How Do You Keep Your Balance as a Leader?

Leadership Balance Cylient

I learned how to keep my balance the hard way: I used to be a gymnast. Every year in high school, I qualified to take my beam routine to the Ontario Provincial Finals. And every single year, for four years, I fell off of the beam three times during my routine. I’m not kidding—every single year, three times! Definitely the wrong kind of consistent performance. I am happy to report that during my first year of university I won the overall Ontario Junior Championship where I nailed my beam routine—finally!

Along the way, I learned a few lessons about finding and recovering my balance that work as well in life on the ground as they do up on the beam. I’d like to share some of those lessons on how to keep your balance as a leader with you:

Your Focus is Your Future

On the beam, if you focus where your feet are, you’re going to fall off. It’s best to lightly gaze toward the end of the beam, so that your head is up and your posture is aligned, looking at where you are going. That way you’re more likely to land on the beam after a big leap or move, not under it.

In life, the same thing is true. Sometimes, out of fear, frustration or overwhelm, we only focus on what we have to get done today. That’s it. It’s really easy to get knocked off-balance with such a narrow focus, because we don’t anticipate what might be coming at us. I’ve found that lightly focusing on what matters most helps me stay centered and move towards my goals. I say lightly because life happens, and sometimes surprises knock me off course. When that happens, I use what matters most to me as my guide to course-correct and decide how best to get back on the beam of life and proceed.

How about you? What guides you as you move through your work and life? Reflecting upon what truly matters most to you can help you keep your balance as a leader, even when life takes an unexpected turn, or two.

Build Your Centering Skills

They call it the balance beam for a reason. Interestingly, I found that as my confidence in my ability to regain my balance when I lost it grew, the more risks I was willing to take. I think the same is true in life. The more confident you are in your ability to find your center again when you lose it, the more likely you are to take the necessary risks to attain the things that matter most to you. For example, these risks could be having the difficult conversations that are needed to resolve an impasse, or taking on a project that isn’t guaranteed to be a success. These steps will build your skills and could open opportunities that you value.

There are a lot of things you can do to regain your balance on the beam: tighten your core, bend your knees slightly, or engage in a little—or a lot—of arm-flailing as a last resort. It’s important to develop a number of techniques that work for you, so that you can quickly adjust. A solid core is essential for consistent balance. Physically, this is true. As I learned over time, being centered emotionally, mentally—and even spiritually—are also important. When I fell off the beam all of those years, I was relying far too much on my physical ability to maintain my balance, which wasn’t enough to withstand the pressure of a bigger competition.

There are many things that you can do to re-center yourself when you lose your balance as a leader:

  • Learn how to stay present when you are frightened, so you can focus
  • Discern what can be done now to steady the situation and create forward momentum
  • Ask for help or coaching
  • Eliminate as much “noise” in your life as you can by saying “no” or renegotiating expectations and agreements
  • Ask yourself, “What do I need to say or do to be a peace with this situation, no matter how it turns out?”

How is your ability to get re-centered when you get knocked off balance? If you notice that you are often overrun by fear or anxiety, you easily lose your patience, or you find yourself repeatedly going in circles, your centering skills could be strengthened. As you consider how to build these skills for yourself, be sure to look at all of the domains that contribute to your ability to find and keep your balance, not just your favorite one. If you’re a mentally-oriented person, getting mentally tougher is unlikely to result in a significant improvement. Improving your emotional intelligence skills so you can feel more comfortable talking with others about what’s not working is more likely to be helpful. Or perhaps physically build your center by letting go of habits that are not serving you and building new ones that do can increase your physical resilience. That will make it harder to knock you off balance in the first place. 

Coach Each Other to Find and Keep Our Balance

The increasing complexity of our personal and professional lives makes finding and keeping our balance as leaders more challenging than it has ever been. We need to build our skills in this area in order to be the best leaders—and best people—that we can be. I didn’t have a coach in high school, which is why I think I kept making the same mistakes over and over again every year. When I finally received coaching in university, I took my performance to the level that I had aspired to all of those years. Really good coaching does that. It helps us to notice and address the things we’re not aware of that keep us from attaining our goals. Done well, coaching supports us to expand into the domains of our lives that we don’t naturally gravitate towards so that we become more balanced and resilient human beings, capable of nailing the things that matter most to us.

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