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Sunday, 3 January 2016

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Reflections on renewal

A new year has dawned. Holidays give us time to refresh, reflect and renew. I got a much needed break after a few 'mega months' with regard to duties and deliverables. It gave me the opportunity to live up to what I believe as 'family first'. Today's column is a relaxed reflection on how to embrace 2016 and meaningfully engage in value creation on all fronts.

As a popular carol goes, 'it is time to rejoice in the good that we see'. However, a challenge arises. Are we seeing enough of the good in us and in others? We live at a time when meetings start with the question, "What went wrong last month?" We are very good at catching people doing wrong things. An institutionalized negativity is a common phenomenon in Sri Lankan workplaces.

This is the time for us to change. We should catch people doing things 'right'. We should often ask the question "What went right?" Positive focus is one vital ingredient for consistent performance. We need to recharge ourselves to change for the better. There is no better time than the festive season to do so. I am talking of the need to take care of the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual dimensions of our lives.

This is an opportune time for renewal, an awakening to the reality with focus on being better. We need a renewal in each of these facets, in making this year a meaningful period of prosperity.

Physical renewal

The human body is the vehicle that takes us through the journey of life. Being healthy and fit is of utmost importance, despite our constant negligence of it. Finding quality time for physical exercises on a regular basis will be one sure cure for physical inactivity.

Having a healthy dietary pattern, in opting to be fit than fat, is another vital need. Now, make the decision to allocate time for it, and respect the commitment. That is what a renewal is all about.

Mental renewal

It is to do with sharpening ourselves. As Stephen Covey highlighted as one of the seven habits of highly effective people, "sharpening the saw" is essential for growth and success. Ensuring that knowledge and skills are regularly updated and upgraded is what we need to focus on.

Tom Peters gave a challenge to US managers a decade ago. Look back over the past six months, and see whether you have acquired any new knowledge or skills. If the answer is "no", you are stagnating with a blunt saw. With internet as a vast ocean of knowledge offering a variety of informal learning approaches, learning has become part and parcel of our lives. As Socrates said a long time ago, we learn from "the womb to the tomb".

Emotional renewal

There are people who have successfully passed examinatuions, but have miserably failed in their lives. Being aware of constructive emotions and destructive emotions, surrounding our lives, is the first step. Laziness and anger are two common examples of destructive emotions. Enthusiasm and determination are common constructive emotions.

As experts on Emotional Intelligence (EI) say, self-awareness should lead to self-regulation. That is when you are in control of your emotions and then channelling them towards achievements. This is specially true if you are in an organizational leadership position. As Daniel Goldman, who popularized the concept of EI, leaders should be 70 percent more emotionally intelligent than the others.

Social renewal

No man is an island. Human beings are social animals. Human connectivity is an essential need for any community to foster. In a high-tech world, where speed is a key factor, the high-touch dimension of relationships should not be neglected. I have seen many achievement-oriented executives who are 'married' to their jobs while their neighbours take care of their families.

A renewal should ensure the fostering of relationships with the team at work, and more importantly with the team at home. Building better relationships, taking quality time off from your work to be with your loved ones and getting involved in voluntary work are some of the popular activities in this respect.

Spiritual renewal

The four renewals are not possible without the underpinning one to all of them - spiritual renewal. There is a difference between being spiritual and being religious. One can visit a church, temple, mosque or a kovil every day, but be at constant loggerheads with neighbours.

Being spiritual is much deeper in moving beyond rituals, in being righteous. It needs a set of values that govern your behaviour. Honesty and integrity are the commonest examples. Harmony between your set of values and the corporate values of your organization will ensure a long-term association between you and your organization.

Results

Awakening of one's physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual dimensions should lead to better understanding of oneself.

Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in their seminal HBR article titled 'Making of a Corporate Athlete', describe vividly the importance of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual 'capacities'. According to them, organizations cannot afford to use their employees' capacities, while ignoring their physical, emotional and social well-being. They offer us further insights in these aspects:

"In a corporate environment that is changing at warped speed, performing consistently at high levels is more difficult and more necessary than ever. Narrow interventions alone aren't sufficient any more. Companies can't afford to address their employees' cognitive capacities while ignoring their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

"Whether on the playing field or in the boardroom, high performance depends as much on how people renew and recover energy as on how they expend it, on how they manage their lives as much as on how they manage their work.

"When people feel strong and resilient - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually - they perform better, with more passion, longer. They win, their families win, and the corporations that employ them win." (Loehr and Schwartz, 2001)

The key point here is the need to have a balanced approach towards performance. Renewed employees will reinforce their commitment towards assigned tasks in achieving the anticipated results.

We need to go beyond festivities to ensure focused action leading to good results. Renewing ourselves is absolutely essential in that respect. May the new year usher in an era of prosperity through productivity.

That can be only possible by having the rigour of going for stretched targets with renewed commitment as a well-balanced person and deliver sustainable results.

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