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

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To Question or To Answer: What Does a Great Leader Do?

A common fallacy is that great leaders never have to ask questions – they inherently have all the answers.

But authentic leaders know that nothing could be further from the truth.

Impactful Leaders Realize the Power in Asking Questions

Jim Schleckser writing in Inc. compared a leader’s capacity to answer every question directed to them to that of a switchboard operator, trying to make the right connections to solve all the organization’s issues. And that, he says, not only limits leadership, but limits the organization’s growth as well.

Bold, impactful leaders know the tremendous power in asking questions. By asking the right questions, team members learn to strategize on their own to solve issues. And in this discovery, they strengthen their ability to figure out problems and heighten their self-esteem in the process: and that’s a win-win situation for growth and expansion.

“Good leaders ask great questions that inspire others to dream more, think more, learn more, do more, and become more.”

-John C. Maxwell

But there are times when leaders must ask questions – not only as part of personal growth, but of leadership growth as well.

And what are the common questions successful leaders oftentimes ask?

Most Leaders Will Relate to These Common Questions

As a Forbes Coaches Council Expert Panel wrote, there’s no shame in a successful business professional asking questions. Yet some leaders feel embarrassed and conflicted, realizing that others look to them for answers.

The Council discovered oftentimes many leaders question the same issues. Among the most commonly asked questions leaders faced:

  1. What do I do now? Leaders often ask this when their companies are flourishing, as they ponder the future.
  2. What do I need to change? Everyone realizes how difficult change is. Authentic leaders accept (and welcome) change when necessary to achieve strategic goals.
  3. Is it normal to feel like an imposter? Many leaders feel that others see inflated images of their abilities. Imposter syndrome is all too common.
  4. What if I don’t have all the answers? Appearing to have all the answers makes some leaders feel invulnerable. True leaders know they don’t have the answers to all questions…no one does.
  5. Is self-doubt normal? As the Forbes Council noted, all leaders have their own self-doubts – and think they’re the only ones who do. Not so. It’s a part of being human.
  6. How do I respond to sexist comments? Many leaders admit to being caught off guard and wish they had been better prepared.

Most leaders will be able to relate to these questions.

The realization that other successful leaders have the same internal dialogue may better enable us to reach out to others and share thoughts and reflections. The result? Deeper, more meaningful partnerships built on authenticity.

Creating Effective Dialogue in the New Virtual Reality

Whether it’s asking questions or providing answers, many regular face-to-face meetings have been replaced by a virtual environment as part of the new era of social distancing. For some, it’s an awkward way of communication.

Melissa Raffoni writing in Harvard Business Review notes that not only is it more difficult to ‘read’ people via on-line meetings, but distractions can easily pull people’s attention away in many different directions. All is not lost, Reffoni says – it’s a matter of requiring new skills, whether a bit of technical know-how or re-thinking strategy.

She offers 5 questions to ask as we lead in the new virtual environment:

  1. Are we being strategic enough?
  2. How up to date are our communication plans?
  3. Review employee responsibilities in the new virtual environment: some people may thrive online; others need more support. Are our employees thriving on-line? If not, what do they need to flourish?
  4. How well are we focusing – and communicating – about the big picture?
  5. How can we further strengthen company culture?

Raffoni quotes Michael Porter from “What Is Strategy?”: “New [strategic] positions open up because of change…new needs emerge as societies evolve.”

Here’s a tip: Not all questions need to be directed outward. Most impactful leaders realize the importance of self-reflection, of time spent alone asking ourselves key questions. This can be a deep, profoundly insightful way to learn more about ourselves and how we interpret our experiences.

We all realize now that there is a new normal in life as a result of the pandemic. What is that new normal? It’s a realization that there isn’t one. What a paradox, right?

Bold leaders realize that there isn’t just one new normal, ask meaningful questions, seek impactful answers, and through their resilience, adapt to new ways of doing business. Today, may we all ask the important questions to spark great change.

“The little girl who asks, “Why is the sky blue?” becomes the woman who changes the world.”

-Sheryl Sandberg

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Body Wisdom: An Essential Part Of Great Leadership

Body Wisdom: An Essential Part Of Great Leadership

Have you ever decided to do something—or not do something—based on a “gut feeling?” Your head was giving you facts to lead you in the opposite direction, but you made your choice because it physically “felt” like the right way to proceed—and it was.

This is body wisdom. While we tend to rely on our intellect and even our emotions to make decisions, it’s also important to learn how to listen to what your body is telling you, because it often has the answer that’s in our best interests.

Building Body Awareness

Our body often is the first thing that lets us know if we’re stressed, angry, excited. Our stomach churns, our heart beats faster, we feel “butterflies” in our stomach, we suddenly stand up.

According to the website Leadership That Works, “Our desire for change starts in our body…The world of thought and evaluation is a tiny fraction of the knowledge that is available to us. Paying attention to the body gives us a deeper sense of our innate wisdom.”

The site Wisdom Works says, “While our minds naturally delete, distort, and generalize information to make the complexity of our worlds easier to digest, our body simply tells it like it is. Once we get waylaid by any of the common triggers of stress, our body speaks up loud and clear.”

