With the start of the new academic year, it feels like the right time to talk about things getting busy. When things were busy a colleague once likened me to a duck. Serene above the surface but wiggling wildly underneath. (Naturally I would have preferred to be likened to a swan!).
However, I had never seen myself that way and felt pretty frazzled at the time. As time has gone on, the pressure has mounted and will continue to do so. Oddly however, I feel calmer today than I did then.
And this is my observation of people who are very busy and under pressure – whether they are self employed, running their own businesses, CEOs, leaders, politicians – that they have an inner calm.
It’s as if there’s an inverse proportionality. The more pressure people are under the calmer they appear.
I’ve said before that I’ve got to meet fantastic people in this role that I would never have managed to otherwise. And the people that impress me (other than the kind ones) are not on their phones replying to emails, they are fully present, they are giving you their whole attention, they are quietly and calmly getting on with it.
Where does this inner calm comes from? Could it come from their humility – that they trust their team and believe it doesn’t all depend on them. Or perhaps arrogance or nonchalance – that they’ve got it all in hand.
The more pressure we experience the more important this ability to manage calmly becomes. If things feel messy and chaotic around you, it’s really important not to mirror that. Not just for your own health, but for the team and business too.
The risk of being calm is perhaps appearing not to care, being blasé or taking risks. The reality is that making decisions constantly, changing plans, finding solutions all whilst juggling the endless demands of people and business requires a resilience and approach that ensures survival. Staying calm has to be part of that approach.
So when people give meaningless lists about the behaviours of leaders, ‘being calm’ should be in there too.
More on the ‘how’ to be calm next week.