How to Survive and Thrive Through The Recession
I believe it is inevitable we are going into a recession. Why can I be so sure? Well I believe in cycles — recoveries and recessions — and if we are not in a recession right now we’re heading towards one!
Many founder CEOs and leaders will rightly be focusing on external factors such as rising input costs, and the slowdown in consumer spend. And then reacting by slowing down on hiring, laying off staff, negotiating better supplier terms or raising more capital. Or you may decide this is the time to double down and to press ahead whilst the majority hesitate.
With rising demands the default will be to work even harder
The startup or scale up world is awash with bravado. Most of the stuff you read about entrepreneurs makes you think you have to be some kind of superhuman to succeed. The fear of recession is exacerbating this need in Founders to push themselves to the limits.
And as a result many are struggling with overwhelm, anxiety and burnout
This inevitably has an adverse effect on your performance and your ability to lead others, which is the last thing you need with the rising demands.
Many leaders underestimate how impactful their state of mind, behaviours, moods, reactions, words and actions have on their colleagues.
Ask yourself what your team, your company and your wider stakeholders need from you now. They don’t want a stressed, frazzled, reactive leader. They want an even-tempered, caring, supportive, courageous, fair and consistent one.
We are not machines
We are not designed to operate like a quantum computer i.e. at high speeds all day and everyday.
If you burn the candle at both ends to get more ‘golden eggs’ you will end up sick and exhausted, unable to produce anything or contribute to anyone else.
You, as a Founder CEO, may have more energy to succeed than the average person but trust me we all have a breaking point. Don’t try to find it!
Put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others
When founders CEOs fail it is often when they don’t look after and manage themselves properly. They delay looking after themselves until….it’s too late.
The most important asset you have to help you through this recession, and the one you have the most control over is YOU. Your internal resource is the most powerful instrument you have to deal with life, and to contribute.
Founder CEOs need to become Chief Energy Officers
Managing your energy is the key to more sustainable high performance.
There is a direct link between your well being and your performance. And the effective management of your energy is foundational to both.
When our energy levels are high, we’re positive, we get more done, we have better interactions, our mind is sharp, we’re laser focused, we’re more resilient, we are more likely to step out of our comfort zone, we are less likely to react, we are happier and our body feels strong.
Better energy management, better well being, better performance. And the more likely you will successfully get through the recession.
Energy comes from five main pillars in human beings
The five sources of energy for humans come from: the body, emotions, mind, connection and spirit.
Great thing about energy is that it’s not finite like time
You cannot create more hours in the day, but you can continually increase your capacity to work effectively through skillful energy management.
CEOs who focus on building and sustaining their capacity — their energy — get more done in less time, with more focus, engagement and sustainability.
Each energy source can be systematically expanded and renewed
We build emotional, mental, social and spiritual capacity the same way we build physical capacity and strength. We need to step out of our comfort zone, stretch beyond our normal limits, and then take the time to recover and integrate our learnings.
Ultimately you want to build your energy capacity rather than just maintain it. But this is not about doing even more, it is about doing more of the right things.
Dance between the High Performance Zone and the Revitalise Zone
Sports people understand the importance of recovery and renewal — what I call the Revitalise Zone — much better than most business people. They know that in order to perform to their best — the High Performance Zone — when it matters they need to have fully recovered from the hard training.
Human beings perform at their best whether in business or in sport when they master the dance between expending energy and revitalising their energy sources — physically, emotionally, relationally, mentally and spiritually.
Energy capacity is built through specific habits
We all know that in order to improve our physical fitness we need to build physically healthy habits into our lifestyle. Many of us know and understand the benefits of physical exercise and as a result regularly exercise but few of us consider working on our emotional or mental fitness.
Our goal is to make these habits as automatic as possible.
Each energy source is inextricably linked
Our brain is made of the same basic organic material as the rest of our body. This means that anything we do that compromises our physical health will also compromise our mental and emotional health.
Conversely, anything we do to improve our physical health, will also improve our mental and emotional health.
Your aim is to harness each of the 5 pillars or energy sources
It is a holistic approach which closes the gap between what you do now and what you are capable of doing.
Through deep research and assembling ideas from academics, scientists, psychologists, economists, philosophers, from my own work working with entrepreneurs and from personal experience, I have identified five core pillars that lead to maximum energy.
They make up the acronym PERMS.
Complete the PERMS Energy Check-in — Are you Heading For An Energy Crisis?The Check-in will highlight the areas you are energy deficient. And will provide you with a bespoke set of tips on how to better manage your energy and hence optimise your well being and performance.
Here is a quick overview of the Check-in:
Physical Fitness: Do you regularly get 7 or 8 hours sleep a night? Do you exercise at least 3 times a week? Do you take regular breaks during the day?
Emotional Fitness: Are you experiencing more painful emotions than pleasurable ones? Are you able to identify accurately what emotions you are feeling? Are you aware of what triggers an emotional reaction in you?
Relational Fitness: Do you get energy from the people you work with? Do you consciously spend time nurturing your key relationships? Do you spend quality time with family and friends?
Mental Fitness: Are you able to switch off at the end of the day? Do you have productive habits to deal with your stress? Do you struggle to stay focused on one thing at a time? Are you continually learning new things?
