Swan Principle

White swan reflected on water PNG

“Courage is grace under pressure” is an Earnest Hemingway quote I had hung on my wall for many years. “Grace under pressure” was a virtue I greatly aspired to. For me, however, it resided in as remote a place as another desired virtue: “Patience”.

My awakening moment came, as so many of them do, in the midst of the business of an ordinary day. ‘Everything’ felt like it had gone wrong - a full noise ‘Murphy's Law’ kind of a day. Sadly living in a “what could go wrong, will go wrong state” was a normal. I obliviously slipped into in my boundless enthusiasm to people-please. The result? I was pleasing no-one and stressing myself out.

“Mike! Stop. You are running around like a headless chicken, spreading tension and concern with reckless abandon.” My boss’s words stopped me in my tracks. “I know it is busy. I know you have a lot to do. You need to be team focused and your current state is making them anxious. You need to be a swan”

“A swan?” I asked rather incredulously, more than a little hurt, offended and disappointed at being called a headless chicken and now being told to become a swan!

“Yes. A swan.” he replied with a wry smile, “Beautiful and serene, gliding effortlessly across the water while paddling like crazy with their feet underneath. People don’t need to see the effort to admire the result.”

It was shortly after this that I came across the statement “Your team is one of the greatest reflections of yourself” and I realised how important it is for a team leader to be and reflect what they want to see in their team. This encompasses one’s attitude, discipline, approach to work, and even the language you use on a day to day basis. Contrast the difference between working for someone who is always seeing the worst in every situation and complaining, versus a leader who is goal focused and committed to getting the right outcome through their people with a positive attitude.

“People rarely leave bad jobs, usually they leaving bad bosses”

Some thoughts to help you in this space.

Firstly, be honest with how you are currently behaving from your team’s perspective. If you’re not sure, it can be worth doing a full 360 team review to get a feel for the areas that can be improved. It can also be useful to get a tool such as Officevib.com to get a true understanding of how your team is feeling.

Be careful of how you speak and what you say. Words from leaders carry considerable extra weight and your positivity and confidence that things are going to be alright is very quickly picked up and reflected by your team.

Know how to take time out, relax and recharge.  When the pressure is on, this might literally mean taking a walk outside for a few moments or even taking a deep breath, counting to ten and starting again. Part of recharging is looking after yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep; stay hydrated; eat well and take breaks as you need them even if they’re short and sharp, encouraging your team to do the same by having fruit available and giving the team water bottles or having a water cooler nearby can have an amazing impact.

Understanding that your role as a leader is to remove roadblocks, so check in regularly to get updates on progress, celebrate success and ensure that your team have all they need to keep moving forward with confidence.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I have found that these few pointers mean that I operate a lot more like a swan these days, than a headless chicken.

As always, if we can help with anything in this area, please do let us know.  Here’s to your success!