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Practice serial monotasking through mindful engagement: Potentialife CEO Angus Ridgway

"What we should be doing is take the everyday reality of our life and reframe it to find meaning in it," says Ridgway.

Sonal Khetarpal   New Delhi     Last Updated: April 6, 2018  | 18:00 IST
Practice serial monotasking through mindful engagement: Potentialife CEO Angus Ridgway

Leadership is no longer associated only with people in positions of power. Organisations need people who are motivated, agile and can inspire others to deliver their best. Business Today's Sonal Khetarpal spoke to Angus Ridgway, CEO at leadership development firm Potentialife, about his new book The Joy of Leadership that dwells on how leaders can leverage positive psychology and create an environment where everyone reaches their full potential.

Excerpts:
 
A lot of the tenets of positive psychology seem to be very individual focused. How can they be percolated down to different levels in the organisation for it to make real impact?
 
To build an organisation full of leaders, we have integrated principles from the latest thinking in positive psychology, behavioural science and neuroscience. Five leadership categories emerged which form the acronym SHARP that stands for Strengths, Health, Absorption, Relationships and Purpose. Now, SHARP is not just about the individual but there is a duality to it. There is a leadership to self dimension and leadership of others facet to it. For instance, leaders should know how to use their strengths and passions to reach peak performance. Similarly, as a leader of others, they should know how to build teams based on complementary strengths and enable them to play to their strengths. They should be able to manage their energy to embrace stress and also create a positive environment for their team to work. When these principles are deployed at scale, organisations can have great leadership by having every individual focusing on themselves and also thinking about how do I make it work in an environment surrounding me.

Often companies put in too many processes to bring in standardisation and structure...
 
Given the pace of organisational change that is underway, the time to protocolise work with as much precision isn't possible because things are changing so quickly. Companies might be spending time to establish processes but they hardly ever get there. The remedy to this is to help self-realise so there are people in the organisation who are flourishing by managing their inputs. By doing this you are going beyond the algorithmic view of the organisation, where things have to be standardised, to a genuine view of an organisation where you set people on fire and good things happen.
 
How can companies integrate this approach in their day-to-day worklife?
 
We tend to take an event-based approach to change. For instance, we put people into a training class or into a room for a day or a week and hope at the end of that change will happen. It is not the method to any kind of change, let alone lasting change. If you want to help people change you have to leave them at work and help them change while they are at work.
 
The way to do it is to have a process that helps them to practice small regular changes on themself and their colleagues. What really matters is the intervention method where you help people start going through the process of embracing what is described in the policy. It may begin with experimentation but for it to have a long impact, it has to finish with ritualisation or habit formation. It is not a one-week quick win but can take anywhere from three to nine months.
 
For a happier life, you suggest that individuals should find a bigger purpose in the work they do. However, it can vary for each person. Moreover, often employees get stuck in the rut of life. So, how can companies drive this culture change?
 
The key word here is reframing, which means how you view what you do. When it comes to thinking about purpose which is another way of saying 'why do I do what I do' people think the way to progress is to wait for something big to happen or for some meaningful things to arrive, for instance, promotion. But, that is not the right way of thinking.
 
What we should be doing is take the everyday reality of our life and reframe it to find meaning in it. For instance, cleaners at hospitals have a really tough job and some of it can be really gruesome work. But a research done at a hospital showed how a substantial portion of cleaners spoke how their work helped to create a clean environment in which lives get saved. It is these individuals who have done their reframing. Other individuals said their job is cleaning and how their life is hard. For them, their job is drudgery. There is a clear distinction even at a modest level in those who have done reframing and those who have not. The way forward for all of us is, when we wake up every morning, am I taking the positive frame to what I am doing today.
 
In a world where it is mandatory to multitask, manage multiple profiles, finding joy by being mindful is potentially contradictory. So, how can one manage what needs to be done and how should it actually be done.
 
There are two ways to think about the word multi tasking. One way is managing multiple agendas at the same time which is a necessary skill to have. There is another way to think about multitasking which entails processing multiple things at the same time. Now, that is dangerous because it is just another way of being distracted. Mindful engagement is the antidote to distraction. What we actually need to do is, through a process of mindful engagement enabled by things like meditation, practice serial monotasking.

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