By Jason V. Barger
We all could use a deep breath.
Most teams and companies are still figuring out how to help support their people and engage with them remotely, in hybrid settings, and in-person gatherings. With all that businesspeople have been navigating – differing modes of communication; the expansion of remote work; global health; issues of racism, social injustice, and equity; and political and economic uncertainty – they are also expected to maximize the experience, product, or service they are delivering to the marketplace. Deep breaths are needed.
The process of breathing for the human body is “the process of moving air into and out of the lungs to facilitate gas exchange with the internal environment, mostly to bring oxygen and flush out carbon dioxide.” The leader’s role in teams and organizations is to breathe oxygen into his or her people with mindsets and actions that fuel energy, possibility, connection, and progress while flushing out negativity, blame, and toxins.
The best leaders on the planet understand that their role is to breathe oxygen into their people, which gives energy, hope, and life so that all are able to thrive in a complex environment. These leaders are intentionally inhaling and exhaling with their people. The air they breathe and the mindsets they bring to stimulate action is everything.
Here are six mindsets that can breathe oxygen into your people and culture.
Clarity. Vision plus direction is the air that we all need to breathe. Is your mission clear? Is your vision clear? Are your values for how your team is committed to travel clear? Is your strategy for your next priorities clear? If not, your team may be gasping for air. Every time you breathe oxygen into these mindsets and concepts as a team, the air is easier for all to breathe. The path forward becomes clearer. Your team may not have all the answers, but they’ll have energy and clear direction on how to take the next step.
Inclusivity. Leaders play an enormous role in widening the circle so that more diverse backgrounds, ideas, perspectives, and experiences have a seat at the table. Teams and organizations will lead the way forward in society by modeling how to have civil, respectful dialogue and educate people on the strengths of diversity, equity, and inclusion. When our teams are inclusive and welcoming, it breathes life and energy into all. We’re stronger together.
Agility. Possibility plus adaptability is the name of the game in a changing world. Leaders have to practice breathing oxygen that allows the mind to find new ways of doing things and the courage to adapt to emerging opportunities. If leaders return to a “this is the way we’ve always done it” mindset, they will sit back and watch the oxygen leave the room (and their people).
Grit. Resolve plus toughness is critical to help people navigate their way through obstacles, challenges, negativity, finger pointing, and division. Leaders help their people breathe oxygen that stays focused on the present moment and the actions needed to take the next step. Toughness isn’t about being physically stronger than others; it is about being vulnerable with your people and still having the resolve to find solutions together.
Rest. Teams and organizations have an unhealthy association with the concept of rest. Americans last year left 768 million days of vacation on the table with their employers. That equates to nearly $66 billion of lost benefits. We’ve forgotten that research actually shows deliberate rest as essential to elite performance. When we allow our bodies, minds, and hearts to deliberately rest, we breathe more efficiently and are better at everything else.
Ownership. Accountability and action are mindsets and oxygen that the best leaders and team cultures on the planet breathe. They connect the things they say they will do with positive accountability and action. Accountability isn’t a negative word; it’s a positive mantra of which all take ownership. In a world where people are quick to gossip, point fingers, and be critics about what isn’t working, the best leaders breathe oxygen into their people and shift focus from blame to solutions.
The best cultures proactively help their people breathe and navigate obstacles together. They intentionally choose to inhale the six mindsets above and exhale negativity, blame, gossip, and division. The air they breathe dictates the quality of the air for all. The ecosystem of their culture is grown, developed, cultivated, and led with intentionality, one breath at a time.
The process for developing high-performing and engaged teams never stops. The best leaders, teams, and organizations are committed to breathing oxygen in how they hire, onboard, evaluate performance, develop emerging leaders, and recognize excellence. The best leaders invest in their teams and the air they breathe together.
If you’re experiencing a lack of energy, passion, or hope for the road ahead, it may be the air you’re breathing.
Jason V. Barger is the author of “Thermostat Cultures,” “ReMember,” “Step Back from the Baggage Claim,” and “Breathing Oxygen,” being released in the fall. He is the founder of Step Back Leadership Consulting. For more information, visit JasonVBarger.com.