Reigniting Human Commerce with Visionary Leadership
To my continually learning mind, I always thought commerce was a business term that related to an intent of making a profit. I had not come across an older meaning, which I might add, I love, where commerce once related to the social dealings between people.
Imagine, if you will for a brief moment, a business that focused equally on making a profit and improving the interactions between humans.
Over the last few weeks, I have been delving into a few different business models and research articles, chatting with senior leaders and heck, I even chatted all things leadership on Clubhouse to better understand how we can create more warmth and understanding in our human interactions both at work and socially, and whether organisations actually invest in improving their Human Commerce. Sadly, I have found only a handful of socially responsible organisations channelling their L&D funding into creating better humans within their workforce while also investing in technical and on the job skills.
If philosophers have been telling us for centuries that the ultimate goal of existence is to achieve our highest good, for our values to be met and priorities to be achieved, then we can’t deny that we need a supportive social system to help us in our personal pursuit of happiness.
Everything about our existence nowadays relies heavily on human interactions, from the parcels being delivered from amazon, to the checkout assistant at the supermarket and the person in a foreign country doing their best to solve our problems over the phone. Interactions with friends, colleagues and family also get added into the mix. We can’t deny that our happiness is entangled with, and relies on, Human Commerce. Each of us, regardless of our assigned roles at home or work, needs to take responsibility for becoming better within ourselves in order to support others in an effort to improve the warmth of human interactions and to increase our collective happiness quotient.
How can you contribute to our collective happiness quotient?
The answer is simple, aspire to become a Visionary Leader.
Most of the population either works for a business or owns a business. It seems strange to say that happiness and business have anything to do with each other since for most people work can be soul destroying. Yet research is showing us that the two are linked business can enhance human wellbeing!
In July 2019 during her TED talk, Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland displayed Visionary Leadership and discussed the importance of creating an environment that allows everyone to thrive. She said:
“What we choose to measure as a country matters. It really matters, because it drives political focus, it drives public activity…. GDP measures the output of all of our work, but it says nothing about the nature of that work, about whether that work is worthwhile or fulfilling.”
She goes on to say that:
“Economic growth matters -- it is important -- but it is not all that is important. And growth in GDP should not be pursued at any or all cost… the objective of economic policy should be collective well-being: how happy and healthy a population is, not just how wealthy a population is…. when we focus on well-being, we start a conversation that provokes profound and fundamental questions. What really matters to us in our lives? What do we value in the communities we live in? What kind of country, what kind of society, do we really want to be?”
It is refreshing to hear world leaders speak of balancing Human Commerce with gross domestic product, and I hope that one day it is reality. In the short term, perhaps we need to look to businesses, not to governments, to effectively kick-start the wellbeing movement by balancing profit and people and contributing to the wellbeing and welfare of its workforce and community.
By helping their employees grow and delighting their customers with innovative and meaningful products, businesses have an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the world. This type of approach (if adopted) would also have a positive effect on the business as the community reciprocates support. The aim of a visionary leader would be to nurture and create more visionary leaders. Creating a movement of people who know how to infuse soul, in the form of emotional and intellectual energy, into their organisation and community.
How do you become a Visionary Leader?
1. Have a Vision that is Greater than You.
Designing a vision that is beyond yourself creates opportunity and challenge for you and the people you lead to do their best. All of the studies that I have researched investigating Flow states, show that it is experienced predominantly at work, in contrast to the belief that it show up in our free time. This rich experience often occurs at times that involve moments of crisis or when a person is stretched beyond their known limits or challenged to be creative in the pursuit of a meaningful vision. These moments of deep Flow, caused by the right amount of challenge, infuse soul into a person’s work - they end up transformed through their efforts and become someone more complex than they had been before. This is usually good for the individual and the business. Think about how much time you spend either at work or working on tasks for work at home. It’s a lot of your time! If you are part of a business that doesn’t enable you to grow as a person, to grow in self-knowledge and wisdom and build your ability to relate to others, the business is not doing you (Human Commerce) or their bottom line (Business Commerce) any favours. What we need are more workplaces where people can learn more about themselves through the pursuit of a worthy vision and integrate the knowledge to promote self-awareness and increase their mental complexity.
2. Build Trust
Having a vision for your team, family or organisation to move towards can be an incredible motivator, however, a vision on its own won’t build sustainable Human Commerce. The most important principle of Human Commerce is trust. No one will buy into your vision if they don’t trust you or each other.
When working towards a common goal, a Visionary Leader can build trust through motivating people by combining the Individuals Interests and the Common Interest of the group while also embodying the four trust building leadership traits; Credibility, Reliability, Empathy and Low Self-Orientation.
