Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
“The term ‘bending the metal’ refers to a driven person, who tenaciously works at their respective career, over many years, dealing with valleys and mountains, breaking and remoulding many times—to the point of solid, unbreakable, and entirely presentable on the outside, i.e. metal.
Such a person finds themself dealing with daily or monthly pressures, resulting in them continuously challenging themselves or being challenged outside of their comfort zone, overcoming formidable obstacles, i.e. bending the metal.”
For many people, most days are repetition. From week to week or month to month, their days pretty much work on a rinse and repeat basis. Yes, they might endure demanding clients or an unruly work colleague—but this does not mean they are being forced to delve multiple times a day into their hard-earned experience and their educated characters to find successful solutions or methods of self-evolution which hold significant influence and impact.
There are very people who can relate to the term “bending the metal”; therefore, we interview two resilient leaders who are the embodiment of this way of thought processing, Dr Bianca Cooper, Principal Clinical Manager at Mediclinic Newcastle and Mr Bryn Thomas, Executive Head of Curro Mount Richmore Independent School—who, through commitment, creativity and depth, have indeed personified the term, bending the metal.
As a medical professional, Dr Cooper states, “Bending the metal is frequently required in emergency centre work. The nature of the job is unpredictable and stressful, as at any time, a large number of patients can arrive simultaneously, or just one very sick or injured patient requiring prolonged intensive care, and the only way to survive is to be malleable – a certain part of this is personality, and a larger part results from training and experience.”
Considering this, she adds that the emergency centre team continually plays chess to manage the unit’s patients and keep the queue moving. “While we are always prepared for the worst, there are times when we can get overwhelmed. What pushes me to keep going during those periods, is the knowledge that I am the person best equipped to deal with that situation. With many years of dedicated experience in private emergency centre work, I have learnt many tricks to keep the fires out during busy periods.”
Moreover, she highlights the pandemic presented the most significant persistent challenge she has ever encountered in her career—not only dealing with multiple extremely sick patients but simultaneously trying to manage the waiting times, which were often longer than usual while trying to reassure the less ill patients who can be safely managed at home.
She elaborates further, “The emergency centre team, I believe, is made of much more flexible metal than many other careers, meaning we can bend further and in more directions before reaching breaking point. Unfortunately, we are not completely indestructible and must always practice self-care to ensure we don’t reach this point.”
Delving into the educational sector, Bryn Thomas points out that he prefers to view issues faced in his career as challenges and not problems. The reason for this, he states, if you see a hurdle as a problem, it becomes more difficult to resolve. “It becomes so much easier in my view to find the solution when it is a challenge, because it is more exciting.”
Additionally, Thomas explains in management, leaders in various industries often find themselves extinguishing fires. “You sometimes feel as though you are this little fireman running around, dealing with all these different challenges and fixing each one as you go.” Due to these unexpected trials, he stresses that one needs to be mentally and emotionally healthy, thereby capable of bending to the various moulds or shapes one might have to take on.
“In the line of work we are in, as leaders, we continually have to manage people being in conflict with each other, and possibly being in conflict with us or our business. How we go about managing that conflict takes you through those valleys and those mountains, and moulds us into the kind of person and leader we are.” At the end of the day, Thomas highlights that while leaders in the education sector want to see themselves and their staff happy and obtaining job fulfilment, their roles transcend their own desires. He illuminates, “Ultimately, I know not everyone wants to hear this, in particular in a school environment, but we are providing a service to parents, and we are making a profit for the private school, and that is my goal. My goal is to make a profit.”
Such is the importance of achieving this goal; he elucidates Curro Mount Richmore’s psychologist, Jarryd Byron, recently gave the school’s management team a motivational talk on the word success. This saw Byron ask the team what was important to them in their careers and what success meant to them. While they provided noble answers, which included making a positive difference in their learners’ lives, Thomas stresses for him; success equals profit.
To achieve his goals, while addressing various challenges, Thomas emphasises there are key factors that he believes are necessary to bend the metal. The first being time management, which he states involves managing both his calendar and diary. “One of the things I do on a Friday is I plan my week to come. I go through my calendar, and I plan what I’m doing.” This includes allocating times, where he walks around the school, being visible, interacting with middle management and staff who have the potential to be middle management. “I think if you manage your calendar like that, it makes a massive difference.”
Moreover, he highlights the importance of continuously updating one’s work diary. This is to ensure one does not forget essential tasks, which hampers time management. However, Thomas takes an extra step in ensuring he optimises his time at work. “When I am under the pump and pressure, I come in early and leave late. So generally, my hours are like everybody else, but every now and then, I will put in a lot of time and effort to come in at 5 am and leave at 7 pm.”
When looking at how he manages the fire thrown at him every day, remaining unbreakable, solid and presentable to the outside world, he affirms, emotional consistency is imperative. “If it is not life and death, 99% of the time, you have no excuse not to remain emotionally consistent.” This means it is imperative to gather the necessary information, calm down and evaluate the situation before responding. The importance of this, he clarifies, in his experience and from a business perspective, prevents losing your cool—as doing so always results in a negative outcome.
To persistently be brilliant should be everyone’s goal, as those who have to drive themselves regardless of their opinion or feelings, become special as they can bend the metal when required.
With these two highly driven individuals shedding light on their processes, are you in a position requiring you to bend the metal?
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