisdom mind.

Respond entrepreneurially: Once an insight has arisen, it now becomes time for the enlightened leader to move quickly. To be entrepreneurial again and with high emotion drive the new idea or solution into creation. This means garnering the support of others. Gathering resources and focussing on implementation. Now they can get back into the zone of extreme sport in business and rely on their entrepreneurial intuition to guide them.

Co-Founder of the Wellbeing Lab and MIT lecturer Otto Scharmer said:

“The ability to shift from reacting against the past to leaning into and presencing an emerging future is probably the single most important leadership capacity today.”

An adaptable entrepreneurial leader has to have the ability to step off the merry-go- round mentally and access a quieter space from which they can co-create with the universe, the future. It means tapping into something deeper than everyday thinking. Being mindful and self-aware isn’t just a new fad in leadership thinking, it’s an essential element of adaptive leadership necessary into today’s complex and transforming world.