To be a good leader you have to look after yourself 

Leaders need to practice self care

Often in leadership we feel we have to be there for everyone. We give a lot of ourselves. We spend most of our time supporting others. We pick up the pieces when things go wrong, and always try to be one step ahead.

But, who looks out for us?

YOU must! If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you be your best? How can you be a great leader if you are on your knees?

Sometimes great leadership is knowing when it’s time to step back and let others step up to the plate for a while. Too often I see great colleagues working very long hours and taking on far more than is healthy or even possible. Never saying no, enough!

Part of being a great leader is about setting the example. You should be a role model. Others will believe that how we behave is what is expected of them. Setting unhealthy expectations, by not taking care  of yourself, makes no sense.

Yet, it is easy to get sucked into. You’re busy! You don’t have time to be ill, or to take a few days off to recharge.

It’s an easy mistake.

Self care will make you a better leader.  You cannot give so much of yourself that you don’t have anything left to give. Otherwise you will burn out, get sick or get to the stage where you can’t do it any more.

I have learnt the hard way that I need to look after me better! I have learnt that needing to take some time out is not a failing.  It is  sensible and self-aware. It is showing everyone that even you can’t always be your best.

I use many different techniques for practicing self care.

MEDITATION 

I meditate at least 3 times a week. I found this almost impossible at first. I couldn’t quiet my mind. But, with practice I can now meditate for up to 30 minutes and I find it incredibly restorative. There are loads of free online resources you can use and a great app called Calm, which I also use.

EFT

I use EFT, or tapping. Don’t ask me how this works because I really can’t explain it but for me it totally does. I am a fairly recent convert to emotional freedom technique and I highly recommend Marie Houlden (httpss://mariehoulden.com). She has lots of free resources on YouTube, if you want to give it a go. Nothing beats one to one or group live sessions though.

JOURNALLING 

Journalling is another fabulous habit to get into. Many of us kept diaries as teenagers, in which we poured out our hopes and fears. I bet that most of us gave that all up once we left school.

Journalling is a powerful way of reflecting on what is going well, and what you need to delve into a bit more. You can use your journal to set our your goals, making them more tangible and therefore more likely to be achieved.

I try to write something everyday – although if I miss a day I don’t beat myself up about it. It helps me to clarify my thoughts and reduces stress simply by getting it all out of my head.

I write down what I am thankful for. This could be things that went well, or feeling well, or getting through the day!

I set out my intentions – what I will do. This could be ‘eat more healthily’ if I have been a bit indulgent.  Or, something more major such as my big personal and professional goals.  I find this also helps me to get clear about what I don’t want to do.

I also use my journal to forgive myself. I write down whatever it is that I need to let go of. Anything that I am self obsessing about goes down along with the words ‘I forgive myself’.

One of the biggest lessons I have learnt is the need for self care. Even so, I forget, time and again, that I am a human being and not a machine. I push myself too hard. I keep working when I am ill. I allow stress to get the better of me.

I am still learning.

Don’t leave it too late, start looking after YOU today.

Staying Motivated…..

The expert guide to staying motivated…

August – sunshine and fun filled days, holidays and quality time with family and friends.

Staying motivated at work through August can be a challenge though. So many people are on leave. It can be really tough keeping up the momentum and getting things done.

For me it’s always been a difficult month. I didn’t particularly enjoy the school summer holidays as a child and have no children of my own. August always seems to cause some stagnation for me and I have to work extra hard at staying motivated at work.

Those of you who do have school aged children no doubt find the month struggle for precisely the opposite reasons. You will have different priorities. Managing your child care, as well as your job, at a time when you have a good proportion of your team on leave, will bring its own challenges.

Instead of letting it get me down I try to use the time productively.

I accept that it may not be the most dynamic month in the work calendar and find ways of making the best of it.

Staying motivated is not something we should be looking to someone else for. Our motivation is all about us, it’s a direct result of our own action, and how we manage ourselves.

So it stands to reason that this is something we have to take control of. It’s in our gift to do something about it.

And, that’s exactly what I have learnt to do.

Here are my top tips for staying motivated through August.

1. Take it one day at a time.

Trying to plan in too much detail is difficult when the calls on your time are likely to be quite different to normal.

With fewer of your team at work you are likely to get called upon more often to deal with matters that ordinarily would be someone else’s job.

Do you find yourself getting to the end of the day having achieved nothing on the to-do list?

You are not alone. So many other leaders feel the same.

