How to thrive and not just survive as a business leader
2nd September 2016
The business world today is so fast-paced that the one thing that can be relied upon as constant is change. At any given moment, you, your team and your business are likely to be dealing with any number of changes, but the idea of change is something that many people find overwhelming and stressful.
Words: Sue Coyne
So how do you ensure your business embraces change to stay ahead of the competition? Well many leaders will take it upon themselves to make change happen. They throw themselves into tasks, work long hours, lose sleep and painstakingly go through every little detail in order to get over that hurdle, ready to face the next challenge. Unfortunately, this approach often comes at the expense of family life, fun or taking time to look after themselves. Does that sound familiar?
Subjecting yourself to such prolonged periods of stress is simply not sustainable. By doing so you effectively have more energy going out than coming in, and this will inevitably lead to burnout. In fact, a recent Harvard Medical School study found that 96% of senior business leaders have shown signs of burnout, which just highlights how easy it is to fall into the trap of working this way.
What’s interesting is that another study showed how 70% of what happens in an organisation is a result of people imitating behaviours of the those in leadership roles. This highlights how important it is for leaders to be good role models, and how as a leader you have responsibility to take care of yourself in order to not only make your own performance effective and sustainable, but also create a culture in your organisation for people to keep themselves in a state that allows them to perform at their best.
Of course, when you are frantically trying to get a company up and running or your head is in the day-to-day operations of your business it can be difficult to find time to reassess how you’re working. However, there are simple steps you can take to ‘Stop Doing and Start Leading’ and enable yourself and others to thrive in all areas of life:
What does leadership mean to you?
With the amount of information we have to contend with in business today, the idea of the superhero leader who does everything is no longer feasible. Modern leaders now need to be willing to ask for help from others, and by being authentic, trustworthy and collaborative you will empower others to also perform at their best.
Find your Why:
Ask yourself what difference you want to make through your leadership. This will allow you to focus on what you need to do to make that difference a reality. Being able to prioritise and focus on where you can add most value will not only make you more effective, but it will also give you more of the sense of fulfilment that makes work enjoyable.
Find a new definition of success:
It can be easy to get too focused on achieving financial objectives in business, but by setting a broader definition of success you can enable yourself to succeed in all areas of life, being happy, healthy and sustainably high performing.
Track your progress:
Taking the time to assess things on an ongoing basis helps you to see what you are doing well and the parts of your life you want to work on, so you can make course corrections where necessary. Big issues might feel daunting, but by tracking your progress you can identify the small steps you need to take to get to where you want to be, which makes behavioural change much more sustainable.
Identify your Drainers and Energisers:
If you find you are saying yes to everything, constantly multi-tasking, responding to all e-mails immediately and rushing from back-to-back meetings without time to prepare you are probably suffering from these common energy drainers. Where possible you should try to incorporate energisers into your daily routine, such as taking a break every one to two hours to stretch, be mindful and get some water. It also helps to surround yourself with positive people and prioritise your day to limit multi-tasking.
When you are a business leader it can be all too easy to just focus on getting the job done and fail to make time for things like regular exercise and fun. Leaders who risk burnout also risk making themselves unfit to lead, so it is important they set a positive example by taking responsibility for their own health and wellbeing and encourage others to do the same.