self care

Self-Care is A Must Especially During COVID Overwhelm

It might seem contradictory to say that the time when we need the most self care is when we’re overwhelmed, but it’s true.

Think about it: how essential is self-care when we’re already doing great?

Yeah, thought so.

To top it off, many of us are re-emerging after a year of living with mandates, lockdowns, and shortages. The one thing that has helped many of us to keep going is the notion of getting our old lives back.

Longing for the “good old days” – a cup of coffee enjoyed with co-workers, dinner out with friends and family – we all yearn for our pre-pandemic lives.

And yet, as we emerge slowly from the crisis, it isn’t all that simple.

We hoped that once we return to our ‘normal’ lives, we’d all breathe a sigh of relief.

But we’re not quite there yet.

Self-Care Should Be Every Leader’s Top Priority

There’s a new and hidden shadow following many that there is no vaccine for:
anxiety, depression, grief, and a host of other mental health issues.

Fortunately, many organizations are recognizing the stress and burnout in their employees and are extending pandemic benefits, offering flexible work hours and even time during the workday to destress, like taking an outdoor walk or even a visit to a museum.

It may sound cliché, but never has it been more impactful:

Self-care has never been more important than right now.

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”
–Christopher K. Germer

Self-Care: A Whole New Awareness

Wayne Jonas, MD, executive director of Samuel Integrative Health Programs, recently partnered with The Harris Poll for a survey of just over 2,000 adults, gauging the status of the participants’ mental health and self-care after a year of the pandemic:

  • 64% report giving more attention to their mental health than before
  • 38% plan to be more mindful regarding self-care post pandemic
  • 44% needed guidance to bolster their self-care efforts

Companies are responding to their employees’ burnout and increased stress levels with a variety of ways to promote self-care:

  • For one week, Mozilla shut down for “Wellness Week”
  • Shopify implemented “Rest & Refuel Fridays” globally
  • Marriott added 3 paid “TakeCare Days Off”
  • PepsiCo and other firms are extending paid time off, child (or elder) care benefits and offering flexible work schedules

Marianne Cooper, sociologist at Stanford University, summed up what workers and their employers face:

“Expecting people to just ‘return to work’ does not acknowledge the challenges and difficulties employees endured. Employers can’t expect employees to just pretend like we didn’t just live through a social catastrophe —
especially as that catastrophe continues to unfold around the world.”

“Employers need to understand the employees returning to the office are not the same people who left last March.”

Obviously, COVID-19 effects are not just physical.

We are a world suffering from pandemic fatigue. Women have left the workforce in record numbers and People of Color are suffering added impacts, as they are at greater risk of losing their jobs.

So where do we go from here?

Lead With Care and Empathy

self careLead by example.

In communicating with our employees, it can be helpful to share our concerns, too. Everyone bears some COVID scars. When we share our own discomforts, it allows us to demonstrate care and compassion – it makes us human in the eyes of our team and colleagues.

Harvard Business Review noted the importance for leaders to relate their own stories of mental health struggles. Sharing personal stories has been proven to be a successful way to open discussion so that others speak up about their own challenges, feelings, and emotions.

A sense of “they feel that, too” develops. The feeling of isolation is lessened, and a hope is instilled.

As an authentic, compassionate leader, lead by healthy behaviors:

  • Tell your team you’re taking a break for a walk outside.
  • Share that you’re having a therapy appointment. (One colleague of mine, a partner in a top auditing firm, actually blocks his calendar for all to see that he has therapy – bravo!!)
  • Have regular Check-ins: ask specific questions and listen to answers.
  • Offer flexibility, be accommodating.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all, band-aid solution to the problems brought on by the pandemic.

HBR writers Kelly Greenwood and Natasha Krol highlight the importance of flexibility:

“Being accommodating doesn’t necessarily mean lowering your standards.
Flexibility can help your team thrive amid the continued uncertainty.”

