My word – Vitality

My word – Vitality

By Dr. Galia Barhava

One of the most under-used words in the English language in my view is ‘vitality’. And yet, it is such a powerful word. Vitality speaks of energy, of fulfilment, and of a life worth living. We are drawn to people who emanate vitality. As a word, it makes me just feel better saying it – so I decided to claim it.  

It took me many years to realise that vitality is really the end game for so much of the individual coaching and organisational culture change work others and I have been engaged in. Organisations are certainly committing a lot of money and internal resources as they are trying to choreograph their culture. Programmes are underway to articulate organisational purpose, create inclusive cultures, and increase staff resilience. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that these features of organisational culture are, in-of-themselves, really important for us to work towards. But, after having deep conversations with thoughtful executives on the receiving end of these initiatives, I am often left feeling that they are so tired, and sometimes may even feel resentful, as if they are pushed to pursue these things rather than them being things they want to pursue. And so I fear that these worthy things – diversity and inclusion, resilience and purpose – risk becoming just one more thing on their ever-growing to-do lists.

The phase of change all around us is exhausting, and people have to relentlessly adapt. Many of us dedicated ourselves to train for a specific profession – law, accounting, HR, operations and so on. Many spent our entire careers working in well-defined roles with clear KPIs on which we used to be measured (and rewarded). And now we are asked to work in a more ‘agile way’, whatever that looks like. Many people are indeed somewhat lost in these new business realities; how are they supposed to work, be measured and rewarded in this new landscape and uncharted ways of working?

My question is, how can navigating this landscape become a source of vitality? The question is as relevant for senior leaders as it is for managers.

Leaders who are driving changes are doing so in the face of massive disruption to their industries. Emerging technologies, AI, robotics and the future of work are all here and firmly on their minds. As leaders, they have a duty and mandate to ensure their people can adapt to the changes. In this climate I can understand why leadership teams might want to anchor these changes on a compelling organisational ‘purpose’, or a set of values, or to heavily invest in training their staff to increase their resilience/learning agility so that they can better cope with the change.

But none of this speaks to me of hope, of possibilities, of buoyancy, of passion, of vigour and of energy. Vitality does – it is literally in the dictionary definition! 

I spend a lot of time thinking about words. Words are the outward expression of our inner thoughts and feelings. After working with hundreds of executives, and completing a doctorate, I am more convinced than ever before that we become the stories we tell ourselves.

We all love spending time with people who emanate vitality, as if it is infectious. As if by spending time with them, we might catch it. 

Vitality doesn’t happen by chance. In my experience, leaders and organisations who emanate vitality get there by being courageous, thoughtful and disciplined. They have a deep personal and organisational self-awareness, and they authentically address the things that need addressing for them personally and for their organisations.  Their behaviour lends itself to stories that become embedded in the culture and ways-of-being in their organisations.

What might we all become if we tell ourselves a story around creating an experience of vitality for us, and for those around us?