Apr 22 2022| leaders | Leadership | Values

Without health, there's no growth

Leaders are welcomed as participants in ReWild Carbon, the carbon offsetting initiative established and managed by Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

by Phil Eyre Leaders' Founder

We were delighted this month to be welcomed as participants in ReWild Carbon, the carbon offsetting initiative established and managed by Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Their work in conservation is exemplary and all of us at Leaders are excited by the rigour and whole-ecosystem approach adopted by Durrell.  

We were deeply inspired and impacted by Dr Leslie Dickie, CEO of Durrell, at our first Leadership Conference in 2017. It’s remarkable that such world leaders in conservation are located a mere few miles from our home in Guernsey. 

What has prompted us to participate in ReWild Carbon?  

Good citizenship, doing the ‘right’ thing, is a big part of our motivation. But a significant factor is growth. We are, this year, celebrating our first five years of Leaders. These have been foundational, instructive, base-building years. We are poised for growth. I am determined that our evolution be healthy, in fact without good health there can be no sustained growth. We will fizzle or burn out if our roots are shallow or we are running on fumes. A healthy climate is a crucial part of this. 

Good health that nourishes growth is multifaceted. Here are three ways that we view health, for our own business and when advising our clients:

 

1) Physical Environment 

The physical environment is critical to good health. Whether the global climate, the immediate workplace environment or personal health, good physical conditions are a part of what makes growth possible.  

For most companies, growth will have a negative impact on the global environment. For example, our work and impact is best in-person: encouraging, advising and challenging leaders and leadership teams. We help to draw out creativity, clarity and commitment in ways that are particularly ‘human’ by being present with people. As the world emerges from Covid restrictions, we are already travelling more frequently. As our skills are becoming more broadly recognised, we are travelling increasingly further to Europe and the USA. We will run our Leadership Conference in Guernsey this year (22nd September).Our carbon footprint will therefore inevitably escalate, despite our efforts to minimise waste and emissions. 

The workplace physical environment also matters. Good health and safety in the workplace can attend to both the negatives (e.g. trip hazards) and positives (e.g. provide showers to encourage physical exercise). Too much has been written already about flexible work/working from home so I’ll underscore here that flexibility works best when an employer considers flexible working through this lens: ‘What is the healthiest environment for our employees? 

Personal health is also crucial for effective decision-making, and therefore healthy leadership. Think about when you’re most tempted to skip lunch, work long hours without a pause, drop the gym or eat fast food. It’s when you’re under the most pressure. Yet this is *precisely* the time when you most need good food, short breaks and exercise. Tired people make mistakes. When we’re unwell, we’re more likely to make mistakes. It will feel counterintuitive, but when you’re under the most pressure, you can - and must - choose actions that help maintain your physical wellbeing 

Growth at all costs is destructive. Healthy growth is exhilarating.  

 

2) Emotional Environment - the people 

As much as the physical environment matters, so does the mood in the room. We’re emotional creatures, attuned to the influence and impact of other people around us. We naturally do our best when we are relaxed, inspired and encouraged, and know that we are valued in the team. We tend to make poorer choices when we are feeling defensive, constrained, imposed upon and under-valued. Attempting to grow via an aggressive and directive leadership style will demotivate or burn people out. Instead, putting in consistent effort to foster a healthier mood sets the necessary conditions on which to build growth. A high-trust environment is one where:  

  • transparency is natural; 
  • relationships genuinely matter; 
  • there is consistency between word and action; 
  • ideas are well-informed, critical feedback is welcomed;
  • people are free to bring their best skills to their roles; managers encourage and don’t dictate.

Understanding the quality of our emotions is at the core of our work with leaders. Emotions that propel productive habits like ambition, commitment, curiosity, risk awareness and tenacity. Or less productive habits like self-defeatism, self-sabotage, recklessness and hopelessness. We know from our studies that the emotional environment that we live and work in will exert a strong influence on the quality of our actions. The greater the trust, the more effective the habits.  

One of the primary responsibilities of any leader is to foster the conditions that enable other people to flourish, not just to produce and ‘do things’ but to flourish as human beings. This sets the only basis on which long-term, sustainable growth can be achieved.  

 

3) Resource Environment - especially money 

Money should be nothing more than a tool to facilitate the pursuit of meaningful activity. Whether pursuing dreams, survival or anything in between, money is nothing more than an efficient mechanism to purchase the resources needed to achieve those aims. Here are two points to make:

  • When money becomes an end in itself, it becomes a source of unhealthy, toxic attitudes and behaviours. Extremely well-paid bosses refuse to spend small amounts of money in the business. Client relationships are hoarded by individuals. Mistakes are covered up or apportioned to other people. Infrastructure is left to languish and problems fixed with short-term sticking plasters. Instead, leaders must constantly remind themselves and their people about the whole point of their work, both in terms of the purpose of the business and how work is meeting the employees’ needs and ambitions. The money is simply there to help achieve those - hopefully laudable - aims.
  • Sustained growth requires sustainable sources of money, and other resources. The big-bang success sought by excessive leverage and heavily sweating every asset more often than not ends up in failure. The consistent, steady progress approach is usually the most successful one. What are some of the implications?  
  • 1) Pay people what they deserve. Pay your interns (they’re not slaves), don’t try to get away with minimum pay. Avoid loophole schemes that technically permit underpaying people. If you can’t afford to pay people properly, wait and keep working on your business until you can.  
  • 2) Don’t fudge the numbers. Financial data is just one way of telling your company’s story. Let the data tell a true story, not an embellished one.   
  • 3) Consistency is hard. Applying constant effort, not giving up when times are tough or getting complacent when times are plentiful, takes determination. Aesop’s fable The Hare and the Tortoise is wisdom. It’s taken five years for Leaders to build the financial resources that now enable us to press forward with our expansion plans into the UK, a move that is risky, but not reckless. For me, that’s a big part of what makes leading a company exciting.

Healthy leaders create healthy organisations. We are determined to lead by example. 

To find out more about ReWild Carbon, follow this link. You will not fail to be inspired: https://www.durrell.org/wildlife/rewildcarbon/

About The Author | Phil Eyre

Phil is Leaders’ founder. He has an enthusiastic and inspiring style, drawing on his experience in business, academia and social sectors to help any leadership team to achieve phenomenal performance. Phil has significant expertise in sophisticated psychometrics and in the application of human data for individual, team and organisational success. He has trained with and been mentored by, global leaders in this field, notably Dr Chuck Coker in the US. Phil began his career in the UK offshore finance industry in 1994, working for a wealth management company, Canaccord Genuity Wealth International. Phil was head of the company's Guernsey division, with a staff of 120 and assets under management of £4.5billion before resigning from executive responsibilities in 2008. Since launching Leaders in 2017, Phil has worked with many senior executives and boards primarily in the Channel Islands and City of London. He regularly writes for a variety of business publications and is often invited to speak at events for institutions such as the IoD and the British Army. Phil works closely with clients on focussed projects and long-term retainers to raise leadership standards. He is a popular and inspiring educator and coach who, with the insights gained from psychometrics, is able to accurately detect the strengths and weaknesses in leadership teams and boards. Phil has served on the boards of various charities, ran the Guernsey hub of a national theology college, received accreditation as a pastor in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and is accredited in various motivation and behavioural techniques.

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