A Leader can usually improve an Individuals interests with external incentives such as pay increases, promotion or a fancy job title. However common interest is earned through a demonstration of respect for the value of each person. Most team members won’t be of service to a leader’s vision unless the rules are fair, their contribution is recognised, and their integrity is respected.
When a Leader cuts corners, shows favouritism, is unfair, doesn’t do what they say they will do or is thoughtless, they undermine the common interest of the group and trust diminishes. When this happens on a regular basis, the only thing keeping the vision alive will be external incentives. Which, unfortunately, over time will have a detrimental effect on the business in the form of low morale and less profit as more extrinsic incentives are needed to keep people performing their job.
A Visionary Leader can build trust by investing their mental energy into monitoring and enhancing the wellbeing of everyone. More importantly, to build credibility, reliability, empathy and to balance their focus between their personal needs and the needs of the collective. they must develop self-discipline based on self-knowledge.
3. Develop Self-Discipline and Self-knowledge.
“The only journey is the one within”.
We all know that nothing is ‘free’ in the material economy, similarly nothing comes free in your psychic economy either. If you are not willing to invest energy in understanding your mind and body (your internal reality) and end up wasting time and money chasing external rewards, you lose the ability to master your life and end up a puppet of circumstances.
Getting to know yourself as a leader must involve questioning which of your values and beliefs are fundamental and support your vision and which ones have no substance or have been acquired by accident and no longer serve you or your vision. Knowing how to think is far more valuable in this day and age than knowing what to think. A cutting-edge way to gain self-knowledge is to make accessing Flow an integral part of your life.
4. Create an Environment that Allows People to Thrive
In his book “Good Business” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi suggests there are two pillars of happiness and the fulfilment of potential. The first pillar is ‘differentiation’ this involves realising that you are unique and responsible for your well-being and are willing to develop your uniqueness wherever it leads, enjoying the expression of our being in action. The second pillar involves ‘integration’ this is realising that even though we are unique, we are also enmeshed in networks of relationships with other humans, culture, and with the surrounding natural and man-made environment.
A person who is fully differentiated and integrated develops high levels of mental complexity and is more likely to lead a happy, vital and meaningful life. They are also known to contribute positively to their work and improve Human Commerce. They are, as Abraham Maslow describes ‘Self-actualised humans’, and they are happy knowing they can continue to activate their potential. A Visionary Leader ensures they develop every team member, regardless of job title, to reach this level of awareness.
To do this a Visionary Leader purposely creates an environment that allows people to;
Conventional Leadership Be Gone!
So, what if nothing changes? What if businesses and their Leaders continue to tip the scale in favour of making a profit over the increasing need to balance profit with Human Commerce?
In my role at Blue Chip Minds, I see first-hand the effects on business and their workforce when conventional thinking and leading is the norm. People are either overworked, burnt-out, feeling devalued, or not encouraged to perform at their best. They are often treated as cogs in the process of production which ends up diminishing them as humans.
It appears that focusing on profit and developing the technical skills to make greater profits, is doing more harm than good. Participants of our programs often share stories of Leaders they don’t trust, toxic work environments, feeling undervalued and not heard. Most express deep appreciation to us for creating the right circumstances for them to integrate knowledge within themselves and help them to gain clarity on how they can be a better human personally and professionally.
What We Can Do – Together!
Instead of ignoring the complexity of humans, businesses and leaders can embrace our need for love and growth and help motivate workers to pursue common goals by having an appealing vision, establishing trust, encouraging individual growth and to stop depriving workers of the joy that comes naturally from doing their best.
If you are an individual in an organisation, I invite you to take full responsibility for creating your happiness. If your workplace or manager doesn’t give you clear goals, create your own. If you are not provided with immediate feedback in relation to your performance so that you can adapt, ask for feedback outside your annual or six-monthly review. If your work is not challenging you to grow, find a way to dial up the challenge of your role.
We all have an incredible opportunity to help create a better future for each other and to shape workplaces that are as exciting as a sports match final and as soulful as a spiritual retreat. Where Human Commerce and business profit both share equal space on meeting agendas and in business expenditure.
When the well-being of a workforce is at the heart of every business decision, it creates a better, healthier, fairer and happier organisation, and the business role models how society can find happiness together in a disconnected world.
If you are looking for ways to develop Visionary Leaders, a responsible workforce, or invest in yourself, our most popular professional and personal development programmes include:
We’ve all been there. The looming deadline. The high stakes work. The pressure mounting. The finish line and our chances of getting there are touch and go. But we rise up to the challenge, not only hitting the mark but smashing it out of the park.
As we breathe a sigh of relief we say to ourselves, ‘Never again’.
But soon we find ourselves back there again.
