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Train Your Brain to Succeed at Work

This article was based on episode 199 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Be eligible to get one of two available signed copies of her book, Thoughtfully Fit: Your Training Plan for Life and Business Success when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.

Top athletes train hard to get into physical shape. How might the idea of training hard apply to managers? Is there a way to whip ourselves into top managerial shape? According to Darcy Luoma, there is. Darcy is both a triathlon athlete and a highly sought-after coach and consultant who has worked with more than five hundred organizations in forty-eight industries to create high-performing people and teams. She shares with us lessons from her book Thoughtfully FIt: Your Training Plan for Life and Business Success in which she unpacks how to train your brain like an athlete trains their body. As a self-proclaimed peloton-addict, this is one of my favorite approaches to actualizing success at the office.

THE SIX SKILLS NEEDED TO OVERCOME COMMON HURDLES

After speaking with hundreds of clients, Darcy noticed a pattern. Six similar challenges kept on coming up. Darcy developed a model and a training plan to break through these challenges just as an athlete would do.


1. Stillness: Take Time For Rest And Quiet

Every serious athlete takes days to rest. This allows the body to recover and prepare for what’s coming next. Likewise, we can’t do things like put ourselves in back-to-back meetings without getting burned out. We need to create pauses or “stillness” in our work lives every day. This can be something as simple as a fifteen minute breather between each meeting or task. When we give our minds time to rest, we can recharge and therefore think more creatively and strategically.


2. Strength: Consciously Choose How You Show Up

One of the hardest challenges managers face every day is managing their emotions. The energy we bring to a situation or conversation can have a disproportionate effect on our team members. This is why it’s critical to stay calm. When we know how to shake off the stress or let the emotions pass by, we are able to interact with colleagues as our best selves.


3. Endurance: Get Unstuck

We get stuck for so many reasons. Maybe you’re trying to figure out how to get that promotion. Or you’re out of ideas on how to better connect and build a stronger relationship with a teammate. Whatever it is, we need to stick with the problem and see it through to a solution. Instead of just quitting or leaving the situation, we can build our endurance and discover new ideas or paths for moving forward. Sometimes the solution may be as simple as creating stillness in our lives so that we can think more clearly.


4. Flexibility: Accept Others As They Are

Sometimes we dream about how life would be better “if only if.” If only my boss was nicer. If only my colleague was more organized. If only I could count on my team members to follow through without me having to constantly remind them. The reality of life is that we can’t make other people change. We need to learn how to stretch ourselves to accept people as they are, or at the very least, to accept that we can’t change them and to work with what we’ve got.


5. Balance: Find Sweet Spot of What You Need And I Need

As a team, we’ve got shared goals and individual goals. We have shared values and our own personal values. We have our responsibilities and each of our team members have theirs. In order to work together most effectively, we need alignment. The more we can be straightforward about our priorities while learning about what others need, the easier it will be to find alignment in which everyone can work well together.


6. Agility: Respond Thoughtfully

We can get so easily thrown off when something doesn’t go as planned or someone behaves in an unexpected way. Instead of getting caught in the commotion, it’s important to step back for a moment. Maybe the person who just raised their voice at you didn’t get enough sleep last night because they were caring for a sick child. And unfortunately, we’re taking the brunt of their lack of sleep. Instead of jumping to conclusions, give yourself permission to pause. While it takes time to develop the awareness and restraint to not respond immediately, it pays off by not throwing more fuel on the fire.


BUILD A STRONG MENTAL CORE


A strong core is critical for an athlete’s success. According to Darcy, the same is true for managers. The core is composed of three factors: The ability to take a pause, reflect to gain perspective, and proceed in a thoughtful way. Each of the six skills is easier ot perform when your core is solid.


To strengthen your core, schedule times throughout the day to pause and take a breath. Reflect on what you’re doing and then proceed intentionally. As you become more accustomed to this practice, you’ll find it easier and more natural to do during moments of tension.


There’s a reason we call our jobs “work”. It takes a lot of work! We need to know how to train our minds for the challenging job of managing ourselves and other people. Training our physical bodies and our minds takes strikingly similar approaches. We need to value rest; without stillness, we cannot think straight. We need to build strength and agility to choose how we show up and how we respond to others’ emotions. We need to learn how to move forward when we feel stuck, and how to accept others as they are (even if they annoy you!). And we need to learn how to balance everyone’s talents, values and needs with our own in order to reach collective goals. If we build our mental core and learn how to pause, breath, and reevaluate, we can jump back into work with a fresh, positive attitude, and intentional action. None of this is easy. But with the right training, we can improve ourselves and elevate our teams.


KEEP UP WITH DARCY

Book: Thoughtfully Fit on Amazon


Be eligible to get one of two available signed copies of her book, Thoughtfully Fit: Your Training Plan for Life and Business Success when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join. Purchase individual episode guides at themodernmanager.com/shop to help you implement the learnings and continue to enhance your rockstar manager skills.


This article was based on episode 199 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.

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