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Business | Leadership & Communication | Transport & Logistics

The yoga of rail

22 May 2018, by Amy Sarcevic

In an industry defined by rules, rigor and regulation it is often difficult to challenge the corporate traditions of rail.

Much like train tracks, the sector is notoriously linear and logical; with objective decision-making and short-term operational demands often taking precedence over more transformative leadership efforts.

On top of that, the high degree of multi-tasking required by many rail executive roles can deplete the mental resources and vigor required for leaders to engage in innovative and disruptive thinking.

The trouble is, this kind of revolutionary thinking is exactly what we need to be doing to be effective leaders in rail, according to renowned Author and Entrepreneur Dr. Polly McGee.

“With widespread disruption occurring throughout the transport sector, rail demands an increasing focus on innovation”, says Polly. “Traditional management practices are no longer enough to stay competitive in a rapidly-evolving and increasingly customer-centric world – or, just as importantly, to attract and retain a diverse workforce”.

Polly knows a thing or two about innovation. She was recently voted one of Australia’s most influential people in start-ups. She has managed multi-million-dollar innovation grants programs and worked with hundreds of start-ups to refine their business ideas and connect with their market.

Dr. Polly McGee, Author, Digital Strategist, Good Hustler

In recognition of this need – but apparent trade-off – between logic and creativity in rail governance, some of Polly’s latest work explores a link between two of her passions: yoga and leadership.

Polly challenges traditional approaches to business and explores how to practice more wholesome and effective leadership, through the application of yoga and meditation principles.

“Yoga isn’t something you typically associate with business, particularly in the rail sector”, says Polly. “It may seem completely paradoxical at first glance; but in the same way that yoga can create profound mental and physical transformations in the people who practice it, so too can it transform our approach to leadership”.

“The rhythms many of us are currently working in don’t foster creativity”, she adds. “By applying the principles of yoga to business, my aim is to address this issue through transforming people, so they in turn can transform their businesses.”

The yoga Polly is talking about is more than just a set of poses. It is a philosophical method of holistically working on creating self-discipline and happiness through greater self-awareness, instilling in people a ‘calm confidence’; exactly the right attributes she believes are needed for effective leadership.

Polly’s work is in response to research by the likes of Neuroscientist Daniel J Levitin, who highlights the detrimental impact of information burnout on our cognitive performance.

He says, “The kind of rapid, continual shifting we do with multitasking causes the brain to burn through fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time. We’ve literally depleted the nutrients in the brain. This compromise leads to a decline in both cognitive and physical performance”.

Polly hopes that yoga and meditation principles will enhance the mental acuity of rail executives, increasing their ability to engage in disruptive and creative thinking whilst managing everyday tasks.

She also acknowledges the views of Michel Ladrak from Transdev, who says it is ‘high time’ the rail sector stopped looking inwardly for solutions to some of its critical challenges and instead looks outwardly at the type of disruptive approaches that have worked for other industries.

Polly says, “We are in a transformational time globally in how we approach work and life. Texts on yogic philosophy like the Bhagavad Gita are sitting next to the Art of War in executive bookshelves now. These ancient teachings could have been written for today’s corporate issues. Only the centuries have changed, not our basic human condition”.

Dr. Polly McGee will outline details of her exciting new research at ARA’s AusRail Conference taking place 27-28 November 2018 in Canberra.

Learn more and register here.

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