Carmen Mettler: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent Times
Connectedness — Leaders need to connect to self, other and the whole. The ability to connect to self is fundamental in creating the ability to perceive things accurately and to move past limiting paradigms. The ability to connect to others means accepting and embracing others and relating to them in a way that builds them up, encourages, inspires them to be their best. The ability to connect to the whole is needed to perceive interconnections, challenge the status quo, and build creative solutions.
As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Carmen Mettler.
Carmen facilitates transformational journeys for individuals, teams and communities to learn, grow and evolve.
Since 1998, Carmen’s impact has been felt by thousands of individuals on learning, leadership, team and self-development journeys in learning institutions, business schools, universities, small, medium, and large businesses, including global listed companies and government and non-government organizations. Carmen has designed and facilitated transformational experiences for leaders across sectors as diverse as mining, manufacturing, public sector, retail and banking.
Carmen is committed to supporting clients, teams, and organizations through dynamic emergent processes to cultivate infinite mindsets and new ways of being, leading and working. This enables clients to access new possibilities for growth, transform limiting patterns and habits, discover their talents, gifts and unique purpose and contribution, unlock potential and creativity, challenge the status quo, shift paradigms, build coherence, awareness, and presence.
Carmen holds a Business Science degree in Finance and a Post graduate diploma in Accounting. She is the founder of Infinite Leadership, a consulting company that supports exponential change in organizations enabling clients to access new possibilities for growth and innovation. Carmen is a founding leader of the Evolve platform, a global online platform connecting members and leaders using an integrative approach to personal transformation. Carmen is a psychoanalyst in training at the CG Jung Institute in Zurich.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I discovered a passion for learning and teaching early on in my life, because I knew that education had the power to change our thinking. I grew up in South Africa, a divided society, and this was a source of much anger and frustration for me growing up. I wanted to find a way to empower myself and others to challenge the status quo and our mindsets. I taught music from the age of 16 and then accounting from the age of 19. I discovered a passion for developing leaders as a result of the many roles I took on in organizations.
I sought mentors and accreditations to help me grow my leadership capability and I joined a consulting company to support clients to build strategic leadership capability. My learning journey has meandered through multi-disciplinary modalities including depth psychology and Jungian analysis, Kahuna bodywork, Yoga, Body Alignment, Body Talk, Transformational Breathwork, Body Stress Release, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Homeopathy, Functional Medicine, Active Imagination, Rolfing, Nia, Modern Dance, Biodanza, Soul Painting, Poetry, Writing, Astrology, Mary Whitehouse’s Authentic Movement, Marion Woodman’s BodySoul Rhythms, Creative Consciousness Coaching, Shamanic Initiations and Training, Family and Shamanic Constellations and Biographical Counselling.
This learning journey has deepened my understanding and direct experience of the development of the self and the nature of the psyche, mind and body and has evolved into the wisdom practices and processes I now share with clients. In between all this learning, I also got married and had four children who I see as leaders. My definition of a leader is someone who takes responsibility for their actions, is courageous, compassionate, challenges the status quo, inspires new pathways and influences others positively.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I first started out, I took whatever jobs I could to pay the rent. One of them was as a waitress in London. This lasted one day as I soon realized that I had no aptitude for serving people. Another one was as an administrative assistant for a high-end fashion brand. This lasted 3 days. I hated every minute of it and after the third day I called the recruitment agency to say I couldn’t go back. I am no good at sealing envelopes. It is really important to know what you are good at and to find work that matches your talent. This taught me that everyone has different skills and different jobs exist to match those skills. It taught me to value my skills and to find work that allows me to express my talent. These were valuable lessons to learn in my 20s that set me up for fulfilling work assignments in my 30s.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are many people who showed up on my journey to provide inspiration, direction and guidance. Lindsay Falkov, a director in EY, a global consulting firm, was instrumental in helping to clarify and refine my value offering and launch me into my own practice. I spent 8 years working with Lindsay in EY to build their leadership advisory business and this became the platform from which I established my own business.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your organization started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
The vision of Infinite Leadership is to build leaders who are agile, adaptive, courageous, resilient, creative, aware, continuously learning, collaborating, creatively solving for problems and contributing value to their organizations.
These are leaders with infinite mindsets who challenge the status quo, are authentic, self-aware, compassionate, connected and creative. These leaders innovate, build trust and co-operation, and are driven by a sense of purpose to contribute to a sustainable world that works for everyone.
The vision serves the purpose of contributing to a sustainable world that works for everyone. It is essential to clarify the “Why” for yourself and your organization as this drives everything you do.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
What stands out for me is that during uncertain or difficult times, it is important to build psychological safety in the team. Psychological safety necessitates an environment of inclusion that is safe to learn and contribute in and in which it is safe and even encouraged to challenge the status quo without fear of being marginalized or punished.
During the pandemic, I facilitated teams from across multiple countries in a collaborative business transformation project. It was a challenging and difficult time. Everyone’s experience of and response to uncertainty is different, and when you create a space where people feel comfortable to share their experience, people feel secure and put in their best performance.
An environment needs to be created from the top that all ideas and questions are welcome and that there is space to be yourself, make mistakes, raise problems, and disagree with other without fear of being embarrassed or punished.
Listening to one another, being curious, caring and open-minded, not holding grudges, accepting each other’s differences instead of rejecting them, allowing tough issues to be brought up without fear, making it safe to ask for help and creating opportunities to find common ground all facilitated team coherence during challenging times.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
I haven’t experienced a moment of wanting to give up yet. In challenging times, especially during the pandemic, I used the opportunity to reimagine work and realign to what most matters to me.
