Self-Care; Taking Care of Yourself Means Taking Care of Your People
Leaders, please tune in, as this is a critical message, not only for your professional success, but for your health, happiness, and longevity.
For more on this topic, join me for my complimentary webinar on May 20 at Noon ET: The 8 Pillars of Grounded Leadership: How to Thrive in Today's New Normal.
We are all working insanely long hours right now, with limited breaks and no time to recharge our batteries. Yes, I am guilty of this too, at times, as it is easy to become overwhelmed with work. One day just blends into the next.
Understand this. When we operate under high levels of stress, we are doing ourselves and those around us a disservice. We cannot, and do not, perform at our best when we are overwhelmed with work, and that is a fact. It is critical that we take care of ourselves if we want to perform at a high level professionally and have enough energy left to care for our family and friends. Gone are the days where companies expect you to work 12-hour days each and every day – that is just not sustainable or humane. It should be the exception, not the norm, to work extended hours all the time. Your priorities are not aligned if you find yourself operating this way on a consistent basis. And, at the end of the day, who suffers? You do. Your family does. And so does your team.
Presently, the lines between our professional and personal lives are completely blurred. There are advantages to what we are all experiencing, and executives are realizing that they can operate their businesses differently, so good will come from this crisis. We can run businesses virtually, and there are many other valuable lessons we are learning through this stay-home-to-stay-safe era we are living in.
I want you to stop for a moment. Yes, it is about serving others and giving back – without question. But you cannot sacrifice your own health and happiness for a career. That is not what is going to make you successful, and that is not what life and work are about these days.
COVID-19 is stretching our boundaries like never before and teaching us, if not forcing us, all to get back to basics. We are all learning that we really do not need much to live and survive and have a comfortable life. We are also learning, or re-learning, that our family is our most valuable asset. And that is why we work so hard to begin with – to take care of them.
The other positive side of what this global crisis has done is it has helped make some leaders more humble, kind and caring. How amazing is that? We just need to keep up with those good habits moving forward. Employees are hungry for it, so make that part of how you lead on a consistent basis, not just during stressful times.
Leaders are leading with more humility and authenticity, providing positive role models for the leaders of the future. This is all amazing growth in the right direction, and one that will continue to transform leadership in beneficial ways in the years to come. I am extremely optimistic, but the hard truth is that this does not mean that a leader’s job is any easier today. In fact, it has gotten a little more challenging because of the unprecedented times the world is experiencing.
To me, leaders will perform at their best, on all levels, when they are comfortable integrating essential self-care into their lives. This practice is not just a “nice to have”. It is necessary to keep up and to thrive in times like today and in the future. Without it, leaders get burned out and are unable to provide inspiration. But when leaders practice self-care in a healthy manner, integrated fully into their lives, they benefit tremendously, and so do their loved ones, teams, and organization.
Old-School Leadership Thinking
Self-care for leaders should not be a controversial topic, in my opinion. But because of lingering, old-school attitudes about leadership, there is still a stigma that surrounds self-care for leaders. This type of thinking says they should be tough and maybe even a little insensitive to show how professional and strong they are. They should thrive under pressure and they should always demand more of themselves. In many ways, the old-school leadership model takes the humanity out of leadership entirely, and to me, that is a huge mistake.
Here is what the old-school thinking misses: Successful leadership is all about humanity. So, when you try to take the humanity away, the whole enterprise crumbles. Leaders who show themselves to be rigid and robotic also show their people that human qualities are not desirable in the workplace. This is how negative cycles of ineffective and uncaring leadership begin and where disengagement starts to take shape.
When Everyone Else Comes First
I also see examples of where leaders are overgiving, and self-sacrificing everything for their people. That is great until you become physically and emotionally drained, hit a wall due to fatigue, and burn out. This is an extreme example of leaders who want to bring their whole selves to their team and organization. They create safe spaces where people feel valued, will bring their best and are highly engaged in delivering for the company. But this often comes at a cost: All the time, effort, sweat, tears, and caring leaves them with an empty fuel tank. They have nothing left to give because they didn't give themselves enough down time. Time spent resting and rejuvenating with family can help fill the tank, but I believe self-care is something that is very personal, and should be integrated into every leader’s life – that is what will enable sustainable success.
Self-care means different things to different people, and there is no right or wrong in whatever activity or non-activity you decide you need to engaged in to recharge your batteries. It's entirely up to you. Reading.Taking a walk. Sitting in silence, meditating. Working out. Painting. Whatever activity feeds your soul and provides you with an escape from the day-to-day is a must, and it is up to you to define what self-care looks like for you. I encourage you to take some reflective time thinking about this, particularly if you do not have any hobbies or interests beyond work and family.
100% Guilt-Free Self-Care
I can hear the critical voices already – the ones who say taking time for self-care is “lazy” or that doing so shows you are not committed to the company. They may also make others feel guilty for taking time to rejuvenate their batteries, yet deep down inside, they may feel some realm of guilt for not nurturing themselves.
I see it all the time. Leaders feeling shame and guilt for desiring just a little time for themselves to recharge. It’s time we wake up to the fact that not taking this time is hurting your performance, and your ability to lead. When we are under stress and feel fatigued, we do not perform well – that is the brutal truth.
Leadership is an important role, and it is only one role of many that we play in our lives. Leaders are also parents, children, community members and stewards of the planet. They deal with life and loss, sadness and laughter just like everyone else. These aspects of life are what make us human. And for leaders, these are the aspects that tend to get neglected. And when that happens, the work suffers, and leaders can become ineffective.
When leaders fail to take care of themselves, they reduce their ability to be productive. They make more mistakes, and the quality of work suffers. Naturally, this trickles down and impacts our teams and employees, whose work also suffers as well.
Leaders who don’t take care of themselves suffer more negative stress, which leads to a decrease in creativity. Stress also leaves people feeling tired and physically rigid. This leads to emotional tiredness and rigidity, too, which does not bode well for the healthy flow of communication within an organization, whether you are working remotely or onsite.
So, if you feel like prioritizing self-care means that you are becoming “lazy,” or you feel like it should make you feel guilty, you need to let go of these ideas. Avoiding self-care is the opposite of lazy. It is proactive, and it should be done with the greater good in mind. Leaders who practice self-care don’t do it for themselves so they can get away from doing what needs to be done. They do it because they recognize that they – and their respective organizations – operate much more efficiently when self-care is prioritized.
Leaders should be prioritizing self-care as a must do and deliver the same message on a consistent basis to their respective teams as the same logic applies to them and their performance, health and well-being. Athletes don’t feel guilty for taking necessary rest days to let their muscles rest and rebuild. The most brilliant scientists take time away from their labs to enjoy life, and their work benefits from it. But for some reason, leaders are constantly given the message that they should feel guilty about their self-care efforts. Here’s the truth: There should be no guilt felt by leaders who maintain their lives in a healthy manner. In fact, this is a key differentiator between those who are high-performing leaders and those who do not engage in self-care.
More Self-Care Tips and Advice
What are your thoughts about self-care as it relates to leadership? Have you felt guilty in the past when you have taken time for yourself? Have you found effective ways to integrate self-care into your routine? I am extremely passionate about this topic, so feel free to reach out to me directly. I would love to chat with you in more detail. Call me at 1.855.871.3374 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Curious to learn more leadership best practices and insights? Join me for a complimentary webinar on May 20th, where we will explore The 8 Pillars of Grounded Leadership; How to Thrive in Today’s New Normal. Learn key insights and strategies that will help you amp up your leadership effectiveness and prepare you for the unknown future of world of work.
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Sending you all positive thoughts and please, take some time out to recharge your batteries!