Are you a chaotic manager or a calm, confident, and connected leader? How do change from chaotic to calm? The way to make that change, according to Stephen G. Payne, is to look to our inner selves. “Our leadership ability is affected by many things, but in the end, I believe the most powerful is our own inner spirit,” he says.
Payne is the founder of A New Equilibrium, a nonprofit organization that helps people in all walks of life develop their leadership skills by “getting real about the impact of spirituality on leadership performance.” The Princeton chapter of ANE will hold its monthly breakfast club meeting on Friday, December 14, at 7:45 a.m., at Panera Bread, Nassau Street. There is no cost. More information on the group can be found at www.anewequilibrium.org
Payne is an executive leadership coach, speaker, MBA teacher, and author of “The First Rule of Leadership.” He began his work as a leadership coach and consultant after many years working as an engineer and CEO.
He grew up in Birmingham, England, part of a family of well-known gun makers. “My family made handmade sporting guns, 12 gauge and smaller for very wealthy people. The business was eventually done in by lower cost manufacturers,” he says. Payne is not the first member of his family to immigrate to America. A great-grandfather came here during the Civil War with the idea of going into the gun trade here. “But he didn’t like what he saw and took a ship back to Birmingham,” Payne explains.
Another story: his father’s parents’ marriage was arranged to bring to gun manufacturing families together, the Paynes and the Wrights. Unfortunately, his father saw the end of the family business, although he continued to make model guns in his basement throughout Payne’s childhood, he says.
Payne became a chemical engineer, earning his bachelor’s degree from Aston University in Birmingham, England, in 1969, and a Ph.D. from the same institution in 1974. His work eventually brought him to Princeton.
“In 1994 I found myself driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike,” he says. “I’d just been laid off and I was considering what I should do next. I found myself banging my hand on the steering wheel and saying out loud, ‘I need to know what my purpose is.’ A voice came from inside me and said, ‘Why don’t you do something for someone else?’”
He began working with executives to improve their leadership skills, and found that a leader’s own spirituality and sense of self affected not only his or her leadership style, but how effective they were in working with their team and in bringing positive results to their organization.
The Leadership Balance. “Leading people in today’s hectic workplace can hurt to the core. They can feel as if they want to scream, ‘not another change program!’ or ‘My work/life balance is way out of control,’” says Payne. “Day to day, business sucks the wind out of our souls if we let it. Work can weaken us at our spiritual core.”
Spirituality in leadership is not about a specific theology, he notes. “We have people from every faith in our group. We want people to use their spirituality in the context of their work environment and their leadership roles. The 1,000-pound gorilla reflected on the face of every exhausted executive is that the spiritually weakened leader is less able to deal with more complexity, more change, and more problems than the spiritually centered or balanced leader.”
Working With Your Snaggy Bits. Every one of us has what Payne likes to call the “snaggy bits,” the parts of our personality that “rub up against others” and cause friction or conflict. A good leader understands his own “snaggy bits,” and also those of his team.
For example, one person may be too controlling, another may be too quick to say ‘yes’ to projects he or she really doesn’t have the time to do properly, another may be impatient. “A good leader understands these things and compensates for them,” he says.
Leadership Survey. Payne suggests leaders take a short survey to find out their current views on leadership. Some of the survey statements are:
• I am certain I am delivering what is needed of me.
• I am willingly sharing my ideas and perspectives with people.
• I believe I am part of something that truly matters.
• I stay calm and balanced no matter what the situation.
• I am clear about the important things that have to be accomplished.
• I am achieving a great deal with my personal efforts.
• I am enjoying learning new things and building new relationships.
Change Your Attitude to Change the Outcome. Payne gives examples of people who have affected their organization for the better through changing their own attitudes. “One of our members was going in for an end of the year budget review. He was certain that he was facing budget cuts. But through working with A New Equilibrium, he decided that instead of going into the meeting feeling defensive, he would walk in with an attitude of ‘how can I help the organization,’” explains Payne.
The end result: the man walked out of the meeting with an increased budget, not the cuts he had anticipated. “Because he was looking at how he could help to improve the organization, his bosses were impressed and responded to that.”
Another common problem Payne often sees is dealing with an angry boss. “When you are dealing with angry people it is best to step back and remind them and yourself of your overall purpose. You are working for the greater good of the organization, which in turn, will affect the greater good of others. Reminding people of this creates an upward spiral that over time can help to make everyone less angry,” he says.
Affirmations. Payne has a favorite affirmation he teaches people. “I am strong, therefore I can, therefore I will.” The statement is a shift in thinking from the negative to the positive and can make a big difference in the way we think about ourselves and our work. “When you are in a negative place, consider what can shift things to the positive for you. It is different for each person,” he says. It is important to recognize when you are in a negative frame of mind and shift it to a more positive one before making a decision.”
Learning about our own spirituality can help us to deliver improved performance at work through the development of a more calm, more confident, and better-connected approach. “A leader is someone who believes that he or she can do greater things in the world by working with and through other people,” says Payne.