We all could use a deep breath.
Most teams and companies are still figuring out how to help support their people and engage with them remotely, in hybrid settings, and in-person gatherings. With all that businesspeople have been navigating: differing modes of communication, the expansion of remote workers, global health, issues of racism, social injustice and equity, political and economic uncertainty, they are also expected to maximize the experience, product or service that you are delivering to the marketplace. Deep breaths are needed.
The process of breathing for the human body is “the process of moving air into and out of the lungs to facilitate gas exchange with the internal environment, mostly to bring oxygen and flush out carbon dioxide.” The leaders role in teams and organizations is to breathe oxygen into their people with mindsets and actions that fuel energy, possibility, connection and progress while flushing out negativity, blame and toxins.
The best leaders and teams on the planet understand their role is to help breathe oxygen into their people that helps give energy, hope and life so that all are able to thrive in a complex environment. These leaders and cultures are intentionally inhaling and exhaling with their people. The air they breathe and the mindsets they bring to stimulate action is everything.
6 Mindsets To Breathe Oxygen Into Your People and Culture
1. Clarity — Vision + Direction is air that all need to breathe. Is your Mission clear? Is your Vision clear? Are you Values for how your team is committed to travel clear? Is your Strategy for the next priorities clear? If not, your team may be gasping for air. Every time you breathe oxygen into to these mindsets and concepts as a team, the air is easier for all to breathe. The path forward becomes clearer. Your team may not have all the answers, but they’ll have energy and clear direction on how to take the next step.
2. Inclusivity — Leaders in the world play an enormous role in widening the circle so that more diverse backgrounds, ideas, perspectives, and experiences have a seat at the table. Teams and organizations will lead the way forward in society by modeling how to have civil, respectful dialogue and educate people on the strengths of diversity, equity and inclusion. When our teams are inclusive and welcoming, it breathes life and energy into all. We’re stronger together.
3. Agility — Possibility + Adaptability is the name of the game in a changing world. Leaders have to practice breathing oxygen that allows their mind to find new ways of doing things and the courage to adapt to opportunities that emerge. If leaders return to the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mindset then they will sit back and watch the oxygen leave the room (and their people).
4. Grit — Resolve + Toughness is critical to help people navigate their way through obstacles, challenges, negativity, finger pointing, and division. Leaders help their people breathe oxygen that stays focused on the present moment and the actions that are needed in order to take the next step. Toughness isn’t about being physically stronger than others, it is about being able to be vulnerable with your people and still have the resolve to find solutions, together.
5. Rest — Teams and organizations have an unhealthy association with the concept of rest. Americans last year left 768 million days of vacation on the table with their employers. That equates to nearly $66 billion of lost benefits. We’ve forgotten that the research actually shows that deliberate rest is essential to elite performance. When we allow our bodies, minds and hearts to deliberately rest, we breathe more efficiently and are better at everything else.
6. Ownership — Accountability + Action are mindsets and oxygen that the best leaders and team cultures on the planet breathe. They connect the things they say they will do with positive accountability and action. Accountability isn’t a negative word, it’s a positive mantra that all take ownership of. In a world where people are quick to gossip, point fingers, and be critics about what isn’t working, the best leaders breathe oxygen into their people and shift conversations from blame to solutions-focused.
The best cultures proactively help their people breathe and navigate through obstacles, together. They intentionally choose to inhale positivity and the 6 mindsets above and exhale negativity, blame, gossip and division. The air they breathe dictates the quality of air for all. The ecosystem of their culture is grown, developed, cultivated and led with intentionality, one breath at a time.
The process for developing high-performing and engaged teams never stops and the best leaders, teams and organizations are committed to breathing oxygen in how they hire, onboard, do performance evaluations, develop emerging leaders, and recognize excellence. The best leaders invest in their teams and the air they breathe, together.
If you’re experiencing a lack of energy, passion or hope for the road ahead, it may be the air you’re breathing.
Jason V. Barger is the globally-celebrated author of Thermostat Cultures, ReMember and Step Back from the Baggage Claim as well as the host of The Thermostat podcast. His latest book Breathing Oxygen is set to be released in the Fall of 2021. As Founder of Step Back Leadership Consulting, he is a coveted keynote speaker, leadership coach and organizational consultant who is committed to engaging the minds and hearts of people and growing compelling cultures. Learn more at