Written by Volker Ballueder
I recently came across this thought of us all being entrepreneurs - no matter what we do. And the reason is that we all try to achieve the most of what we do, with the minimal input. With the latest figures showing that over 16,000 businesses have been registered since lockdown, we Brits live up to our reputation to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’.
This is what attracted me to the UK 20 years ago when I moved here from Germany. Since I have started my own business, consulting and coaching entrepreneurs, start-ups and executives, delivering mindfulness and group coaching sessions. I also interview successful entrepreneurs as part of my podcast, including Lara from Scentered.
Whenever there is a crisis, there is an opportunity. And that to me is a very British attitude that I strongly identify with. I have spent most of my corporate career launching businesses, scaling them and then left as part of an exit and restructure - taking many redundancies.
Every time I took a redundancy, it meant uncertainty. It meant anxiety. Where is the next job coming from? Where is the next pay cheque coming from? During times of Covid, and now Brexit on the horizon, we are living in a constantly changing and very uncertain time. Our planning horizon is cut down to a minimum. The latest lockdown in England meant further hardship for entrepreneurs and more uncertainty if it will be over in early December.
For over 15 years I have had a daily meditation routine. I have built a resilience literally in my head to cope with thoughts. And thoughts are what the mind puts to us, on a constant basis. We mindful practitioners call it the storytelling mind. The brain loves certainty and always looks for an explanation for things, looking at past experience. Quite frankly, this doesn’t help us much in a Covid world.
We naturally worry when uncertainty hits. Our brain cannot do it any differently. This is where mindfulness and meditation comes in. Being able to calm your mind down, on a regular basis, a few times a day. To learn how to breathe and relax the constantly challenged brain, being in ‘video calls’ all day long. Having those moments to stop, inhale and reset throughout the day is key to avoiding burn out in the run up to Christmas. In the field of sports, that approach to staying in the calm ‘zone’ for peak performance was described by George Mumford as being in the eye of the hurricane. This works for businesses and leaders too.
It comes from work by Viktor Frankl who, as a holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, he suggested that there is a gap between stimulus and response. We have a choice and can decide how we respond to unpleasant stimuli. The more awareness you have, the more you practise mindfulness, the more you can be ‘acting’ out of that zone.
As for most businesses, the run up to Christmas is the busiest period of the year, a hurricane. Things accelerate and spin out of control. It is now where you must focus, keep your head above everyone else’s and show leadership and act out of the calm eye of the storm. It is now that you must take regular breaks and focus on the task at hand, one at a time. And it isn’t only you who feels it, it is everyone else in your company too. How do you give them a break? How do you help them to cope with the anxiety, the stress, the changes, and the storytelling mind?
Research shows that mindful leaders are more empathetic, more caring, and more compassionate. There have been 1000s of articles showing that mindfulness at work leads to reduced stress, higher engagement and therefore heightened productivity, meaning you essentially invest in higher output and revenue. The changes in leadership lead to positive transformations across company cultures and helps everyone to cope with the uncertainty that we face right now.
I recently finished a 6 months programme with a company which initially started with my introductory 6 week long course to teach mindfulness at work; confidence improved with the employees that attended my mindfulness at work course, stress and anxiety were reduced, and we worked on loads of things that helped us get through the crisis; case studies can be found on my website here.
As a mindfulness trainer for organisations and coach for individuals I can offer to teach techniques to combat mental health issues. I work with individuals to change mindsets and see the world from a different point of view, helping them to get unstuck or lead better.
The lead up to Christmas is a critical time, and even a few sessions prior to Christmas, to help employees cope is key. However, we all don’t know what 2021 will bring either. Helping entrepreneurs and teams to plan ahead, to be able to cope with the uncertainty and be ready for a year of growth is key too. You must prepare for the mental game, fuelled by isolation in front of video calls to come, because we will be in this situation for at least another 6-12 months.