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A good night’s rest? Some thoughts for world sleep day …

This is the section on sleep from my book Create Space that addresses the importance of sleep and how to get a good night’s rest.

I want to return to the issue of sleep. I have found, again and again, that it is an underlying factor in all sorts of performance issues. Without adequate rest, and a feeling of being refreshed, you won’t be able to make use of any space that you create to think, do or connect because you will not have the energy or presence to do so. If you are wired, and pushing on through exhaustion you will think poorly, not deliver to your best and neglect and let people down.

I worked once with a high-flying executive called Philippe who felt that one thing holding him back was that other people were able to get into the office before him, so were more visible and able to deliver more. He had tried getting up really early, but after a few weeks had felt shattered and had gone back to his usual sleeping habits.

First I outlined to him the consensus research on sleep – most people need a good eight hours sleep but some need a little more and others less. Some very rare people need a lot less. The former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, for example, famously slept only four hours a night, and it didn’t seem to dim her focus or productivity. However, most of us aren’t like Maggie and, in the long run, having less than your own, individually required quota of sleep is unsustainable. It isn’t about ‘will power’ or tricks and techniques, it’s about what your body needs.

Philippe said that he felt he needed to sleep until 7.30 am at the latest. He said he went to bed ‘around 11 pm’. I asked him to keep a detailed sleep diary (you can see this in full in my book). I also asked him to let himself sleep in at the weekend and wake up naturally. (His wife wasn’t so pleased about this but she agreed to help in the end, for the purposes of research). Overall, he said he felt OK, but was a bit tired by Friday, and actually quite refreshed by the end of the weekend.

So as not to draw conclusions based on just one example, I had him repeat the experiment for the next three weeks. The results were basically the same. I suggested that the diary indicated that he needed about 8½ hours of sleep. This was how long he slept at the weekend if he didn’t set his alarm. If we added up his sleeping time during the working week he was getting about 15 per cent less sleep than he needed.

Some experts say that sleep is as important as breathing to our metabolism. Imagine if you were getting 15 per cent less oxygen than you need. If you’ve ever climbed up a really high mountain you’ll know the effects of altitude sickness – symptoms akin to flu, carbon monoxide poisoning, or a bad hangover.

Wetalked a bit about how he spent his time before going to sleep, and he recognised that it was less about what he needed to do, or even enjoyed doing, and more about what he was used to doing. His night-time routine was not a choice he had consciously made; it was just a habit.

This exercise provided the space Philippe needed to become aware of what he was doing and to rethink things. He set out to create a new habit. First he needed a clear goal. He decided he wanted to get up a full hour earlier so he could extend his working day. He also accepted his need to have 8½ hours sleep a night. Seemingly impossibly conflicting goals? Not really. He committed to switching everything off and going to sleep at 11 pm every night. This meant that he still had two hours after the kids were settled down to do some tidying, look at Facebook and watch a TV show, or even a movie. It took about a month for him to get used to this new routine but with perseverance and discipline he did it.

Some other strategies are: establish a regular bedtime and routine, and try to go to bed and wake up at a similar time each day; lower the temperature of your room by a couple of degrees (the ideal room temperature is thought to be 20º Celsius); acknowledge that caffeine interferes with REM sleep so monitor the effect that it has on you (lots of people find it messes with their sleep ifdrunk after 3 pm, but figure out what works for you); finally, consider turning screens off an hour before bed – not only is this good for your mind (giving it time to wind down so you won’t go to bed so wired), but you also lessen exposure to the blue light from the screens which inhibits the release of sleep-inducing hormones. If you must look at a laptop screen in the evenings, install a red light removal app, such as f.lux.

When I spoke to Philippe a few months later he said his new routine now came completely naturally and he felt more refreshed and energised at work. He could even go out late one night in the week and still get up at his usual time without feeling too bad. Just by becoming aware of his patterns and habits, and committing to a quite small change in behaviour, he had literally created significantly more space in his life.

Ask yourself: Did I sleep well last night? Deep down, in my bones, how tired am I right now? What is my night-time regime – and why? What would I like my sleep goals to be? How am I going to make that happen?

 

 

As well as tackling sexism women – and men – need to break free of their psychological chains.