Leaders need to set an example and nurture a team that feels they are cared about, that their needs are being met, and most importantly – that their leader is available to listen.

Self-Care Strategies – for Leadership & Life

Tchiki Davis, Ph. D., offers up some simple self-care suggestions:

  • Get enough rest. Lack of sleep has a huge effect our whole being. Much research has been done to prove this. Tools such as Fitbits can help monitor our sleep patterns.
  • Eat right. It’s good for our bodies and our minds. Smoothies are a great way to get our fruits/veggies in: I have one every day.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety by daily exercise – find what most resonates & stay committed. Online yoga or bar classes lasting anywhere from 15-75 minutes can accommodate any level and schedule.
  • Learn to say ‘no’ to your non-priorities. Stop feeling obligated to others. Say ‘yes’ to self-care.
  • Treat yourself to a trip to the park or beach – just for you. This Summer, I took off by myself to a Cretan beach – was pure heaven. Self-care is truly a healing balm for the Soul.

“Surround yourself with people who reflect who you want to be and how you want to be.” – Unknown

Don’t forget to seek the company of supportive people – we all need a support circle. Yet when we think of “self-care,” we often overlook the impact our relationships can have. I am part of a global group of women who meet daily to support each other in our self-care habits. Many of us report that we wouldn’t be half as far in our lives if didn’t have each other to lean on.

While these strategies sound simple enough to incorporate into our routines, they’re things we often shrug off and say, “someday…” That someday is today.

“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow.
You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” – Eleanor Brownn

Want more simple, actionable leadership tips, delivered fresh to your inbox each week? Sign up for our FREE Weekly Bold Moves!

Women Make Awesome Leaders. So Why Aren’t More Actually Leading?

Traditions die hard. Women make great leaders, yet even in 2021, few hold top positions.

Humans tend to hold on to traditions because change is difficult. It’s easier to stay course on the same road than to take the one less traveled by.

And nowhere is that more visible than women in leadership roles.

“She was powerful. Not because she wasn’t scared, but because she went on so strongly, despite the fear.”
-Atticus

Despite oftentimes scoring higher than their male counterparts when it comes to leadership skills, the chief executive office largely remains male-dominated territory. In 2019, a paltry 4.9% of Fortune 500 CEOs and a meager 2% of S&P CEOS were women.

Women have been much more visible in the political arena, but that success hasn’t carried through to senior leadership positions in companies. That’s where tradition, biases and prejudices too often bolt the door to women candidates.

Perhaps Sheryl Sandberg summed up those hindrances best:

As a country and as a world, we are not comfortable with women in leadership roles. Little girls get called bossy all the time – a word that’s almost never used for boys – and that leads directly to the problems women face in the workforce.

Scoring High, Yet Missing the Leadership Mark…Why?

Plenty of research reveals that unconscious bias wields a major role in hiring and promoting women, which is ultimately reflected at the top levels within organizations.

These biases fly in the face of the high competencies, capabilities and aptitudes that women possess. Recent studies in Harvard Business Review revealed that women in leadership positions were viewed as being just as effective as men.

In their studies, women were rated as excelling in all these key areas of leadership:

  • taking initiative
  • undertaking self-development
  • performing with resilience
  • demonstrating high honesty and integrity

Women were believed to be much more effective in over 80% of the competencies that measure leadership traits.

Perpetual biases against women are common: Bold may be mistaken as overbearing. Tenacious can be unfairly judged as nagging. Even professional can be misinterpreted as icy and even “unfeminine.” Too often, those worn-out stereotypes and old prejudices get in the way – and when that happens, no one wins.

“One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”
– Jacinda Ardern (Prime Minister of New Zealand)

Leadership Confidence or Competence?

A lack of confidence in themselves that may be one factor that holds many women back. Many of us can relate to that sneaky inner saboteur that tells us we’re not good enough, or we don’t have the right experience, education, or professional network… Data since 2016 revealed that women under the age of 25 don’t view themselves with confidence. Writers Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman offer that those in that age group are probably much more competent than they believe themselves to be – that is the exact opposite from their male counterparts, who tend to be overconfident given their level of competence.