Well in a word, stress. Or more to the point, our complicated relationship with stress. We NEED stress...the good kind that is. It drives up productivity allowing us to achieve beyond perceived limits. The challenge these days is that the story of stress in modern society often only highlights the bad. Anxiety, burnout, poor motivation, are all horrible negative elements that occur when we become over stressed.
So to discover which stress is good and which isn’t, we need to journey back in time and dig into the history of stress. This history lesson will provide a really useful framework for developing individuals and organisations that thrive under pressure.
The birth of stress
Stress as a term has only been around since the early 20th Century and was coined by the “Father of Stress”, Slovakian Scientist Hans Selye when he was testing a hypothesis on ovarian hormones using rats as the test subject. Selye discovered that no matter what substance he substituted for the ovarian hormone, the same reactions happened in the rats. It wasn’t the substance that was instigating the reaction. It was the situation. The situation set off a chain of reactions and those reactions were the same no matter what substance was used. Eventually the rats would die from the sustained stress of the situation.
Two sides to every story
Selye defined stress “as an organisms unspecific reaction to any kind of external demand.” He also defined stress as both positive and negative. Positive stress was named ‘eustress’, based on the Greek word ‘Eu’ meaning good and negative stress was labelled ‘distress’, inspired by the Latin word ‘Dis’, meaning bad. Distress can lead to anxiety if the stress is too high but on the flip side, can also lead to boredom if the stress is not enough.
Yep, you read it right. Low stress is also a negative stress.
The current narrative on stress highlights the negative. When we think of the word stress, we instantly are drawn to our own negative experiences. Stress is bad. That’s what we know, that’s what we believe. But unfortunately it is only half the narrative. To help guide us, we will use a powerful framework to understand the thinking that occurs when we are placed under stress. It is within this framework that we can start to negotiate the necessary mindset, skill sets and coping strategies to turn the tide on stress.
Situation and Self
Inspired by Dr. Selye’s work, Dr. Richard Lazarus and Dr. Susan Folkman developed the Transactional Model of Stress. In this framework, stress ‘is the result of a transactional process between a person and the environment’ (Peifer, 2012). When an external demand (challenge/pressure) is placed on an individual, a certain process is followed. The first assessment we make is whether or not the situation is a threat. If a threat is perceived, we make a second appraisal. Do I have the strategies to cope with this situation? It is this key decision that shapes the stress path we choose. If we believe we don’t have the ability to cope, the stress is perceived as negative stress or distress. If we believe we have the ability to cope, we perceive the stress as eustress and this creates the opportunity for optimal performance.
The demands of the situation meet our skill level and we rise to the challenge.
The work flows out of us effortlessly.
We connect disparate ideas.
We lose all sense of time and feel deeply connected to the work
We are uber productive.
We enter an optimal state of consciousness that psychology calls ‘flow’.
Flow - the antidote to stress
Coined by Hungarian Psychologist, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, flow is an “altered state of consciousness in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.” It is an optimal state of experience and performance. In flow, people feel great and their performance is elevated. It boosts both morale and productivity.
So how much more productive can you be in flow? How about up to five times?
In a ten year study by McKinsey and Company, 5000 high performing executives operating at their peak reported being up to five times more productive when in Flow. This number varied from person to person but on average executives felt that their output dramatically increased when in a flow state. The challenge however, was that these executives also self reported only being in Flow about 10% of the time. As well as driving up our performance, Flow is one of the only times where five of our most potent neurochemicals are released in our brain at the same time. These neurochemicals enable us to connect disparate ideas, focus intensely, feel really good and connect deeper with other humans. As the Flow Genome Project, a world leading authority on Flow Science, state in their definition of Flow, “we feel our best and perform our best.”
Making friends with stress
Stress is required for Flow to show up. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi listed nine dimensions of Flow and one key Flow dimension is called the Challenge/Skills ratio. This refers directly to stress. Stress is the demands or challenge of a situation. We need to increase/decrease the demands of task to a point that is suitable for our skill level. If the demands are too high, our anxiety rises. If the demands are too low, it promotes boredom. Finding the Goldilocks spot, where it is just right, helps drive our attention into the now. Cortisol, aka the stress chemical, is released and this helps us focus with more intensity. Cortisol enhances selective attention in the brain which filters out superfluous information and tightens focus on the task at hand. We become better at blocking out information that doesn’t enable us to achieve our goal and we become deeply immersed in the task at hand. In an age of distraction, this capacity to deeply focus on demanding work is a modern day superpower and it enables us to reach a peak state of performance. It enables us to be more productive and to feel our best.