Last week I assessed someone for a senior position at a FTSE100 company. I have spent eight years doing such assessments. They involve a half day interview and a range of psychometric tests that lead to a 2000 report in which I offer a recommendation about whether the candidate should be hired or not, and how they can better develop themselves either way. This most recent session was a slam dunk. The person was the most impressive candidate I had seen in all those eight years, having done around 400 assessments.

The person was a woman, I’ll call her Anna. Now, there is nothing surprising about that.  Despite the appalling statistics on women leaders in business (it is a ridiculous and embarrassing truism that there are more David’s than women serving as FTSE 100 CEOs (7 woman, 9 Dave’s). Yet, of course, there is nothing about being a woman that means you are less capable of effective leadership than a man.

I know, by the way, that even saying “woman” and “man” is controversial to some in these “woke” days but I am gong to assume that, while there is some gender fluidity, there is also a meaning to those words that 99% of us understand and appreciate. I also thing there are gender traits that ring true too, and that are not constructs but biologically based. I think, for example, that men do tend to be more aggressive and women do tend to be more caring. Not, of course, every man and every woman.

That’s why I started with the example of Anna. She is a specific example that goes against the general picture that I’m about to draw. For what was unusual about Anna wasn’t that she seemed to be the most capable leader I had ever assessed but her answer to the last question I always ask. ”Where next?”. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Two years ago I would have said being in the C-suite in a FTSE 100 company, heading up my function. Now I want to be CEO”.

That level of confidence is rare in anyone but I think its rarer in women. (Most) men have a sense of entitlement that (most) women just don’t have. Research shows that the typical man, if a job requires five skills or experiences, will think, “Well, I’m great at two of those, OK at another two and shaky on the last” but he will say, “I am totally qualified across all that”. The typical woman will think exactly the same but she will then say, “Actually, I don’t have enough experience for this job”. They therefore might go down so well at the interview, or, more likely won’t apply in the first place. If the man does get the job he will likely be pressing for promotion and increased salary from the beginning. The typical woman, even if they get the job, will probably not. This gender “entitlement imbalance” is a major factor along with what my 12 year old daughter calls “everyday sexism” for the gender leadership and pay gaps.

There are also other factors too, such as the fact that women tend to have career “damaging” breaks to have children that interrupt their paths to the top, and which almost always lead to childcare responsibilities that far outweigh men’s, no matter how great Dads we are. Motherhood also, let’s be honest, leads some (again, not all) women to reassess their priorities and maybe deprioritise the immense effort needed to rise up the ranks to the top.

One study suggests that woman (as a whole) want to be really senior business leaders less than (the average) man “23% of CEOs felt that the decision not to pursue their career ambitions is made by the women themselves. They, no longer, stay keen to live with the stress inherent in the toughest leadership roles. Their aggression, drive and commitment to career growth slow-down as other personal priorities take centre stage”.

Even if there was some truth in that it doesn’t really matter. Because for sure, enough women want those top jobs. Even if there is a slight difference in hunger for the most senior jobs between the genders that would explain why there might be 45 women to 55 men serving as FTSE100 CEOS not the pitiful 7 to 93 we see today. That gap is obviously down to other factors.

At CDP, the leadership consultancy I run we use psychology to work on a deep level when assessing and developing people and organisations. One of the ideas we use is that of core pathogenic beliefs (or CPBs). These are false assumptions, often unconscious, about ourselves and the world that might have made sense once but don’t know. My book “Create Space” tells 12 stories of such CPB’s and how they sabotage people’s success. An example would be the woman whose parents let her down badly and who grew up not being able to trust people. Later in life that fear is not so appropriate and yet she keeps a barrier between herself and others and treats her colleagues as if they are always about to let her down, constantly being vigilant and being perceived as untrusting and controlling by those around her. (You can read more about CPBs in our thought paper).

At CDP we have discovered that teams and even whole organisations can have CPBs too, like when Travis Kalanick put “always hustle” at the heart of Uber’s values. A statement that is, at best, ambiguous about how ethical one should be. The CPB? “We need to sometimes cross the line to succeed”. In fact, of course, it led to his failure.

So, and here’s the interesting idea: Could genders have CPBs too? Not, as I’ve stressed throughout, every man and woman, but the typical ones?