According to HBR data, as women age, their belief in themselves increases:

  • Rating confidence for the age group 25 to over 60 years of age, men gained only 8.5 percentile points, while women gained a whopping 29 percentile points.

HBR notes that different studies have led to different conclusions when it comes to confidence in women. In other words, building confidence is important – but it’s only one factor and certainly not an end-all, be-all solution.

  • Studies do agree, however, that women tend to shy away from applying for a job they don’t feel qualified for, while a man is inclined to forge ahead. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic writes that society in general is unable to distinguish between confidence and competence.

“We are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women…the only advantage that men have over women is the fact that manifestations of hubris – often masked as charisma or charm – are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.”

One Step Forward…One Back

Since the 2019 HBR statistics, there was a slight increase of women holding the title of CEO during the last year – which was an extremely challenging and tumultuous year for businesses. Writing in bizwomen, Anne Stych reported that in early 2020, women held 6.7% of CEO positions and by the end of the year, claimed 8% of CEO positions.

Those statistics were marred somewhat when JCPenney released the news that CEO Jill Soltau would step down and be replaced by Stanley Shashoua. This brings light to the “glass cliff” phenomenon – when women are hired during extremely challenging times in an industry with no certainty of success. Soltau’s replacement gives credence to a study by researchers Alison Cook and Christy Glass from Utah State, who found that after reviewing Fortune 500 companies over more than a decade, white women and men and women of color are more likely than white men to be given the top nod as CEO at struggling firms.

Hiring Based on Leadership Skills – or Style?

Writing in Forbes earlier this year, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, succinctly summed up why there aren’t more women leaders in charge:

“We live in a sham meritocracy, where we pretend to pick the best person for each job, while simply picking those we prefer: and when the jobs pay well, they are still overwhelming male.”

Chamorro-Premuzic notes hiring isn’t based on skills, but on style: we choose confidence over competence, charisma over humility, narcissism over integrity.

He dug deeper into just how well women do better than men:

  • men score higher than women in dark personality traits (aggression, psychopathy, and narcissism)
  • women generally perform better than men in humility, self-control, social skills, moral sensitivity, among others

Chamorro-Premuzic boldly asks what would happen if less time was spent telling women to be more confident, and more time choosing leaders based on actual competence.

“Equality isn’t exceptional women getting ahead, It is incompetent men falling behind.”
-Sarah Green Carmichael, Bloomberg

For thought-provoking leadership tips you can use in your daily life, sign up to receive our Weekly Bold Move. They are simple, absolutely free, and delivered fresh to your inbox each week. Your journey to bold, authentic transformation starts right here.

Silence

Leveraging the Quiet Power of Silence

As many parts of our society re-open and we enter a phase of the “new normal,” quiet time has never been more important.

We’ve become a plugged-in world. It’s not just the office, with its constant stream of interruptions, meetings, and distractions. It’s outside office hours, too, that seem to offer no respite from noise.

Zoom meetings disrupt home routines. During a relaxing dinner out, even if we’re chatting face to face with a friend, we abruptly ignore them to answer our phone.

We even take our phones into the bathroom with us. And into the bedroom…

Do we even remember what silence is? Most people shun it and have become so used to 24-7 noise that they’re uncomfortable in the silence.

And yet, silence is a powerful healer. The more hectic our lives are, the more we need silence. Our souls demand it.

Scientific data notes the mighty benefits of silence – its restorative abilities not only reduce stress, but can increase creativity, cognitive functions, and elevate mood.

Take a moment right now – in the silence – and discover why silence is truly golden – and good for your overall wellbeing.

Structured Silence: Going Beyond the Noise

What do author JK Rowling, psychiatrist Carl Jung, and Governor Jerry Brown have in common?

