Raphael Pasdeloup, Global Head of CWT Energy, Resources and Marine speaks with the president of Houston-based Cohegic, a management consulting, executive and sales coaching firm, Ravi Kathuria. Ravi is also president of the Houston Strategy Forum, which brings together a who’s who of Houston CEOs. The interview is the first in a series Raphael is hosting with business leaders in Houston and in the ERM space.
For the inaugural talkfest, top of mind was how to deal with stress in your organization. Find out why Ravi recommends a ‘do nothing’ approach and invites his audience to quiet their minds through mind purge exercises.
Here are excerpts from the interview, edited for brevity.
Raphael: Ravi, can you give me your view on the world we live in?
Ravi: The challenges for business is growing. We, as human beings, are facing an incredible amount of stress. We have so much geopolitical tension in the world. We have business tensions, and business in this digital age is moving at the speed of light. That is putting an incredible amount of stress on everyone in organizations. We live in a culture that’s outcome driven and that culture becomes very challenging to cope with.
Raphael: What do you hear most frequently from industry leaders and CEOs of large companies faced with that challenge?
Ravi: Companies do their best to have a long-term focus, but market volatility is putting a lot of pressure on CEOs. They have to respond to Wall Street. That results in decisions being made [that] are not in the long-term health of the company. These create huge challenges.
CEOs themselves, as they deal with marketplaces that are changing so fast, begin to question themselves. They have to learn to calm themselves down, or they get caught up in the frenzy. If people in organizations are not able to keep themselves calm and have the right perspective, they will make decisions that are not in the interest of the organization.
Raphael: Do you see that primarily in the US, or when you discuss with global leaders, something that is more of a global trend?
Ravi: The US culture is highly-competitive and very outcome-driven. But as we travel more, as we visit other global divisions of our companies, we’re all becoming a global community. The way that business is structured, it’s fundamentally structured around driving the organization and putting a lot of stress into the system.
Stress is almost like steroids, it will help you in the short-term, but long-term it’s going to debilitate the organization. You don’t want to use stress as your weapon of choice.
Raphael: Travel for business is a huge area of stress. All the variables to contend with. What’s your advice for road warriors and people who extensively travel to find a better balance?
Ravi: I was coaching a very senior executive whose job required him to travel all over the world. The problem was, he could not sleep on an airplane. He would work. He was on all the time.
I gave him the technique about purging the mind, where you sit down and take a few minutes every day, you pick the time, and let the mind just go through whatever it has gone through during the day. So if you have a meeting tomorrow, you don’t start engaging thoughts about preparing for the meeting that’s coming tomorrow. You just go through today’s events. It’s like we eat food every day, and we let the body process that food and throw away the waste the next day.
Similarly, our mind needs to process what it has gone through because if you don’t process and let the mind work through it, these get buried in your subconscious.
There is nothing else in this world that will have a bigger impact on your life than learning how to quiet your mind. If you quiet your mind, your performance at work improves because your objectivity improves, your creativity improves. Your fear goes down.
Raphael: What attitude, behavior, or practice can leaders show in the workplace so that everyone is more effective and gain in productivity?
Ravi: Dedicate some time to what I call ‘do nothing’ activity. Every weekend, you take 15-20 minutes for doing nothing. It’s really powerful when you sit back and do nothing. What it does is it allows your stress to leave your body and to leave your mind. We’re always on. When we wake up at 3:00 am, the first thing we do is reach for our phone to see what emails have come. We have to step back from all of this.
Doing the mind purge exercises on the weekdays, and setting aside 15-20 minutes on the weekend to do nothing, you will find your attitude will change. You’ll find that the circumstances around you are not going to change but your ability to deal with these circumstances will become much better as you go through these exercises.