MyPeople Meets is a series of articles featuring influential business people answering questions about what motivates them, their views on organisational values and high performance cultures along with personal insights on why they do what they do. This month, we meet Charlie Hodgson, founder and CEO of Charlie Hodgson Performance, which aims to help business people combat stress. As a former England rugby player, Charlie has built on the unique experiences from his professional playing career.
Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do…
I’m an ex professional rugby player, turned business coach, focusing on stress management and leadership. I had many ups and downs throughout my career and I wanted to use that experience in a positive way to help busy professionals and leaders manage their own levels of stress to improve productivity and ultimately help avoid burnout.
What has been your biggest career defining moment and why?
Probably retirement from professional sport and transitioning in to the ‘real world’. In sport, you are very much institutionalised in terms of where to be, what to do, what to wear and what to eat. Suddenly your identity has changed and you’re figuring out who you are and what is going to get you out of bed each day. Three years into retirement and I still have difficult days.
Following your years in professional rugby, how did you overcome press scrutiny, high expectations and the negative impact this had to your mental health?
Part of it just came from experience. As time went on, I grew a thicker skin and things that were said didn’t affect me as much.
The other part was finding a personal strategy that helped me deal with certain situations:
- Making sure I controlled the things I could control and not worry about external factors
- Looking at things with perspective. It was pressurised, but wasn’t life or death.
- Focusing on the positive and the things I could do, not the things I couldn’t. This was amplified using positive self-talk when playing and when at home.
- Surrounding myself with good people.
What happens when stress and pressure begins to negatively impact our work, home life and relationships?
Everyone is different and we all experience stress in all shapes and forms. Of course, the negative impact speaks for itself and productivity and performance will suffer as a result. The important thing is to be able to recognise it in yourself and your colleagues and then, most importantly, talk to someone who can help.
How do you recommend combating prolonged exposure to stress to protect against the sometimes debilitating impact on our health?
We all need stress to perform to our optimal level. Without it, life becomes a little boring and we can even become stressed because we are not stimulated. It is essential to find something that suits us individually. What works for one person will not work for someone else. Some definite solutions include:
Exercise daily, even if it’s a 30 minute walk over your lunch period.
- Remove any technology from your bedroom, whether that’s your phone or a tv. The mental stimulation keeps our brains active when we should be switching off.
- Reduce alcohol intake when you get home from work. It will have an impact on your sleep quality, and you end up layering on another level of stress to what will already be high from your day’s work.
- Make sure you take regular breaks.
- Finally, when you feel a little overwhelmed at your desk: ‘If you can’t think, move. If you can’t move, breathe.’
What is the importance of developing a positive and supportive culture in an organisation?
I know from my experience in rugby that the teams that are supportive and positive have better outcomes. When you add the research done by Gottman, J and Goleman, who suggest that the most successful partnerships and teams have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions, it really becomes an important aspect of a strong culture.
If leadership is genuinely about looking after those in our charge, what key elements need to be understood?
Ourselves and how we react around others. I would hazard a guess that the most successful leaders are the ones that are the most self-aware. They understand where their limits lie, and they are not afraid to ask for help if needed. Plus, they understand how their reactions will impact their teams in either a positive or negative way. Their behaviour, whether it is good or bad, ultimately sets the tone for what happens throughout the rest of the organisation.
How do you break down barriers between different teams within an organisation and help people work together?
Create moments where people are together, but not just in meetings discussing the day to day challenges. It is vital they understand what their respective departments/teams are doing as well as the impact that certain decisions will have on each team. It is also important for people to know where their challenges lie and how they may be able to help each other. Most problems occur as a result of poor communication and, if people are second guessing, cause unnecessary angst.
What does High-Performance Culture mean for you?
A group of talented and supportive people all pushing towards a common goal. Honest and open enough to make and admit to mistakes. And, most importantly, have the desire to learn and get better.
Are there any challenges you’re facing these days?
Working on my own and sales! I am constantly learning about myself and about business.
Since retiring from rugby, what kind of physical activities do you like doing?
I like road cycling in the summer months (fair weather only!). Mostly I go to the gym and have a varied training program. Actually, I’m winging it, but I’ve done enough training sessions over the years to be able to recall something I enjoy.
What skill or talent would you most like to learn next?
This is neither a skill nor talent but I would actually like to be more disciplined with myself to read more. I can be quick to blame a lack of time or having kids, but it’s no excuse really!
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island, what one item I would you take and why?
Swiss army knife. I’m rubbish at the outdoors stuff, but hopefully this would help me in times of need!
To download a PDF of this interview click here
To visit Charlie Hodgson Performance click here