Here’s my suggestion of what these might be:

Typical male CPB?

“I feel confident, I can do this, in fact I’m entitled to it, and more, and its OK for me to push for what I want.”

Typical female CPB?

“I am not always so confident, maybe I can’t do this. What will people think? I better be grateful for what I’ve got.”

Incidentally I think that the opposite train of thinking can co-exist with each of these. So often, in my experience, men, deep down, also have “imposter syndrome“, they are just better at repressing it and not letting their internal states be reflected on the outside.

Importantly I also think there is a third CPB at play, one that society as a whole shares (or at least a sizeable majority), on an unconscious level, at least to some extent.

Typical society CPB?

“Men can be bold and ruthless, women shouldn’t be like that. Men who demand things are ambitious, woman who do the same are pushy. Maybe men are more natural leaders?”

Absolute nonsense of course but deep rooted nonetheless?

I think this faulty thinking comes from ancient times when physical strength (a largely male characteristic) was vitally important, literally a matter of life and death. As a psychologist with an interest in evolution I can see how there would still be unconscious traces of that in everyone’s minds today. This, of course, is reinforced by the thousand of years of patriarchy that ensued.

As well as everything else that is rightly being done, of which great mentoring and sponsorship seems the most effective, (the Centre for Creative Leadership have some great resources to support this) I think we also need to examine and dismantle these CPBs.

That is what we do at CDP; Help identify and tackle people’s CPBs about themselves and the world so that they can maximise their potential, whether those CPBs be about their gender or anything else.

The good news?

I showed my 12 year old daughter this article and when she came to the suggested CPBs she laughed and said, ”That’s bullshit… and those guys that think that, they don’t really. Woman just admit things more and then get on with it”.

Does she really believe that deep down? I hope so but better still I really think so.

Mindfulness

I have recently been coaching a couple of people whose issues include being more mindful – that is, being able to destress and unclutter their minds and find a way of “switching off” and relaxing.

Mindful

This has prompted me to share the resources that I usually offer people who want to explore this area:

There are some great resources on Mindfulness at Work here, including a video that the “guru” did for Google. http://www.forbes.com/sites/drewhansen/2012/10/31/a-guide-to-mindfulness-at-work/

A really good book is  Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world

The seminal text is this one by Jon Kabat Zinn, who developed a lot of this stuff, and who is featured in the video in the link above. Full Catastrophe Living: How to cope with stress, pain and illness using mindfulness meditation

Finally, lots of people find the Headspace app really useful.

I also love this (excuse the “rude” word!)

Mindfulness

I’d love to know which of these resources appeals to you, and how you got on!

The “top 20” challenges of modern business leadership – did we miss any?

During an excellent coaching workshop with the Academy of Executive Coaching this week some YSC colleagues and I had an interesting discussion on the challenges that the leaders we coach have to deal with. Our brainstorm came up with the following “Top 20”. Did we miss any? Can you think of any others? Do you have any thoughts about any of these? If so tweet me @derekdraper.

(In no particular order)

Public Scrutiny

Digital and social

Security

V-U-C-A

Globalisation

Millennials

Diversity

Increased Competition

Authenticity

Contracting out Culture

Environmental Issues

Ethical Leadership

Sustainability

Increased Disruption

Psychological Contract/Expectations

How to Shape the Organisation (After Flattening)

Hierarchy

Informal Leadership

Environmental concerns

Diversity

 

Attention! Lessons on leadership from the US Army

While writing my own book “Create Space: How to Manage Time and Find Focus, Productivity and Success”” I have been reading a lot of literature on leadership. This weekend I came across the US Army’s Leadership Manual, which is incredibly impressive.

Military Leadership

It covers the values, character and competencies that underlie army leadership but has relevance way beyond the military. In the foreword the US Army Chief of Staff writes:

“It is critical that Army leaders be agile, multiskilled pentathletes who have strong moral character, broad knowledge, and keen intellect. They must display these attributes and leader competencies bound by the concept of the Warrior Ethos. Leaders must be committed to lifelong learning to remain relevant and ready during a career of service to the Nation.”

If you are a leader in any organisation, or just interested in leadership per se then it is well worth a read.

