Here’s a 2-step social experiment you can try from the comfort of your own office building:
1) As you pass colleagues, ask, “How are you?”
2) Keep a record of how many answer “Busy,” or offer a similar response.
Somewhere in the past decade, “Busy” replaced “Fine” as our instinctive response to general inquiries about our well-being. For sociological researchers, this is a fascinating phenomena because of what it reflects about our priorities: we value busy schedules, tightly packed days, early morning meetings and late night conference calls. In fact, the intensity of our schedules has become a point of pride. We say “Busy” because we think a full schedule must mean we’re making a valuable contribution. We are necessary.
This misplaced sense of worth has chronic implications: our bodies are forced to live in a constant state of mild stress: the stress of unexpected traffic when you’re running late to a meeting; the stress of a pending deadline; the stress of 75 unanswered emails and a tense voice mail from your spouse.
Researcher Dr. Richard Boyatzis believes this chronic stress is our greatest impediment to effective leadership: we cannot be at our best when we are stressed. And when we are not at our best, when we answer “Busy” to “How are you?,” we fail to lead with the vision and magnanimity that true leadership requires.
Hear more in this short video:
How do we fight chronic stress? Canceling a few meetings and taking on a few less projects is a good place to start, but not always possible. Boyatzis says we can fight stress with more “daily doses” of playfulness, mindfulness, hope and compassion. Building these dosages into your day takes intention, but it may be the most effective leadership development program you can employ.
Amber Johnson is the CVDL’s corporate relations advisor.
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