You’re stuck. Your workplace performance has stagnated and you’re frustrated. You start to get anxious, so you try even harder. More effort does not always solve your problems. How can you stay sane when you feel like you’re stuck in a rut?
Author Garret Kramer suggests employing “Stillpower” (the title of his latest book) instead of willpower. When we cannot force ourselves into productivity, we should focus on returning to a clear mindset that is free of distractions. Kramer, founder and managing partner of Inner Sports, LLC, uses this approach to change the performance of athletes and coaches. His sports lessons can also help us in the business world.
Stillpower recognizes that self-worth should not come from external factors like winning and losing, becoming famous or gaining the approval of others. This also means that our anxieties and frustrations are self-generated. Kramer calls this being in “a low state of mind.” In this state, we make poor judgments “and dig ourselves deeper into whatever hole we are digging,” according to a Leadership Now review of Kramer’s work.
Instead of working with a low state of mind, we should stop and take a step back. The best way out of the rut is not to dig deeper but to stay still.
We must first become aware of our thoughts and feelings. Feeling frustrated? Good, according to Kramer. It’s healthy to recognize that something is not going well, but don’t let that failure control you. Awareness gives you “the clarity to act.” Insights can show you a better path to pursue that might even help you accomplish your tasks quicker. Trying to push through with a failing plan will just end in more despair.
Use your losses to guide your performance. Instead of seeing failures and mistakes and black marks obscuring your ability to function, let them serve as checkpoints and limits. Kramer argues that “when we relish the process, our options expand.” Workplace performance is about the everyday tasks that make up the big picture, not specific successes or failures.
Since Kramer helps both athletes and their coaches, you can also apply these same lessons to boosting employee motivation. Your coaching style must take a big picture approach, too. Expand the need for a clear mind to the requirement that you’re operating at a higher level of thinking than the person you’re coaching. Your level of mental functioning matters more than the specific words you’re saying, according to Kramer. No matter how anxious or frustrated your employee might feel, you need to stay clear headed. You cannot both be in a low state of mind if you want to be able to boost employee motivation.
Your insightful state of mind should also be one of compassion. Since you can see the big picture, you will not hold the temporary slump in performance against your employee as a permanent flaw. Work through problems together and offer new ideas and means of accomplishing tasks. Sometimes all your employee may need is a bigger or different perspective.
Effective coaching will be empathetic. You can identify with your employee’s lack of motivation and slump in performance because of your own failures. Resist the urge to attack and criticize. Instead, use stillpower to reflect and realign.
Just as stillpower can keep you from personal frustration, it will also help you from joining in your frustrated employee’s anxiety.
What do you think about choosing “stillpower” over willpower?