Spiritual Fitness: Do you know why you get out of bed each day to do what you do? Do you experience a sense of purpose in your work and home? Do you have clarity on your values or how you want to behave day to day? Are you aware of your strengths and weaknesses?
The PERMS Energy Check-in is not a one-time thing, you need to keep assessing where you are out of balance to find the key to getting back on course.
Let’s dig into each PERMS pillar
Along with a bit more detail on each pillar I have shared some top tips.
It will not be much of a surprise to hear that exercise, what you eat, your sleep and how you recuperate is fundamental to the amount of energy you have.
Your body does most of the heavy lifting each day. Your physical energy will either accelerate your overall energy or be a drag on it.
But despite knowing that physical energy is fuel for life, many of us underestimate its role in performance and the optimisation of our brain function.
And it’s often not until you have a health scare that you do something about it. You wish you could turn back the clock.
Your mind and body are inseparable. When you are nurturing your body, you will have more resilience, you will learn faster, you will feel better about yourself and be able to give more to others.
Top Tips for Physical Fitness
Understanding and managing your emotions (and the emotions of others) will help you be more successful. In his book Working With Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman cites the Harvard Business School research that concluded that EQ counts for twice as much as IQ and technical skills combined in determining who will be successful.
Most of us struggle with emotions because we were never taught how they work and how to work with them. And we are told emotions are not for the workplace. We tell ourselves we must stay in control, look strong.
Emotions are in everything we do. As we go about our normal day, we are subject to a continuous flow of emotions; one moment we are feeling cheerful and the next we are grumpy. Emotions are not an occasional event.
In practical terms, Emotional Fitness is about being aware that emotions drive your behaviour and impact people (positively and negatively), and learning how to manage them — both our own and others.
Emotional Fitness is particularly important when we are under pressure. For example, when we are…
- Working through setbacks and failure
- Managing conflict
- Giving and receiving feedback
- Meeting tight deadlines
- Making difficult decisions
- Navigating change
The good news is Emotional Fitness is a skill that can be learnt.
Top Tips for Emotional Fitness
Study after study shows that what makes you happier than anything else is having quality relationships in your life.
When times are tough and stressful, one of the most important buffers against stress are quality relationships and friendships. People who get us, we feel comfortable being around, who are compassionate and appreciate who we are.
The comment by Jim Rohn”you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” is so true. Surrounding yourself with people who bring the best out of you are the cornerstones of building your energy and happiness.
Who you work with is the most important factor to consider before joining or starting a new company with a partner.
Just think of the opposite. Are you fully energised when you hang out with people who bring you down? No, you’re not!
Nurturing and cultivating the right relationships, and pruning the ones that de-energise you, is one of the important things you can do to build your energy.
Top tips for Relational Fitness
A CEO has so much on their plate. And as the business scales it doesn’t get easier. When you take on third party investment like a VC, the pressure escalates — you tell yourself you have to be all in.
The problem is that if you are pressing down on the accelerator for too long, you will not only not be making sub-optimal decisions along the way but also brewing up big trouble for later.
As is true for Emotional and Physical Fitness, Mental Fitness is derived from a balance between expending and recovering energy. When our mental muscles are worn out — our attention span is too short, our outlook is too pessimistic, our perspective narrows or is too rigid.
You need to invest in your mental health proactively, treat it like going to the gym and staying fit. And it needs to be done whilst you are on the journey not left for later in the day.
Top tips for Mental Fitness
I define Spiritual Fitness not in a religious sense, but rather a connection to a deeply held set of values and to a purpose beyond our self-interest.
While physical energy gives us fuel, Spiritual Fitness is the root of what energises us.
Spiritual Fitness is about knowing yourself and what you want most for your life:
- Who you are, why you get out of bed each day, the direction you want to go — your purpose
- How you want to get there — your values
- What makes you tick — your motivations
- Understand what you are good at — your strengths — and not good at — your weaknesses
Sustainable companies have clear visions of where they want to go, clarity of why they are doing it and how they want to get there. The same goes for individuals who want to live an energetic and fulfilled life.
To get you through the tough times you will need as much energy as you can muster and learn how to manage your energy skillfully. You can’t do that effectively unless you understand yourself.
When you know yourself you will understand the source of what energises you and what doesn’t.
Many people don’t recognise that purpose and meaning can be valuable sources of energy. I can tell you from personal experience that they are invaluable sources.
Top tips for Spiritual Fitness
The journey from start up to scale up and beyond is hard at the best of times. During a recession it will be even more challenging.
Too often, we put our businesses, and others before ourselves. We say yes to too many things. Our energy is dispersed in too many disparate directions.
The result being we are not performing to our full potential. We offer the world a lesser version of ourselves.
When you harness and maximise your own energy, you perform to a higher level.
Your energy can mobilise others to use their energy in service of a purpose or mission or goal. And with the combined energies you can get through the tough times and achieve far more than you ever thought possible.
If you focus on improving your energy levels using the PERMS framework, you will become physically energised, emotionally and socially connected, mentally focused and fit for purpose.
You only get one vessel to take you through life, so look after that vessel as best you can.
My advice as a first step would be to complete the PERMS Energy Check-in — Are you fully energised? to see which areas you should prioritise. You can’t do everything!
Originally published at https://markfarrerbrown.substack.com on August 9, 2022.