Spoiler alert: it’s not to create value for your shareholders, nor is it to serve your customers brilliantly, neither is it to develop the best leaders from the next generation. All of these are laudable and legitimate aims but they will follow from the most important (and most over-looked) priority of the best leaders. Which is to

Create an environment in which you and your team are at your best every day.

If we met at a workshop or a presentation, then the chances are that I asked you to share a story of when you were ‘at your best’. It’s also pretty likely that I then asked you to consider the environment that brings out the best in you. Because, although we make choices every moment around how we behave, we are heavily influenced by the culture within which we’re making those choices.

In the workplace.

In the home.

In our own heads.

So, it makes sense to prioritise that culture and design it to bring out the best in ourselves and others. Here are the steps I believe are really important to creating a flourishing environment.

  1. Lead yourself effectively

For example, I know that I flourish when my environment:

  • Is explicitly appreciative but also appropriately challenging
  • encourages me to express and embrace the real me (warts and all) and to enable others to do the same
  • inspires me to explore the Path of Possibility (Brook & Brewerton)
  • enables me to bring the best of me to every conversation…but also provides compassion and empathy when I don’t.

I’ve learned that I wilt and falter when I’m in a judgemental and / or negative culture where the energy appears to be focussed on what’s wrong, who’s wrong and where I perceive a resistance to taking responsibility for ourselves and our behaviours.

It’s my responsibility to create and maintain an environment within which I can flourish. Then, and only then, can I help others. In which environment do you thrive?

  1. Co-develop how good it could get

It’s an exciting moment when I’m facilitating workshops when the participants begin answering this pivotal question: How good could it get? Especially when they realise that we’re serious. We really want to hear what they think, what they dream and aspire to for themselves, their team and their organisation. Leadership teams are often surprised at how innovative and insightful the ideas are and it’s certainly worth doing. How good could it get in your organisation?

  1. Know yourself and others.

I’m a huge advocate of the strengths approach and encourage individuals and teams to appreciate themselves and others through the Strengthscope suite of instruments: the individual and team tools. It’s a joy to see people really begin to grasp what energises them, what they can’t resist and what comes easily to them (and not necessarily to others). It’s an even greater joy when they spot and explicitly appreciate the strengths in others and start to experience how engaging and inspiring a positive culture can be.

How well do you know yourself and your colleagues?

  1. Cultivate energising habits

We can’t manage time but we can manage energy so I teach all my individual clients to really observe their energy levels and watch for their peaks and troughs. Then they can apply the energy wheel http://www.strengthsconsultancy.com/are-you-managing-your-time-or-your-energy-your-answer-matters/

These habits work well when applied individually but they work phenomenally well when whole teams choose to work together. It’s transformational.

Whole teams can choose to:

  • Begin all meetings (1:1 and groups) with ‘me at my best stories’
  • End all meetings with some appreciation and / or strength spotting
  • Give each other permission to use the Path of Possibility graphic to haul each other onto the right path
  • Inspire each other to find and maintain healthy and energising sleep, diet and exercise habits
  • Monitor each others self-talk and habits towards more compassionate ones

Managing our individual and collective energy is a hugely over-looked source of creativity, productivity and collaboration. Which energising habits could you embrace and share?

Creating an environment within which you and others thrive is the first rule of effective leadership.  Without it most other initiatives and intentions are significantly less likely to succeed and are definitely harder work.  Instead, create fertile ground within which your objectives can thrive.

If this sounds like something you’d Just remember to start with yourself first. It’s probably the hardest but it’s definitely the most important.