You can find a pdf of it here. It also led me to see if there was an equivalent for the British military, which there is, in this Sandhurst document, which is also worth looking at.

The best business books for your Christmas stocking

Christmas stocking

I have just suggested some reading to an advertising executive that I am coaching. It made me to think about the business books I’d most recommend for anyone wanting to become a better business leader. One of the advantages of writing your own book (Space: how small leaders become big leaders which you can read about here) is that it forces you to read a lot. In the last year I’ve come across 3 books that really stand out. Buy them for yourself, or as an inspiring present for someone else. So, here, in no particular order, are my top 3 business books for you to consider adding to your Christmas stocking:

Execution

Buy here

LC

Buy here

Good to Great

Buy here

Let me know what you think of these or suggest your own favourites via twitter @derekdraper

Create Space – How to Manage Time and Find Focus, Productivity and Success

Update 8th February 2018

My new book “Create Space – How to Manage Time and Find Focus, Productivity and Success” – was published by Profile this summer. COVER Create Space

The book is inspired by my work as a leadership consultant, at the company I founded at the end of 2016 CDP Leadership Consultants, and prior to that at global consultants YSC. The book contains twelve stories drawn from that work, along with reflections and practical suggestions on each of the twelve subjects the stories address.

It makes three key arguments. First, in order to achieve our best we need to create space in order to think, connect and act on a deeper and more profound level. Second, that the modern world indiscriminately fills our life. For the first time in 1000 generations our task isn’t to fill space but to push back and create it. Third, if we want to perform optimally, and reach our full potential, we need to, as an a priori task, create space, before we do anything else. In other words, before people can excel and develop as leaders they need to create space. The book then goes on to explain how you can do this, drawing on real life examples inspired by my work with executives at some of the world’s biggest companies.

As well as examining what I mean by “space” the book addresses how, on a very practical level, people can create the space they need in order to:

  • Think
  • Connect
  • Do
  • Be

Create Space circle

The focus of the book is on the corporate leaders who I assess, coach and help develop every day in my work. But it’s insights apply more widely: to leaders in the third sector, more junior managers, entrepreneurs, and, ultimately, anyone trying to get something done in collaboration with others.

I presented the core ideas the book explores (which have changed slightly since) at the 2015 Association of Business Psychology UK Conference in Reading. You can watch a 20 minute video of that presentation here.

ABP Presentation Image

 

Chi trova un amico, trova un tesoro

I have been thinking about friends a lot in the last few days. Partly because I had a birthday party last Saturday, and was able to see, together in a room, a good few of my friends collected over 30 years of life. Some I met decades ago, some just this past year. I have also been doing some work with one of my coachees at YSC on the importance of making time for friends in the midst of our frantic professional lives. It’s prompted me to dig out a talk I gave at the ICA a few years ago and rework it a bit. Let me know what you think.

Friends

(This post is dedicated to my BFF Henry, who couldn’t make my party because he now lives abroad but who I miss a lot).

A Powerful prayer for all of us…

I was just clearing out a few things and came across this. Its an old poem or prayer, inspired by a Norman crucifix dated 1632. However, its power doesn’t come from the fact that its a Christian prayer, but from the powerful idea within it. In one interpretation it is Christ speaking, and he is “your life”. Another interpretation makes it as powerful to people of any religion, or none: That the subject is literal – your life. In other words, all of the wonderful things we have within us, the better parts of ourselves, that we often squander or pay no attention to. Despite enjoying going to church, I prefer the latter interpretation. Anyway, it speaks better for itself.

Old stone cross

 

I am the great sun, but you do not see me,

I am your husband, but you turn away.

I am the captive, but you do not free me,

I am the captain but you will not obey.

 

I am the truth, but you will not believe me,

I am the city where you will not stay.

I am your wife, your child, but you will leave me,

I am that God to whom you will not pray.

 

I am your counsel, but you will not hear me,

I am your lover whom you will betray.

I am the victor, but you do not cheer me,

I am the holy dove whom you will slay.

 

I am your life, but if you will not name me,

Seal up your soul with tears, and never blame me.

 

Charles Causley

From a Normandy crucifix of 1632

Photo courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dippy_duck/

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