The heartful leader – part 8

The heartful leader - part 8

Extraordinary outcomes through inspiration


In previous articles RAVI VENKATESAN  introduced the Heartful Leader framework, and explored Reputation, Trust & Relationships and Outer Behavior. He also explored what constitutes our Inner State and how to manage it by reversing negative cycles and triggering positive cycles. He then explored a 3-step process to make shifts to our behavior. In this article, RAVI looks at managing the Inner State and creating better long-term relationships and trust.

In part 3 of this series he discussed the components of Trust: Authenticity, Integrity, Capability and Reliability. Let’s dive into how management of the Inner State leads to behavioral shifts, and can address each component.

Take the example of Jennifer. She started as a Senior Leader with InnoComp, an HR consulting firm that designs compensation structures for large companies. She made some quick changes to the company’s go to market strategy and pricing structures in the first few months, and also laid off some of the staff that had been there for a long time but did not seem to have relevant skills. All these changes led to suspicion and mistrust. Now she feels like she is not able to get things done as effectively as she would like. She works with Tina, her executive coach on a strategy to address this situation.

Tina identifies Jennifer’s challenge squarely as a trust issue. She took actions that were necessary, but they resulted in collateral damage. She needs to quickly build trust and establish better relationships. Tina recommends the Heartful Leader inside-out approach. She also advises Jennifer to focus on 2 to 3 key influencers on the team to begin with. Armed with this new knowledge, Jennifer gets to work.

She meets with 2 of the most influential team members, Tom and Susan, and initiates a candid conversation about how things have gone. Susan is a little hesitant with her response, but Tom openly shares that most of the team, including himself, view Jennifer as a threat and don’t believe she has their best interest at heart. Jennifer feels an immediate rush of anger. Her instinct is to tell Tom about how much pressure she has from her boss and the board. But she follows the 3-step process of noticing her inner state, getting to neutral, and shifting positive. Instead of her behavior being defensive, she addresses Tom’s comments directly: “I realize how you and the team feel. It is entirely on me to communicate better, not just about what is being done, but why it is being done. If I were in your shoes, I would have felt the same way. Do you think it would help if I provide more context around the actions we took?”

With this approach Jennifer immediately demonstrates authenticity and relatability. The rest of the conversation shifts to a constructive mode, and she gets a lot of great feedback from both Tom and Susan. She agrees to make some changes and sets expectations on some others that cannot be executed. Over time, as she does exactly what she says she will do, Tom and Susan become champions for her. Trust and relationships lead to a much more effective and enjoyable mode of working.

As a refresher, in part 4 of this series we talked about “cures” for relationships. Sincere apology, creating opportunities to collaborate, doing a favor without any expectation of one, and asking for help. By shifting herself from a negative inner state of anger to a positive inner state of compassion, reflecting outer behavior of collaboration instead of defensiveness, Jennifer was able to apply all these cures.

As an exercise, observe your inner state carefully in a work meeting where debates and heated discussions may occur. See if you can make a shift in your inner state and behavior when someone makes a negative comment or disagrees with you. Can you make this a habit? It is well worth it to build trust and great relationships.


Ravi Venkatesan

About Ravi Venkatesan

Ravi lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and is currently Head of Innovation at Bakkt. He is also a regular public speaker and public speaking coach. He has been a Heartfulness meditator for over 20 years and is passionate about applying meditation lessons to improve workplace relationships and productivity.

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