If you start building an awareness of how your body reacts in different situations, you’re learning how to understand the wisdom it has to offer and then use that when making choices or decisions. You’ll also know when your stress levels are creeping up so you can take steps to avoid a resulting illness.

Body Wisdom And Leadership

The body’s wisdom can be a huge asset in business leadership. Wise leaders are in touch with and able to correctly interpret what their body is telling them regarding any number of decisions and what effect those decisions are having on you as a leader.

“Being ‘body wise’ can help us lead better,” states Wisdom Works. “Our physical being echoes every thought, feeling, and action we take. As a result, information from our body is a trustworthy feedback and guidance system, always at our disposal. When we ignore our bodies’ wisdom, we put ourselves and our teams at risk for poor performance and burnout…”

Effective leaders have learned how to consult their bodies, as well as their hearts and minds, to make decisions that positively impact themselves, their teams, and the world at large.

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Heart-Centered Leadership Traits

Effective Leadership Starts With Your Heart

Endless books and articles have strategies on how to build your business and increase profits through effective leadership. However, current research is proving that more effective, long-term success happens when you lead with your heart.

A People-First Approach

The site Leadership Freak describes heart-centered leadership as difficult but also potentially life-changing for both the leaders and those they manage because it puts people ahead of business outcomes. While a competent leader will expect results, an extraordinary leader asks for those results using a heart-centered approach.

It’s about finding the right balance. “All heart without results is weak. All results without heart is ugly,” says the site.

In a recent Inc.com article, Susan Steinbrecher, CEO of Steinbrecher and Associates, cites a 2012 Towers-Watson study of 50 global companies and their leadership strategies. The companies that focused on a people-first leadership approach and other people-centric business strategies had a one-year operating margin that was three times higher than companies who ignored this strategy.

According to Steinbrecher, “There is strong evidence that these results may be due to the positive impact that a more heart-centered leadership approach has on employee performance.”

Heart-Centered Leadership Traits

Below is a partial list of the qualities found in a heart-centered leader, taken from the Leadership Freak and Inc.com sites. If you see yourself in this list, congratulations! If you don’t, consider trying to work them into your management style. You might be amazed at what happens for you and your team.

Heart-centered leadership means:

  • You care more about values than results.
  • You speak the truth to others, and expect them to so the same with you.
  • Your goal is to serve the people you lead rather than them serving you.
  • You are compassionate, grateful, and a good listener.
  • You’re not afraid to admit your mistakes and ask forgiveness from others.
  • You’re committed to personal and professional growth for both you and your team members.
  • You work hard to build self-esteem in others and help them shine.
  • You assume the good in others, even if their actions indicate otherwise.
  • You consistently touch base with your team for both business and personal conversations.
  • You are dedicated to making a difference in your life, the lives of your team, and society as a whole.

To be an effective leader with a thriving business, plan with your head but lead with your heart.

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The Impact Of Body Language On Success

The Impact Of Body Language On Success

Most people believe that success is a function of brainpower—that intelligent people either are now or will be successful at something in life.

The truth is that success is a result of many different variables, and recent studies have shown that a good brain is not the only key to achievement. Your body language also plays a significant role in helping you grab the brass ring, and there’s science to back this up.

The Science Of Body Language

In a recent Huffington Post article, Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, discussed a study done by Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy on the impact of body language on success. Cuddy showed that “people who use positive body language are more likable, competent, persuasive, and emotionally intelligent.”

Positive body language includes any targeted gestures that help get your message across, such as eye contact and body stance.

Cuddy found that the right body language actually affects your hormones, making you feel more confident. It also helps you appear more likable and competent to the person or group you’re dealing with and has a powerful role around influencing the attitudes of others. Finally, improving your body language helps you to more effectively share your emotions and ideas with others.

Examples Of Positive Body Positions

The site 99u.com describes some kinds of body language that can help take you from negative and scared to positive and confident.

Open Up – Known as the “Power Posture,” this is standing with your feet wide apart and your hands on your hips or spread apart on a table in front of you. Spending time in this pose “increases testosterone, risk taking, pain tolerance, and belief in one’s own leadership abilities.” It also helps you to breathe better, which can calm shaky nerves.

Smile – Spending time deliberately smiling can help you to feel more positive and trigger positive memories, says the article. Turning your frown upside down is more than just a cute way to get kids to smile. It will give you more confidence.

Use Gestures – Just make sure they’re well-related to what you’re saying. Some studies proved that presenters were viewed as more effective and competent when they used hand gestures versus immobile hands and arms.

 

Any of these can give you an edge in negotiations or presentations by making you feel more confident and relaxed. You can even do them before and during a phone call or web conference.

The Importance For Women

Santa Monica College published an article describing body poses that women in particular should avoid because they send the wrong messages and can interfere with success. These include crossing your ankles while standing, tilting your head, “shy” or flirty glances, and mannerisms that broadcast nervousness such as playing with hair or fidgeting. Read the full article for more.

Changing your body position will change how you feel, which can be more effective than your brain in attaining the life you desire.

 

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