Being in charge is a huge responsibility. So is being the best leader you can be. The health and wellbeing of your teams is a big part of your role, making sure that barriers to health, wellbeing, and job satisfaction are removed as much as possible so that your teams can work together, and as individuals, in the most effective, productive and happiest ways possible.
The question is, when the boss is taking care of teams, who is taking care of the boss? Who is helping ensure that you stay at the top of your game, driven to be your best, in an environment that addresses your wellness? People in C-suite positions can be very good at self-modulation, preservation, and mental health. But we have all seen or heard of examples of CEOs who don’t do this particularly well at all. For those CEOs who have a hard time self-regulating, it can mean bad things for the teams under their leadership, and the company itself. Most of the time, self-care is not something a CEO thinks much about, as the role is to lead, to be strong for others, and to set examples. But if you aren’t actively in a regime of self-care, it’s hard to be the best leader you can be, and eventually the cracks can begin to show. CEOs under stress do the same things others do, though it might come on slowly or in other ways. People under stress try to remove themselves from the situation. And when the stress is chronic, as it will be if you lead teams of any size, it becomes an imperative of the job not to let job stress affect your ability to lead or the perception the team or teams might have of your leadership.
Patterns of behaviour are formed over time, and habit becomes character. If you have poor habits for yourself it’s quite likely that this will show itself over time to your teams, which could influence your reputation negatively, even if you don’t quite see it yourself.
If you aren’t doing some of these things already, I would encourage you to try them.
Seriously relax. The number of heart attacks among CEOs is high. This is no doubt somewhat driven by the types of personality they come to the job with. This, in combination with high stress, high-profile positions can push your natural drive into something toxic to your body, which could result in a major health concern. One of the best things you can do for yourself, if not one of the hardest things, is to relax, relax, relax. This can be in micro-meditation moments between meetings, it can be making sure you never miss that acupuncture appointment or massage appointment every week to take down the latent stress you’ve accumulated in a week of working. Your body and mind need outlets, and there are some easy and good ways to do this; the more you make it a habit, the less likely it is you’ll have some negative health outcome related to chronic stress events. A good and simple meditation visualization exercise between meetings is to imagine an object and examine that object in your mind in detail. A rose image is a good one, as you can imagine the petals folding out from the innermost part of the flower, how they radiate, their shape and colour, in as much detail as you can muster. You will be in a small meditation shortly without you really realizing it. At the start you’ll have trouble concentrating on visualizing the rose. Over time, you will have less trouble. And you’ll find the practice more satisfying and you’ll find yourself somewhat refreshed and better focused to meet whatever the day throws at you.
Talk to other CEOs. It’s hard to be vulnerable. It might be even harder if you’re the leader, because most people believe that leaders aren’t or shouldn’t be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is being weak, right? Wrong. You just simply need to pick your spots with the people who get you best. No spouse on earth, man or woman, wants to hear their high-flying CEO wife or husband come home and complain about their day every day. They can’t help you and they might not get it, even if they commiserate with you, for awhile. Don’t expect the tolerance of your family to your work war stories to last day in and day out. It’s the better idea not to bring your work home with you. But, what do you do with all that pent-up stress and worry you have? It’s been ‘one of those weeks’ – again. Well, the best place to do this is with the people who know you the best, the CEOs you know who go through the same sorts of things you do. There are a lot of CEO only organizations you can join, where work conversations are encouraged, where people will lend an ear to your issues and your concerns. There is still a temptation in this friendly environment to stay on the surface and not relate what’s really going on that might be affecting you personally and professionally. It’s a good idea to have a network of like people in similar roles who go through the same, or similar, as you. This might seem like a no brainer, but so many CEOs keep to themselves, isolating themselves as a means of protecting themselves. Isolation can be a gift, but it can also become a chronic habit that’s not best for your overall health. CEO groups shouldn’t just be a place to talk business. It should be a place where you can get validation, positivity, advice, and a feeling of community. Letting your guard down in the right settings, situations, and with the right people, can be a great thing to do, and could result in relationships and outcomes you wouldn’t otherwise have happen.
Eat well, for nutrition. I’ve had months and months where I think I’m eating well, but I feel underpowered by what I’m eating. Having breakfast, lunch with a client, or a dinner, isn’t a guarantee you’re getting the nutrition you need, and you might be eating things you wouldn’t ordinarily, like wheat-made gravy, butter, more salt or sugar than usual, or even things like MSG, which many people are allergic to. If you don’t know what’s in your food, you don’t know what you’re putting in your body, and what you fuel yourself with is exactly how well you’ll feel and perform. You might be the kind of CEO who always eats on the run, or, running, never eats. None of these scenarios is good for your ability to think and act as well as you might. Taking time for nutrition is a vital part of being a balanced, well-functioning leader. Eating out all the time becomes the regular. So, when you do, just be more aware of what’s in the food you’re eating. If you never eat certain things at home, be careful you don’t eat them while you’re rushing around working and getting by. If you know you feel better eating some foods more than others, don’t settle for the less energizing foods. The brain consumes lots of calories in a day and burns a lot of energy. The better the quality of that food energy, the better you will feel, the better you will think, and the more likely you will be consistent, have equilibrium, and make better decisions.
CEOs sometimes pride themselves on, or feel they need to pride themselves on, knowing everything. So, what I say above is common-sense, and might be things you already pay close attention to. Then again, being a CEO myself, and having been around CEOs for over 20 years, I can say it’s not commonly practiced. If we know what’s good for us, we should also implement it. Because that’s what a good leader does. We shouldn’t expect ourselves to ignore advice we might give to our own staff or even our own friends. You might be exceptional. But you’re still human. Optimum performance for leaders isn’t about redlining your abilities. It’s about taking care of yourself so that you are more able, for others, and for yourself.
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