Or, perhaps I should say:
Dear manager, parent, executive, class president, coffee barista, school teacher, entrepreneur, C-suite executive…
The list could go on. I say Dear Leader, because we are all leaders at some level. Leadership starts with ourselves.
Two weeks ago, I spoke at a conference. The title of my talk was “The Connected Leader.” Many people came up to me after the talk to thank me for giving them permission “to think about themselves as a leader.” How to care for themselves so-that-they-can better care for their employees, as well as family and friends. It’s all connected, right?
They told me they were tired because of sleepless nights, overwhelmed with multiple priorities on their plate, stressed because they’ve been short with their kids, and lonely because they don’t have the support they need and don’t feel comfortable asking for help and clarity.
You can’t lead from an empty bucket. Believe me, I’ve tried. That dog don’t hunt.
Here’s the thing: when we feel better, we do better. Period.
When we feel exhausted, stressed, pinched, and underappreciated? Well, I’ll let you fill that description in.
So, Dear Leader, if you’re seeking, waiting for, or asking for permission, this is it.
Take it. Own it. Run with it. Your employees will thank you. Your loved ones will thank you.
Ready to figure out how in the world you can do this?
Let’s dive in:
Pause & Ponder
You knew this was coming, right?
There is SO much power in taking time to pause, to gain clarity on what you want and equally, what you don’t want.
- Who do you want to be as a leader? As a leader of a business, team, family, or community? Define that in detail. Not sure? What are the qualities of a leader you respect and admire, and let that be your inspiration to start from.
- What beliefs do you need to let go of to be that person? What are the actions or inaction that’s keeping you stuck and spinning? You have permission to get off that wheel.
- What do you need to set down before it drops? Proactive is much easier to deal with than reactive.
- Where do YOU need support? Professionally AND personally. You’ve heard me say this before, our personal life and professional life are not mutually exclusive; they’re interdependent. If you’re struggling in one area, it’s bound to impact the other. Permission to ask for help, granted.
Schedule 30 minutes (or more!) on your calendar to ponder these questions. Nothing is going to change until you do. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable work of looking within, so you can be comfortable and confident with how you lead yourself, your team, or your family.
Prioritize & Proceed
Before you lace up those sneakers and sprint right into action, look at the answers to your questions and ask yourself, what 1-3 items from my list will make the most impact?
Not everything matters equally. This means you need to figure out what you want and HOW you go about getting it. Adding everything all at once to your to-do list with little discernment will only get you back to spinning on that dang wheel. Permission to step off, granted.
What one area, if you were to focus on it, would make the most amount of impact on all the other areas? Double down and build up your muscle in that one area, until it becomes more natural to you, then add the next priority, then the next.
You can do this with a little time, intention, and compassion for yourself. Once you start experiencing the changes you seek, like:
- Better sleep
- Healthier conversations
- Improved relationships
- More engaged teams (or kids!)
- Self-trust and confidence, and
- Getting more done in less time so you can maybe even clock out early…
… the more that caring for yourself becomes second nature because you know and experience the transformation it brings in all areas of your life.
“People don’t decide their futures; they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” ~FM Alexander
In other words, we are what we repeatedly do.
Set yourself up for success by establishing one habit that will support you for each step on the journey. Think big, but go small.
You know that 15 minute walk first thing in the morning (before the kids get up) is just the thing to set you up for a fabulous day…buuttt, you watched TV until 11:30 pm.
- Habit: Set an alarm on your phone for 9:30 pm to turn off all screens and lights out by 10.
One of your core values is respect, but when you’re tired, hangry, or behind the 8-ball, you tend to (conveniently) forget that core value and snap at your employee or maybe even your kid.
- Habit: Pause, breathe in counting to 4, and connect to the person, the leader you want to be before responding.
Plan ahead. Get clear on when, where, or with whom your habits need some healthy reinforcement and plan what you’ll do or how you’ll react so you don’t need to work so hard to choose a different, better habit.
Boundaries are required for:
- A successful and impactful leader
- Healthy authentic relationships
- Keeping resentment in check (towards self and others…kids included!)
- Self-trust and confidence
Contrary to popular belief, establishing firm boundaries will improve relationships, not divide them, because with boundaries you are clear on what is ok with you and what is not…so there’s no need for resentment, which has the ability to deteriorate any relationship, fast.
I wrote about the importance of boundaries in my last newsletter, 9 Tips for Bold & Beautiful Boundaries That Will Improve Your Work and Life. Have a look, and let me know what you think.
Progress Over Perfection
Go for progress over perfection as you move along this process of caring for yourself…because perfection gets in the way of possible.
Be patient and kind with yourself. Doing otherwise only exacerbates the pieces you’re working so diligently to change.
If you’re looking for permission, this is it. You have permission to care for yourself, to take care of yourself, to fill your bucket first. You can’t fill other people’s buckets from an empty bucket.
The rewards and educational moments are many when you, as a leader, show people how caring for themselves positively impacts every area of life.
When we do better, we feel better, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially.
Whether executive in C-suite, mid-manager, entry-level employee, or stay-at-home parent, being a leader requires you to care for yourself first, NOT as an afterthought.
I lovingly challenge you to open your calendar and book a time for you to think, to care for yourself, and fill your bucket. If your calendar is booked solid for the next 4 weeks, don’t despair. Look out until you find a week on your calendar where you can book time with yourself. Book it, and honor it, like you would a doctor’s appointment. It is that important.
Bring in some beautiful and kind Graceful Accountability- don’t beat yourself up, don’t let yourself off the hook as you do this work.
It’s going to feel uncomfortable at first, but sit in the squirm until you get to the other side. You’ll love and appreciate what, or rather who, you find.
There. Permission granted.