How to be the best version of yourself

How to be ‘your best self’ is a BIG question! A question that may take a life time – and possibly longer – to master. Preparing for an event to senior HR professionals I asked myself how could I do something in one hour that would be helpful?

I started with an insight. When we are our best self we often don’t notice as things are going smoothly, it feels easy. We usually only become aware when things get tough that we’re no longer operating as our best self. I focussed on what we can do to be more of our best self, more of the time. And, specifically, what this means for HR and the vital role they play in organisations.

A recent survey found that HR professionals are happy, energised and find their work meaningful – so there’s plenty of opportunity for them to be their best self at work. But there’s a tension. Nearly a third experience a conflict between what their organisation expects of them and their professional beliefs and feel it’s often necessary to compromise ethical values to succeed in their company (CIPD people profession survey).

I’ve heard an HR Director describe this role as “the conscience of the organisation”. This requires professional courage. What happens when you can’t follow your conscience, when you’re not being heard, when you’re having to manage the fallout from unethical decisions and behaviour?

These are the times when it may be hardest to be your ‘best HR self’. It may take you outside your window of tolerance (Dr Daniel Siegel), impacting your ability to reflect, think rationally and make decisions, leaving you overwhelmed or withdrawn. This resonated with the senior HR professionals who were at the #beyourbestself MajorPlayers event last week.

The irony is the behavioural drivers that help us when we’re being our best self can get in the way when we’re under stress and at the edge of our window-of-tolerance. The executive who’s calm under pressure may become cold and distant. The leader with high standards may become overly critical of themselves and others. The manager who’s good with team members may become indecisive and unassertive.

There are things you can do to widen your window-of-tolerance:

1. A good starting point is to understand your behavioural drivers: how they help you on a good day, but can also become destructive when you’re stressed and under pressure. You can do this by completing a behavioural drivers questionnaire; it’s quick and there are many free resources available

2. Become more aware of your edge and your triggers – the situations, decisions, relationships that take you from being your best self to outside of your window of tolerance.

3. When you realise you’re outside of your window-of-tolerance try to re-connect with the here-and-now. By focusing on your physical sensations, the areas of stress in your body, you can take back control, even when you feel completely out of it. It takes some practice, but it’s easy to master once you become more attuned to the signals from your body.

Last week, as I listened to what’s expected of HR in today’s organisations and the support they provide, I was sometimes surprised and occasionally shocked by the stories. I was also full of admiration for how the professionals in the room made the most of the opportunities and managed the challenges inherent in their role – with humour, openness and courage.

Alison Green is a proud mother of two, senior marketing executive in the creative and health care sectors, and past member of Axa UK Diversity and Inclusion Board. Alison is an Accredited Executive Coach with Ashridge Business School, and a Director at WOMBA, and is passionate about helping clients realise their potential.