High-performing leaders have a drive and work ethic that makes them seem superhuman. Instead of leaping over tall buildings in a single bound, they skip over weekends in hot pursuit of success. These goal-oriented doers and thinkers live, eat and breathe their work. They attack challenges and devour opportunities masterfully and consistently, with little doubt in their ability to do so.
Sadly, this is also the group that often misses the warning signs. It may be illness and extreme fatigue, or super-sized anger laced tantrums or unexplained crying episodes. Sleep becomes evasive, and even small issues can become overwhelming. I know. I’ve been there and done some of that. When you’re on fire for what you do, the work can become consuming. And without some downtime to rest and refuel, reflect and reframe…to think…we will move from swimming to drowning over time.
The Benefit of Self-Care
Despite all of research that promotes sleep, healthy eating habits, and exercise as proven ways to help us live longer and lead happier, more resilient and productive lives, we still rather “push through the pain” to accomplish more in a day, or a lifetime. While we can rationalize that some stress is good to challenge us to the next level, too much stress and poor stress-management skills will eventually cause our mental and physical health to suffer a set back.
But I have a challenge for you. Reframe the way you think about self-care. Instead of seeing it as a sign of weakness, esteem it as essential to your success… a superpower even. Just think about it. How much better would you be if you had a good night’s sleep most nights? What if you started Monday morning with a hot cup of coffee because you like the taste not need the rush? Imagine the increased productivity you’d experience, the fresh ideas, and better insight into problem-solving, or just being a nicer person to be around. These are all wins, and perhaps the following self-care tips can help you get there:
The Choice is Yours
We may not want to admit it, but we do have a choice. We can choose to try one of the self-care tips mentioned above or choose to continue burning the candle at both ends. In one of my recent favorite books, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown, I read that successful leaders make decisions every day with attention to the “important few.” Clarity and focus for the rest of an organization won’t happen if leaders are unable to discern the important few, and without that focus, teams will become overwhelmed, confused and unduly stressed.
Choosing our priorities and being conscious and present to what and why we are choosing to say “yes” or “no” to something, allows us to right-size our commitments and create more successful and realistic outcomes. It feels awkward at first to change our adrenaline-induced to-do list to something more focused and “less than,” but in time, you’ll settle into a rhythm. Opting to be home for dinner a few nights a week, for example, and leaving the office by a particular time to help you get there should help you learn to increase your efficiencies and right-size your workload.
Time to Act
It’s not easy to change habits, and often successfully changing a habit begins with a choice to do one thing in the direction that you’d like to change. You might start with the following questions:
Jot 1-3 ideas down and schedule time on your calendar to try these new moves in your life to see what reduces stress, increases your ability to creatively think, and improve your health.
I’d love to hear how you are benefiting from choosing to make self-care a priority. Send me a note.
One of the most challenging things that we do as leaders is to give and receive feedback. It has been my experience as an executive coach and former leader that no matter how well crafted, feedback can be difficult to deliver in a way that builds trust and supports the development of your team, and yet it is a large part of our daily lives. Most assume that feedback is always negative although, by definition, it is simply the evaluation of your behavior, and can be either negative or positive. But for this post, let’s assume that the feedback you’re facing right now falls into the “needs improvement” column.
Glass Half Full?
As the saying goes, “negative feedback isn’t always bad and positive feedback isn’t always good.” If a leader is continually praising those around him or her, the assumption is that everyone is knocking the cover off the ball and there’s no need for improvement, which is unlikely and a missed opportunity to challenge and develop people. Negative feedback, however, provided in the right context and with the right delivery and intention, is perhaps one of the best ways to elevate the performance of your team and set them up for long-term success. Great leaders find a way to reframe feedback from a judgment of who we are to an input mechanism for growth and development.
But what if it’s you, the leader, under the microscope? Are you prepared to receive feedback from peers, subordinates and supervisors in an open and curious way, or do you tend to go on the defensive when critiqued and shut down? Providing and receiving feedback requires transparency and a level of vulnerability that make most of us uncomfortable. But if you manage to channel the courage to give and receive feedback, and empower those around you to do the same without the fear of retaliation, you cultivate an honest dialogue the leads to better performance for both you and your team.
How to Receive Feedback
Here’s a bit of reality. Imagine that you start asking your direct reports for feedback, like, “What do I need to start doing, stop doing or continue doing to improve our working relationship?” Maybe one brave member of your team tells you that you need to stop scheduling so many meetings during lunch because that’s his only time to take a break during the day. As the leader, you have to decide if you are willing to hear the feedback and willing to change the behavior. If you aren’t willing to change the behavior, would you consider alternatives such as creating another opportunity for him to have a break later in the day? It is important to remember that giving and receiving feedback is only part of the equation. Demonstrating that the feedback has been heard through action creates the change.
Consider these tips for receiving feedback:
It is often said that feedback is a gift. Sometimes, it may feel like a gift you want to return, but I encourage you to hold on to it, open it up, and see the benefit it can be to you as a leader. It also takes non-defensive behavior to clearly articulate gratitude for the feedback and courage to be clear about what behaviors would be more effective, even if the corrective behaviors fall in your court. Embrace the art of feedback as one of your leadership super powers to be practiced and flexed to develop and engage others in pursuit of high performance.