Effective Leadership Requires Many Skills, Including Self-Care
Leadership is difficult. It involves a daily lineup of needed skills and responsibilities. Diplomacy, accountability, problem solving, decision making, delegating, goal setting, team building, innovative thinking… The list could go on for days.
Effective leaders—the kind that leave a positive imprint on our professional slate—understand that consistently bringing their A-game to their leadership role is essential. It is that A-game that develops team members and encourages them to bring their best to the table impacting the overall success of an organization.
I have the privilege of working with several A-game leaders, and I’ve been amazed at how many of them add a needed item to each day’s to-do list: self-care.
Leading in Self-Care
Jan leads a company of 30 employees, and she reports directly to the owner. The owner is not a regular fixture in the office but instead spends his time traveling the country attending conferences, meeting with current clients, and networking with potential clients. Jan faces a daily juggling act of managing the owner’s needs while also developing a green leadership team and encouraging them to take on the responsibilities associated with effective leadership. I was hired to assist with the leadership development of that team, and as part of my work, I also coach Jan on how to make that development most successful.
Arriving to the office earlier than others and often staying later as well, Jan realized early on in her employment that she’d need to find time every day—before going home to her husband and kids—to take care of herself. One of Jan’s solutions is what she calls her WP (walk-the-park) time. Every afternoon, without fail, Jan takes a half hour to walk in the park near her office. Whether she needs a scarf, hat, and coat, an umbrella, or a bottle of ice cold water, she braves the weather, soaks in the sounds of nature, and gets her feet moving on the pavement. She spends her walks focusing on pushing out the stressors and pulling in deep, cleansing breaths and the beauty around her.
Another client, Roger, hired me to help his team members communicate more effectively internally so they would, in turn, communicate better with clients as well. Roger needed a bit of encouragement in the area of self-care. In fact, he was vehemently opposed to it when I initially broached the topic.
I noticed early on in my work with Roger and his team that he could be relentless in his quest to achieve goals that had been set. When clients asked for fine-tuning on projects that had been completed by team members, Roger said yes and told his team to make it happen. If the fine-tuning turned into something more complex and time-consuming, the answer was still yes regardless of other project deadlines at the time.
I worked with Roger on the power of saying no. His yes answers were not only causing him a great deal of undue stress, but his team members were also feeling it. As Roger and his team became more stressed, communication worsened. Trust declined. And absences increased.
Roger is now mindful of how his agreements with clients could potentially negatively affect him and his team. He communicates with his team about incoming requests, and together they develop a timeline for completion. Clients have noticed the shift, too, and they like it. While their requests are no longer guaranteed to be completed immediately, the exceptional customer service they receive due to improved internal communication far outweighs what they were used to in the past.
Roger practices self-care by taking the time to celebrate company wins with his team. As they take a step back to appreciate the things that have gone well—big and small—they are able to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Practicing What I Preach
I have made a conscious effort to incorporate self-care into the work I do, too. After attending a business retreat recently, I made the choice to stay in the area two additional days by myself. In the past when I returned home from business conferences, I would barely unpack my suitcase before needing to jump back on the work treadmill. This time I consciously decided to do things differently.
I booked two days at a nearby resort. I reviewed notes from the retreat I’d just attended and developed ways I could put those new ideas to use; I met with a few clients by phone; I prepared for an upcoming speaking engagement.
I also sat on the beach and smelled the salty air, listened to the rolling waves, and watched young families enjoy time together. I ate whenever I decided it was time rather than by a prescribed clock telling me it was breakfast, lunch, or dinner time. I walked on the beach a lot, one of my favorite things to do. And sometimes, I simply sat in silence and basked in the glorious feeling of self-care.
How about you? How do you ensure that self-care is added to your overflowing schedule each week? If you’re thinking you don’t, I’m hopeful this is a good reminder to begin putting yourself and your care first. Those you’re surrounded by at home and at work will thank you for it. You may just end up thanking yourself as well!
For more tips on becoming an effective leader, take a look at part 1 and part 2 of this series.