They all credit dedicated periods of silence as a component of their success.

The busier our lives are, the more critical it is for us to cultivate times of silence.

Silence fuels the brain, boosts energy levels, and even increases production of brain cells.

Recent research confirms the benefits of silence:

  • A study by Imke Kirste of Duke Medical School discovered that silence can stimulate the development of new brain cells in the hippocampus – the area of learning and memory.
  • Psychologist Jonathan Smallwood discovered that creativity was boosted when one is able to be in silence and focus self-generated thought – thoughts that occur when the mind is not interacting with the outside.
  • Physician Luciano Bernardi discovered that just two minutes of silence between musical pieces created more balance to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems than even ‘relaxing’ music.

The Impact of Noise in the Workplace

On the flip side, noise in the workplace can harm morale, creativity, and production.

  • The Journal of Environmental Psychology published a 2013 survey study noting that participants working in open floor plans were frustrated by distractions that they felt held their performance back. Nearly half the 43,000 employees surveyed felt the benefits of increased interaction of open floor plans were outweighed by the negative effects of increased noise levels.
  • The New Yorker reviewed research on open-plan offices and discovered that it did not enhance employee performance: it hurt productivity, attention spans, and hindered creative thinking and satisfaction.

“Work hard in silence, let your success be your noise.” ― Frank Ocean

Quiet Introvert or Bold Extrovert Leader: Which Style of Leadership for the Future?

Extroverted leadership is openly exhibited in politics, leading many to believe that the louder one speaks, the more boastful one is, and that bragging about achievements and being a noisemaker comprise a great leader.

Not so fast.

New research has discovered that for tackling the historic challenges of the world today, a quiet and introverted style of leadership may be the better way.

In an Open Learn article, we read that the value of introverts, notably in leadership, is not valued enough – this according to Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” She cites two notable introverts: Steve Jobs of Apple and physicist Albert Einstein.

The Hidden Power of an Introverted Leader

Research notes the benefits of introverts in leadership positions. Introverts:

  • Tend to listen to their teams more
  • Are humble, and more likely to give credit to their team
  • Give more thought before taking any action
  • Are unlikely to jeopardize performance by seeking greater benefits, such as money or power

This might be surprising to some, but it’s true: the workforce is made up of 40-60% introverts. Their success in leadership positions comes in their ability to listen – not to react – but to respond. And in today’s turbulent world, listening is a greatly valued trait.

Words Aren’t Everything:  Silence in Leadership

Successful leaders know the value of silence – it can speak louder than words.

Avery Blank offers leaders ways to make the most of silence in her Forbes article:

The value of silence can:

  • Highlight a point. Fewer words means we’re heard – when it matters most.
  • Cultivate trust. To build trust, we must listen –dominating with excess chatter does the opposite.
  • Empower others. It allows our team members to speak up with their ideas and give them opportunity to lead. It builds respect – and boosts our impact and reach as leaders.
  • Bring power during business negotiations. Silence can be a strategic tool that leaves a person wondering what you’re thinking.

Every leader should make a daily commitment to silence – even for just a few moments.

In the busy, noisy, congested (and increasingly digital) world we live in, many may think silence is meaningless, that it’s empty space that must be filled.

Not so.

We’re so busy listening to the world that we don’t take time to listen to ourselves, to self-reflect, to let our brains immerse in quiet healing, to take note of things we’ve overlooked.

And just as importantly, silence helps us hear things that are drowned out in our plugged-in world – leaves gently rustling on a windy day, birds singing their melodies, even the songs of evening insects on a warm summer night.

Sure, many people want to be seen – and heard. But the most important to first see and hear is ourself. Until we can do that, we really can’t do much of a good job seeing or hearing anyone else.

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” -Ram Dass

Want thought-provoking leadership tips you can use in your daily life? Sign up here to receive our Weekly Bold Move. It’s simple, to-the-point and absolutely free.  Your journey to bold, authentic transformation starts right here.