Strategies for building a better stress relationship
Contributor: Steve Brophy
Back in 2011, Bradley Cooper starred in the box office hit movie “Limitless”. The plot follows Edward Morra (Cooper), a struggling writer, who is introduced to a nootropic drug, which gives him the ability to fully utilize his brain and produce optimal performance.
Have you had days where you wished you could fully utilize your cognitive abilities just like Coopers character?
The thing is, few of us realize that there are people out there doing just that… and it doesn’t involve taking a “smart pill”. Ordinary people like you and I (and some extraordinary athletes) are already tapping into this altered state of consciousness.
Over the past decade, Silicon Valley executives like Eric Schmidt and Elon Musk, Special Operators like the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets, and maverick scientists like Sasha Shulgin and Amy Cuddy have turned everything we thought we knew about high performance upside down.
Imagine a life that required less grit, no more working hard to create productive habits, and dismantling the 10,000 hours theory. From studies conducted across a number of fields and headed by Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler, Co founders of the ‘Flow Genome Project,’ there is a surprising short cut to obtaining optimal consciousness. People across different industries are learning how to harness rare and what used to be controversial states of consciousness to solve critical challenges and outperform the competition.
Flow is the optimal state of consciousness, a state of mind in which you are able to perform at your peak, separated from time, focused solely on the task at hand.
Also known as being "in the zone", it's a state of consciousness that in the past has been difficult to reach and maintain. Most commonly it is experienced by athletes performing high-adrenaline, extraordinary feats of endurance, strength and concentration in sports like mountaineering, rock climbing, surfing, kayaking and so on. In these extreme situations, they are able to get into 'flow' or 'the zone' which enables them to survive and thrive even in the harshest and most demanding of conditions.
Until recently, flow has been inaccessible for those outside of these extreme scenarios, leaving them unable to reach this advanced state of consciousness. However separate research conducted by Dr Joe Dispenza and the Flow Genome Project Founders is showing us that we can access this state and tap into its benefits in the workplace.
“A flow state is a state of consciousness which you feel at your best and perform at your best”
By using MRI and brain scanning techniques, and analyzing what it is that athletes do to enter this state, Kotler has reached a great understanding of flow. While Dispenza has been using brain scans to better understand Gamma brainwaves, which is linked to being in flow and how the brain (when in gamma or flow) produces a super levels of awareness and consciousness along with a heightened state of wakefulness.
Now, by adopting the right habits, altering your behaviors, and adopting a growth mindset, you can access flow in your day-to-day life, unlocking enormous potential at work.
How to tell if you’re in a state of flow according to Kotler and Wheals book ‘Stealing Fire’:
1. You feel no sense of self (Selflessness)
2. Time dilates and dissipates (Timelessness)
3. The activity flows magically (Effortlessness)
4. You feel tapped into inspiration and information (Richness)
“Information richness is a feeling of a high resolution download of realization and possibility that seems to emerge from the world around you” Jason Silva
While there are a number of different methods you can use to prime yourself for an optimal state of consciousness, here are 4 of the most accessible ways to reach flow.
1. HAVING CLEAR GOALS
Understanding WHAT you are doing and WHY you are doing it is critically important. Knowing exactly what you need to achieve at the present moment allows your mind to be free from distractions and helps to unlock greater focus on your current task, and get into flow.
2. SERIOUS CONCENTRATION
Blocking yourself from the outside world – distractions like your phone, social media, gossiping, can help you move into the state of flow. Limiting the number of things your attention is divided between allows greater concentration and maximum attention directed towards what you are trying to achieve.
3. SKILLS/CHALLENGE BALANCE
There is a range between difficulty and simplicity of a task in which the capability of the brain can be unlocked. Too difficult a task leads us to disengage and try to escape the task out of a kind of primal fear. If it is too simple, then we disengage due to boredom. Only between these two, when doing a task that stretches you slightly beyond normal, is the possibility for achieving flow possible.
Meditation sharpens your mental abilities, but by learning to produce more gamma brain waves, you will use your brain in its greatest capacity. It can be as simple as putting on your headphones, listening to relaxing music. And then, when your brain and body are relaxed and blissful, focus on love and compassion. Neuroscientists believe that people can train themselves to produce more of the gamma frequency and it is believed that focusing on compassion and love is one way to do this. It makes sense when you look at elite athletes,– they love what they’re doing, and they’re immersed in what they love – so gamma is a natural state of consciousness for them!
While there are a number of different ways you can maximize your ability to enter flow, these four tips are a great place to start… and great way to tap into your limitless potential.
Contributor: Georgia Ellis, Founder of Blue Chip Minds.
Our Contributors are a mix of passionate and switched on Humans ready to share their, career, business, well-being, leadership and performance insights with you so you can be the architect of your own extraordinary future!