It sounds simple; breathing. In and out, and we’re alive and showing up.
But while most of us are fortunate enough to do this every day (and I heartily recommend it) without much fanfare, many leaders are missing an opportunity to use breathing as a tool to be more effective.
How It Works
There is plenty of research that shows how breathing can help us be better leaders. Here are just a few examples.
- helps us decrease stress and regulate the stress hormone cortisol (so we can access our executive brain for our best thinking)
- increases optimism (every business outcome improves when our brains are positive…we make better decisions and are more creative etc.,)
- strengthens our ability to regulate our emotions (important at all times, and especially in those times we are giving difficult feedback or in uncomfortable conversations)
- reduces impulsivity (hold on to that email that may not be the best approach)
- can actually help us change and regulate our emotions (so we can connect with others and communicate in ways that are most effective)
So, we know how to breathe, but how do we do this strategically?
Along with the information above, here are examples of how clients have improved their effectiveness simply by breathing.
- A C-level leader running from meeting to meeting as a regular practice began to introduce the 30 second rule. After each meeting and before the next, he paused to breathe away the prior meeting and prepare for the next one – for just 30 seconds! Summarizing his comments: A lot of people are relying on me. This one practice completely changed the way I work, and helped me be much more present and effective in each meeting.
- Use your breath as a tool during meetings. If you know your triggers (Barrett Values, MBTI and DISC can help), you can predict what or whom might “set you off” in meetings. Your intention to take a breath and manage an amygdala hijack (fight, flight, freeze) in these moments can help you manage how you respond. (Pro tip – Another hijack recovery strategy: ask yourself a question, e.g., ‘what do outcome do I want here?’ to move from hijack to your thinking brain.)
- If you take time for even 5-10 minutes of breathing in the morning, you can get your brain in “most effective work” mode. One business owner does this by making time for breakfast breathing, which is a double bonus. She’s giving her body fuel for the day, and preparing mentally for the day in front of her. It’s made a big difference in how she approaches the day, and how she leads her people during the day.
- Making time at your desk to breath for even one minute can prepare you to; send a clearly thought out email, make a successful phone call, tackle the next priority on your list or have that difficult conversation.
What Do I Call It?
Some people refer to these approaches as meditation. If that doesn’t resonate with you, then call it “breathing,” “mindfulness” or “being present.” It really doesn’t matter what you call it as long as you come to it with intention.
Don’t forget to notice and appreciate how this new way of breathing is changing your world.
Because it will.