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Mind Control

Posted in: Blog, by kayleighb2a, on 28th October 2013 | 0 comments

– Mark Topley, CEO

It has been three years now since I took over as Chief Executive of Bridge2Aid.  The time has flown by and although I can’t say I have loved every minute, being in the role has been a experience and a great learning curve for me.  We have certainly had our ups and downs in that time and at the time of writing (October 2013) we are facing some of the biggest challenges we have ever faced, but in the midst of some of the greatest success we have ever seen.

One of the toughest things I found in growing into this new role has been to set the tone for the team. By that, I mean modelling a level of energy, enthusiasm and positivity whether things were good or bad.

As a natural introvert and a more thoughtful type it is not my natural strength to be a get up and go type personality. For some people this comes naturally, but less so for me. But as the leader it is your job to set the tone for the rest of your team. Period.

No matter how you feel or what the circumstances look like, it is up to you to exude energy, enthusiasm and positivity. Not that you become unrealistic or don’t face challenges that are very real with a simplistic ‘it will be OK’, but even when you don’t feel like it, you simply have to force yourself to get together a good attitude and to model that to the team.

This comes down to a choice – how am I going to think about today and the challenges I am going to face up to?

Milton said “The mind can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven” and this is certainly been my experience over the past couple of years.

The truth is that we create our own reality.  How we choose to approach any situation is completely our choice. The opportunity to decide on your response is always available. Stress is the same – it’s quite simply a response, and often a learned one to a situation or circumstance which presents itself.  But the choice of how we respond is always down to us. That is what separates us from every other created being.

I know that I have grown in this skill over the past three years, and that’s been due to some wise and trusted friends who have helped me steer through the difficult times. The ability to think positive and be positive is definitely something that requires discipline.  To somebody like me, as I have said it is not a natural response, but it is one that you can teach yourself.

And this isn’t just the job of the ‘leader’. As Robin Sharma champions in this book “The Leader without a Title” (which I heartily recommend) everyone in an organisation, no matter what position they are in, is a leader within an organisation.  It is the responsibility of everybody in the team.

And one of the most powerful things all leaders within teams need to do is to set this tone that I am talking about.

I’ve recently been reading “Boundaries for Leaders” by Henry Cloud.  One of the biggest principles that he expounds is that in leadership you get what you create or what you allow.  And this is very, very true when it comes to thinking in individuals and in groups.  As Cloud says;

“Whatever norms and behaviours get encoded and re-enforced determine what happens next – indeed what is possible.  The prevailing thinking patterns of a team or an organisation – its norms and beliefs systems – will define what it is and what it does.  Not to mention what it doesn’t do or what is doesn’t allow for.  And the leader’s boundaries determine the thinking that prevails.”

Wow! That’s powerful stuff.  Especially for those of us who are leaders (and that means all of us).

If this is true (and in my experience it definitely is) then simply by changing the way that we think ourselves, and the way that we allow our teams to think about a situation, we can quite literally change the outcome.

One of things that I am most proud of at the moment is the response of the Bridge2Aid team in the UK and Tanzania.  We have grown by 35% in terms of programme delivery this year, and to say that this has put a strain on the team would be an understatement.  This is particularly true during the last training program in the Lake Zone where there were a number of issues which they had to tackle.  Last week at our monthly team meeting when I called upon people to talk about the successes they had seen during the past month it was a huge encouragement to hear Joyce and other members of the dental team share about how in the face of some very difficult situations, at inconvenient times of the day and night, the whole team had responded not with a negative, “it can’t be done attitude”, but with a very positive, “how can we help, and how can we change this” response.

Although I am not there yet, I know I have changed a great deal in the past 3 years. When put in the hot seat as the leader of an organisation, you’re going to be called upon to do things that you didn’t think possible, and draw upon resources that you never thought were there.


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