Busting The Tradeoff Myth – Wellbeing, Leadership, Performance, Directionality, Away, Towards, The Longest Game
Image by Ramin Khatibi

Thanks for your comments and questions on my previous article on Adaptability.

It was great to explore the role of psychological flexibility in wellbeing, leadership and performance.

There is a huge opportunity to develop it in our leaders, teams, organisations and communities to work better in situations of stress and pressure and develop our ability to handle discomfort.

I’ve loved learning and teaching about it in all sorts of settings – business, non profit, tech, military, sport. It’s the starting point for me in every one of my coaching and speaking engagements.

So here are a handful of the questions I’ve received:

  1. I’d love to understand the interrelationships between wellbeing, leadership and performance – how does an increase (or decrease) in one of them affect the others?
  2. How do I balance and flex between performance and wellbeing across a divergent team?
  3. How is well-being connected with performance?
  4. How do I make wellbeing a state of mind that I see as constantly positive, rather than a trade off between what I want to do now and what is “good or me” long term?
  5. Does performance trump leadership and wellbeing in a competitive commercial environment?
  6. How do I maximise my performance and grow leadership growth whilst balancing well-being?

The single theme for me from these questions?

That wellbeing, leadership and performance are tradeoffs.

That’s scary.

We need to urgently debunk that myth.

Because we can have it all. And in fact, the sooner we do, the better.

Directionality – Away or Towards?

Let’s work through the example of going for a swim at lunch time through a work day (like one of the most experienced executives I know has done for their entire career).

Imagine you’re about to walk out of the office and someone asks “Where are you going?”.

As you feel the butterflies in the stomach start, here are some thoughts that might show up:

Do they think I’m slacking off? What if I miss something while I’m gone? Do I really have time for this?

One answer frames it as an “away move”:

  • I just need to get away from the office for a bit.
  • I need to de-stress.

Another frames it as a “towards move”:

  • I’m working through some complex problems at the moment and I do some of my best thinking while I’m swimming.
  • I’m going to have a swim to re-energise for my client meeting this afternoon. I need to be on my game. Want to come with me?

The reframe means the swim is not a distraction from work but in service of doing your best work.

The reframe shows you know what matters, and you’re willing to walk your talk, to lead yourself, to lead others and, rather than martyr yourself to some nonsensical notion that more time at the desk = better outcomes, actually do what matters.

All of a sudden wellbeing, leadership and performance are not tradeoffs. They are aligned.

The decision making right now, rather than fulfilling some short term impression management need, is in service of what truly matters in the longest time frame.

The longest game

And that’s why we need to bring definition to individual and collective long games rather than being driven by short term thinking.

And that doesn’t have to take ages!

All we need is to get started.

I’ve shared these in the past, but try answering these 6 questions in 30 secs or less for each one.

  1. What are your values?
  2. Who is important to you?
  3. What is important to you?
  4. What is your purpose?
  5. What would you willingly do for free?
  6. What energises you?

The themes from your answers will at least start to clarify some direction and sense of your long game.

Or if you have more time, try my Momentum 3 part video course (1, 2, 3) to explore a little deeper.

Because I get it.

So often it can seem that wellbeing, leadership and performance are in conflict.

What what if we align around a longer horizon – not just a quarterly result, or avoiding the discomfort of the conversation right now?

Just imagine for a second, what would be the compound effect of leading ourselves, our families, our companies and our communities?

We urgently need to address this. And I’m going to be sharing more about how we can next week.

So my challenge to you right now is: Are you moving towards or away?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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