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Positive mental attitude - the best way to get the most from your team

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Keeping yourself in a good place is acknowledged to be the basis of good leadership, but in the pressure cooker atmosphere of competitive modern businesses, how can you keep cool and stay enthusiastic?

Debora Brockwell is a Programme Director on Henley Business School’s executive education programme Developing Management Practice, and she believes that many senior business leaders are their own worst enemy.

‘It really is tough at the top, and the expectation to succeed is accelerating. But leaders get caught on a treadmill and while it’s still running, it’s extremely difficult to step off.

‘There’s still a stigma associated with being anything less than 100% dedicated to the cause, but there’s some real ignorance about how that can best be achieved. People fear being judged negatively if they leave the office at 6pm, or sacrifice a Saturday in the office for watching the kids play football. Working excessively long hours and getting too little sleep are big issues. It’s easy to be busy, but we have to recognise the difference between being busy and being effective.’

And Debora is keen for executives to show an example to their teams in the way they behave and operate.

‘Pressure is good, but none of us can sustain it for indefinite periods. After a while, the quality of our performance, our ability to process information and our decision-making diminish. We need to force ourselves to stop, give ourselves time to relax and reflect, and to recharge our batteries.

‘Some innovative companies are finally recognising the positive benefits of physical exercise on mental capability, and a better work–life balance. They insist that the addiction to emails is eradicated by physically turning them off for prescribed periods. If you are tired, exhausted and stressed, you’re a liability; a risk to the future of the organisation.’

The Henley programme devotes a session to this subject and includes tips and techniques for identifying the warning signs that executives aren’t getting the balance right, including mood swings and absenteeism. It looks at practical ways in which the challenge can be overcome, such as creating thinking time in your weekly diary, meditation and having a coach to provide some objective input.

‘Positive managers can improve their team’s performance by 33%, and it’s much easier to manage others and difficult situations when we feel motivated and energised,’ says Debora. ‘But we all have to be prepared to intervene when we identify a potential problem. Simply asking a colleague if they are okay can start a conversation and demonstrate that you care.’

With the pressure mounting, the most effective organisations are not necessarily those who work the longest or the hardest, but perhaps the smartest.

Details of Henley Business School’s Developing Management Practice programme can be found at

Debora Brockwell

Executive Fellow
Published 8 February 2017

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