WHY Empathy is Key To Leadership (& How to Practice It)

Empathy. For many of us, that word may be synonymous with sympathy, caring and/or compassion. But it’s a little different than any of those terms – and in leadership it’s key to effectively leading organizational change. And if it sounds like woo-woo, think again…

Regardless of the setting, empathy can be defined as “the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings” of others. A definition from Psychology Today takes it further, explaining that empathy is about “experiencing another person’s point of view, rather than just one’s own, and enables prosocial or helping behaviors that come from within, rather than being forced.” 

The WHY Behind Practicing Empathy in Leadership

It only makes sense that cultivating empathy serves us well not only in everyday life, but in our professional relationships too. In an HBR article aptly titled “The Secret to Leading Organizational Change is Empathy,” author Patty Sanchez reiterates just how essential empathy is in the leadership world.

Sanchez cites studies on organizational change that demonstrate a widespread agreement amongst leaders on the importance of integrating empathy into communications to lead effective transformation.

The benefits are wide-reaching and impactful: first, leaders can more strongly connect with those in their organization, which can foster a sense of loyalty and encourage a team spirit.

Think about it:

When employees feel valued and understood, they’re much more likely to actually enjoy coming to work every day – and giving it their best. In the long run, the whole organization can enjoy the benefits of greater productivity, improved morale, and yes, even increased profits.

It’s no surprise that this can also induce a ripple effect of positivity that can not only inspire organizational change, but can also help to make it lasting and more meaningful. Those we lead have a deeper understanding of the organization and its goals. Instead of feeling like they’re just another number or cog in the wheel of never-ending change, our teams see their significance and the role they play in the change process.

Another benefit to demonstrating empathy is that in forgetting ourselves just for that moment when we are extending empathy, we are also simultaneously developing a greater sense of connection with ourselves – something many of us who don’t know all we need to do is to think about others – go to great lengths to achieve. Yet, it really is that simple.

What Does Empathy Look Like in the Business World?

Though empathy takes many forms, here are some common examples:

  • A manager understands that a team member is having a personal situation at home and grants him/her the needed time off.
  • Company leaders emphasize a culture of collaboration, understanding and acceptance instead of competition – particularly in challenging times.
  • A team leader expresses genuine interest in and works to encourage better teamwork, where each person feels like a respected, valued member.

When it comes to empathy, think authenticity. It doesn’t have to be an elusive concept – any leader can try practicing it in small doses when the situation calls for it. One simple way to start is by expressing our own vulnerabilities and sharing our weaknesses, where appropriate.

Like the old adage referring to the nature of anything that comes out of our mouths and which goes, “It’s not so much what you say, but how you say it,” in her HBR article, Patti Sanchez puts her own spin on it:

“How information is communicated to employees during a change matters more than what information is communicated.”

Particularly when it comes to organizational change and transformation, empathy plays a crucial role in whether the organization’s plans flourish…or fall flat.

3 Strategies for Integrating Empathy in Leadership

  1. Start With Sincerity.

If ever there was a golden key to expressing empathy effectively, it’s sincerity. When someone understands a leader is coming from a place of authenticity, it becomes a solid foundation. This establishes the trust so vital to a supportive culture – especially during times of organizational change.

Leadership tip: Proactively – and authentically – engage with team members, remembering to weave in personal details that demonstrate sincerity.

  1. Be Transparent.

This is very important when we’re leading change efforts because people are more likely to be actively engaged when they are informed. Transparency can also help everyone navigate through the inevitable discomforts and fears associated with change. It doesn’t mean the organization has to reveal every last detail, but keeping folks informed is likely to translate into deeper, lasting change.

Leadership tip: Talk to team members, get to know their fears – so you can address them openly and of course, with empathy. Hint: all of our fears can be boiled down to one of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. In other words, for all of us, when fear raises its uncomfortable head, it’s because we are afraid of not being safe, of not being loveable and/or of not being good enough. This may help narrow down the field as we seek to better understand those with whom we are working.

