Leading during times of uncertainty
Leading in times of uncertainty is challenging. It is also the time local leadership is needed the most.
For local councillors currently serving their communities right now, this challenge is an everyday reality. Not only have they been in office for an extra year, but due to the recent COVID outbreak in NSW, they are now governing for an extra three months. The recent delay of the election also happened at a time when most local councils had just held their last meeting and councils were getting ready to enter caretaker mode.
Some councillors were planning to step down and not re-contest the next election. Now, these councillors need to step up and continue governing for their communities.
This constant changing of gears can be exhausting.
Leadership support for councillors
To offer support to councillors in this space, we recently caught up with mindset and mindfulness coach, Anna Miley. Anna shared with us how councillors can stay focused and energised during these times of uncertainty.
Anna shared her insights on the positive and negative effects stress can have on our minds and our body. Stress is not all bad. Humans are designed to cope with stress. In fact, we actually need a level of ‘stress’ to activate us to take action. The current situation both globally and domestically is impacting on everyone’s mental health. As leaders, councillors are carrying a heavy load.
Practical tools to start using today
So, what can you do about it? Anna share three practical tools councillors can start to use today to decrease stress and increase performance.
1. Looking after you
First, it is important to acknowledge how you are feeling right now. And be aware of how this might be impacting your thoughts and actions. Stress can manifest itself in different ways and will feel and look different for each individual.
When our experience of stress outweighs our coping skills, our thoughts, feelings and behaviours can start to change. For example, feelings of frustration, overwhelm and anger can lead to changes in our everyday life. This may look like poor sleep, over consumption of alcohol or tuning away from family and friends.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool to help manage and reduce stress. Mindfulness is not just a meditation technique but is in fact a state of cognition. Mindfulness has become popular for good reason. Extensive research has shown its benefits for both our mental and physical health.
Anna recommends mindfulness as a selfcare tool for leaders as it is efficient and effective. It has a big impact for time. Mindfulness techniques practiced daily for relatively short periods improve cognitive functions such as concentration and working memory. But perhaps more pertinent for leaders is the impact on emotional reactivity. The increased self-awareness gained through mindfulness leads to better management of emotions so that leaders can provide steadiness in times of challenge.
2. Recalibrating your purpose
Do you remember your why?
Having clarity about your purpose can fuel fresh motivation . Purpose gives us meaning and a reason to keep going each day. In these times of uncertainty, it is easy for our purpose to become cloudy.
For councillors, an extended term in office and the changing goal posts with election delays, may mean some have lost connection to their purpose. It is also possible that the purpose that motivated you five years ago is completely different to the one that is driving you today. We encourage you to take a moment to recalibrate your purpose for right now. Focus on what is ahead over this next three months.
In reflecting on this question, it may be helpful to consider what different stakeholders need from you. This could be your councillor colleagues, council staff, local businesses or citizens. Zero in on what speaks to you and write it down.
3. Staying aligned to your values
Values are another powerful tool to help you stay on track. Values are our underlying beliefs that drive our decisions and actions. Being aware of these values can help in times of pressure and difficult decision making moments. When our actions or thoughts are inconsistent with our values, it can also add to feelings of stress and overwhelm.
Take a moment to reflect on two or three of your values as an elected representative. Values can often be single words, such as ‘honesty’ or ‘resilience’. We encourage you to take a moment to write your values down.
Free resources for you
In collaboration with Anna, we have created a short workbook to guide you through the questions above. Anna has also recorded a short mindfulness meditation. This is perfect for busy councillors who are looking for support to reduce the mental load.
You can access these free resources here.