You know, the greatest regret of the dying is that they did not live true to themselves. They lived consumed by fear, defenses, conditioning and by agendas and patterns they were not conscious of. We don’t realize how much of our lives are influenced by these unconscious agendas — survival adaptations, ways of thinking and operating that we were taught or that we inherited and which we repeat without thinking. Some of these patterns are harmful and despite our best intentions, we become slaves to our patterns because that’s how we are hardwired. Most of us are so busy being busy that we don’t take the time to slow down and ask ourselves if what we are doing is what we want to be doing and if it really matters to us.
It takes awareness and a conscious stepping out of our default mode to evaluate and question who we are and why we are here. This ability to reflect on our lives and to make the adjustments necessary to live true to ourselves, is what gets us through challenges. It’s what helped me to create meaning and a sense of purpose.
The invitation of knowing ourselves when accepted, sustains the drive to keep moving forward.
I’m an author and I believe that books have the power to change lives. Do you have a book in your life that impacted you and inspired you to be an effective leader? Can you share a story?
There are so many books that have inspired me. If I were to choose one book, it would have to be Memories, Dreams and Reflections by Carl Jung. The work of Carl Jung has inspired me to be courageous, challenge the status quo, accept the invitation of becoming more conscious, look inside instead of outside for answers, and think and act creatively.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
The leader needs to provide a safe space in which others can grow and thrive.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
The leader’s role is to connect to others in a way that builds them up, encourages, and brings out their highest potential. The leader needs to be able to convey the bigger picture and at the same time, demonstrate how everyone plays a role in realizing the vision. When people feel included in the vision and they can see how their contribution fits into the whole, they are inspired to put in their best performance.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
The only way to communicate difficult news is openly and honesty and with the utmost respect and compassion for those receiving the news. Strong leaders are not afraid to be open and vulnerable.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
This is where the ability to deal with paradox becomes so important. I have noticed with my clients in recent times that as soon as they make plans, the conditions and assumptions which formed the foundation of those plans, change almost immediately. This is making it virtually impossible to make plans.
One of the Finance teams I work with, have created an environment beyond plans where information is available in real time to assess the current situation and decisions are made based on the latest available information. There is no planning for the future, but rather responding to the current situation with creative solutions.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
The principle of connection to self, other and the whole build infinite mindsets and infinite leadership.
This principle moves us from alienation and isolation to interdependence and collaboration.
It moves us from scarcity to abundance, from limitation to growth and evolution, from stuck to dynamic flow, from seeing situations as hopeless to seeing them as brilliant opportunities. This shift requires awareness and attention.
When we intentionally connect to ourselves, others and the whole, we clear our lenses and perception and release ourselves from limiting beliefs and paradigms and we evolve. There is more possibility available when we are connected. We embrace the unknown when we are connected. We solve problems creatively when we are connected. We accept instead of reject each other’s differences when we are connected. We are aware of more of reality when we are connected. Connection gives us access to individual and collective power that we can harness for good.
Can you share 2 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
Doing what they have always done is a big mistake in a world that is exponentially challenging us to do things differently. I think Einstein called this insanity!
Seeing things as right or wrong or having a view of “either/or” is a big mistake in a world that is defined by paradox in which both outcomes or possibilities can be seen as right. Embracing the “both/and” is essential to navigate difficult times.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
Leaders need to connect to self, other and the whole. The ability to connect to self is fundamental in creating the ability to perceive things accurately and to move past limiting paradigms. The ability to connect to others means accepting and embracing others and relating to them in a way that builds them up, encourages, inspires them to be their best. The ability to connect to the whole is needed to perceive interconnections, challenge the status quo, and build creative solutions.
Infinite/ Growth Mindset
Leaders with infinite/ growth mindsets are continuous learners, failing fast and innovative. They challenge and question assumptions. They embrace change and adapt their behavior in diverse contexts. They dynamically advise and influence business. For these leaders, trying, failing, learning and finding new ways is progress. Even if the perfect result is not yet achieved.
Leaders who are curious, have the desire to know more about something or someone. They are willing to seek out and embrace the unknown. Instead of trying to process things logically as they may have done in the past, curiosity allows leaders to let go of needing control over all information and allows them to access more creativity in the moment.
Dealing with Paradox
Leaders need to be able to deal with seemingly opposing or contradictory perspectives. Dealing with paradox means being able to think in terms of “both/and” instead of “either/or”.
Leaders need to creatively respond to difficulties and find creative solutions to challenging situations. This means seeing difficulties as opportunities rather than obstacles.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
The idea that there is a kingdom within us worthy of deeper exploration is not a new one. It has been the source of religious, spiritual and scientific enquiry for centuries. There is a vast terrain inside of us, which, when we engage with it, connects us to the whole, a quantum field of possibilities and evolutionary impulse, constantly unfolding in the present on a natural gradient towards flourishing and thriving.
This is a source of huge creative potential waiting to be untapped. When I take a step back from the busyness and the striving and the constant doing, I relax into this spacious field and encounter images, direction and guidance that gently nudge me forward on the path I make by walking. There are no instructions for the path, and there is no right path. There is only the path we make by walking and by listening to the deep intelligence that already resides in us, waiting for us to connect with it.
When I am in touch with this intelligence, the same intelligence that created the universe, I widen my circle of awareness and compassion to include all of life, and what I do is no longer just for me, but serves a wider purpose. When I am in this space, I don’t ask myself what I want from life, but what life wants from me. And I take the next step. And the next. And that is how we make a life, rather than just a living. It’s what makes life worth living.
How can our readers further follow your work?
I will soon have a website up and running (by end of October) — carmenmettler.com
In the meantime readers can follow me on https://www.linkedin.com/in/carmenleemettler/
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!
Carmen Mettler: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Uncertain & Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.