  1. Include Everyone.

Sometimes people think of organizational change as only involving those in leadership positions or certain high-ranking individuals within the organization. But this couldn’t be further from the truth: to truly lead impactful change, we must work to include every person, on every level of the organization – not just a select few.

Leadership tip: If your organization in the process of transformational change right now, take some time to thoughtfully consider how well leadership is bringing every employee on board. Remember everyone’s favorite radio station: WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?!).  Bearing this in mind will help all of us remember to bring everyone along with our ideas.

Unsurprisingly, Brené Brown also has some motivating words to say on this subject: “Empathy is simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of you’re not alone.”

Want more out-of-the box thoughts on leadership? Sign up here to receive our complimentary Weekly Bold Move. Your journey to bold, authentic transformation starts right here.

imposter syndrome

The Great Imposter: Is That Really You – or Merely Your Fear?

Truth be told, many successful leaders and entrepreneurs seriously question their abilities. We doubt whether we are as competent as others might think we are.

Quite plainly, we can sometimes feel like phonies and fear that at any time, our “fraud” will be called out – and we will be labeled as impostors for the world to shame.

Experiencing this “impostor syndrome” is not uncommon. Sheryl Sandberg, writing in her infamous book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, describes feeling like an imposter.

“Every time I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself — or even excelled — I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again.”

Many of us are probably sighing with relief at Sandberg’s confession, thinking finally someone admits to feeling the same way that we do.

Overcompensating to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

Living with the impostor syndrome is like a dog chasing its tail – doing more, preparing more, all to ensure that no one discovers your secret: that you think you’re a fraud.

The term imposter syndrome was first coined in the 1970s by a pair of psychologists, Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance. At first, it was applied to mainly to high-achieving women. But over the years, it has been recognized as a syndrome that many others experience.

Some of the common signs, among others are:

  • Doubting ourselves
  • Sabotaging our success
  • Claiming our success is due to external factors or luck
  • Overachieving

Research has suggested that entrepreneurs are more likely to display symptoms of the impostor role, since they are using their dreams/fantasy of a business to fuel their ideas into reality. (The Imposter Syndrome: Developmental and Societal Issues; Manfred F.R. Kets de Vres)

“It is because we are all imposters that we endure each other.”— Philosopher Emil Cioran

What Are Supposed Imposters Like on the Inside?

Although Impostor Syndrome isn’t acknowledged in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it does exist. It’s something that people don’t talk about.

“Part of the experience is that they’re afraid they’re going to be found out,” says Imes.

Those of us with impostor syndrome oftentimes were raised in families that placed an extreme value on achievement, according to Imes. “Self-worth becomes contingent on achieving.”

In our quest to be deeply seen and heard, we might fantasize about our parents being rich, being something other than what we actually are. Some of us, however, never learn to ‘tone down’ our grand self-images or our optimal parental images. We want to be treated according to our ideals – not according to our real achievements.

Those of us with the imposter syndrome may relate to any of the following:

  • Extremely sensitive to rejection
  • Afraid of social failure
  • Exhibit perfectionistic attitudes towards ourselves
  • Believe success is attributed to luck, likeability or attractiveness

We can believe we have fooled everyone and are not as competent or intelligent as others think we are.

It is believed 70% of people will have at least one episode of the imposter syndrome in their lives.

Conquer Imposter Syndrome by Recognizing Your Feelings

We can learn to overcome our feelings of being an imposter by:

  • Sharing feelings with mentors who can offer encouragement and support
  • Acknowledging our expertise
  • Recognizing all the things we are good at
  • Always remembering no one can meet all criteria of perfection – “perfect” is a matter of perception

“Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.” ~ Buddha

Beginning right now, believe in yourself – and empower yourself to lead authentically, with confidence. Sign up for our Bold Moves of the Week, always free & delivered fresh to your inbox each week.