Stay calm and carry on

Another day, another Prime Minister. More ministerial changes. More public servants suffering a sense of upheaval.

It’s true that change is the only constant, but with mega change like the events of the past week or so, public servants need to ‘stay calm and carry on’.

Easier said than done, right?

Dr Kim Vella, accredited executive career coach, says in today’s environment, professionals working in and even with the public service need to take charge of their own agenda, so they don’t fall off the rails.

‘Two things are needed,’ says Kim. ‘The first is to avoid wasting waste heaps of energy fretting over things you can’t control and messing with your mind by playing “what if” scenarios. The second is to keep your behaviour “above the line” and not “below the line”.’

People who operate below the line often gossip and spend loads of time finding fault. They’re experts at justifying their bad behaviour. They may pursue conflict for the sake of winning because they believe they’re always right. They’re moaners, groaners and negative influencers.

People who operate above the line believe that learning and growing is more important than being right. They’re curious, believe in possibilities and are good listeners. They’re able to question their own beliefs and see light in life. They’re better team players (read more).

Kim says the key is to figure out where you sit—above or below the line.

Here are some steps to take:

  1. Understand that as humans our primitive brain sometimes pulls us below the line. Since the beginning of humankind, we’ve been built to perceive threat. When this happens, chemicals rush through our bodies encouraging us to behave below the line—to protect our survival. In today’s professional world this isn’t a threat to our physical survival, but a threat to our ego. To protect ourselves we get defensive. (Read more about living with fear).
  2. Understand the implications of being below the line. When it takes over, our primitive brain can prevent us from using our executive brain which helps us collaborate, be creative, innovative and connect with colleagues and our work. This makes us disruptive and unhappy. Decide that this is not where you want to be.
  3. Engage your executive brain. Recognise that you can take charge and shift your behaviour above the line. You need to restore the partnership between your primitive and executive brain. Start with mindfulness, which can help instil clarity and a steady, calm approach.
  4. Turn off the struggle switch. Consciously stop yourself in your tracks when you find your mind fretting over matters you can’t control. Notice the thoughts you’re having so you can stop struggling with them. Watch this great video on turning off the struggle switch.
  5. Seek expert help if you’re finding it challenging to work out where you are or how to switch your thoughts and behaviours above the line. Qualified and accredited executive career coaches who use an evidence-based approach are invaluable in providing one-on-one sessions that help you find better ways and can get you there more quickly. Kim offers a free 30-minute consultation session to kickstart the process.

‘Getting a handle on whether you sit above or below the line is essential,’ says Kim. ‘Cementing yourself below the line can prevent you from being respected in the workplace. It can prevent you from advancing up the career ladder. It will definitely stop you from being a high performing leader.’

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