Accept it, and give yourself a little more space than normal. If it’s not critical then don’t sweat about it.

I always factor some time into my day for the unexpected. During August I always double that, because I can be sure that I will have key colleagues on leave and I will need to step in.

2. Take Stock

August is a great time to take stock.

Review your year to date. Where are you with your big goals?

Acknowledge your progress so far and assess where you will need to ramp things up in the coming months.

Celebrate your successes with your team so that they know that they are winning on some fronts.

Get on top of the action plan by setting out your goals for the next couple of months.

Use the time to re-assess what is important. Have there been changes which need to be reflected in your action plan? What comes off the priority list – and what needs to go on?

3. Focus on what you can do

And, not what you can’t!

Getting stressed about things that you cannot do because you are waiting on someone else is not productive. Don’t do it!

Put your energy into things that you can be getting on with. It can feel that everything takes longer to achieve in August. You may be held back waiting for someone to come back from leave and get back up to date before you can progress. Unless you can change this situation then accept it and focus on what else you can be doing.

Of course, you may have some priorities that you have to progress. So, plan how you can tackle those, for sure.

Maybe, there is an opportunity in it for someone else?

It could be the perfect time to invest some time getting someone else trained up to carry out certain tasks. This can only be a good things as it builds resilence in your team.

4. Talk to people

Your colleagues and team members are probably feeling a bit under motivated. They are likely to be just back from their holidays, or waiting to have their turn. Everyone is having to cover someone else’s work to keep all the plates spinning.

Talk to people, find out what is going on in their work worlds. See what you can learn from those around you. Talking to people about their work, in the work, rather than in a 1-2-1 situation, is a powerful way of understanding what their issues are.

What systems are they struggling with? What blockages are they having to work around each day?

You are more likely to find out by being ‘in the work’. Sat beside them, experiencing what they experience, rather than what they choose to tell you after the event.

5. Bring positivity

This more necessary than ever when motivation levels are below par.

Opportunity exists in everything we do – we might have to look a little harder for it.

If you don’t bring the positive energy, who will? Your team is relying on you to keep up the energy levels and help them stay focused.

In a few weeks it will be September. A new school year and the perfect time to have a mini fresh start – whether school is a distant memory or not!

How to maximise the opportunity for quality connections with your team

Great leaders have got connectivity sussed. Here are some great tips for creating excellent connections.

It always seems odd to me when I see leaders not connecting with people in their teams. These are often good people who seem to have forgotten how nice it was when anyone showed an interest in them.

When I say connecting, I don’t mean saying hello and goodbye, I mean really connecting. Communicating is good of course. But, understanding people, as individuals, as humans – that’s connecting!

Great leaders have got connectivity sussed. Here are some great tips for creating excellent connections.

KEEP IT REAL

You can’t fake it! People can spot a fake a mile off.

Authenticity is vital for connecting with people. You have to show your true self. That means sharing who you are, showing your emotions. It’s all about taking the mask off and being who we truly are.

We have all met one of those loud leaders who talks too loudly or forcefully to try to command respect. Or, who cracks inappropriate ‘jokes’ to come across as interesting. You can see right through them though, right.

False charisma is not sustainable. It’s also very off putting. Better to be yourself, be authentic.

Authenticity is showing up with your best and true self. It’s leading from your mind and your heart.

Authentic leaders show up with emotional honesty, a great attitude and an openness. They are self-aware and have empathy.

They let their colleagues see their real self.

Don’t even think about pretending to be something you are not.

BE RELATABLE

Being relatable will help you to have a broad appeal. It will make it easier for people to connect with you.

Having an easy going approach and being friendly and positive, will help people to approach you. Once they have made that approach, make it easy for them to talk to you.

It doesn’t matter what someone’s background is. Their profession, seniority, or social standing, make them no more or less important than you. Mirror their language, make them feel that you want to connect your communication with theirs, and they will know that you care.

Everyone has their own story. It is unrealistic to think we can relate to someone when they are telling us something only they can understand. Their individual perspective, based on their own values, beliefs, and emotional history makes their story, their experience, unique to them.

The key is to focus on the feelings being expressed and relate to those.

Everyone wants to >be understood, and if you show that they’re not alone, they feel valued.

Making them feel important is equally important. >It shows that you value their thoughts and opinions, and encourages them to engage more in the conversation.

YOU ARE NOT PLAYING POKER!

The words you use and your tone will show your emotions. The way you deliver your message will impact on your success in connecting.

A visual connection starts before you say a word. In part how you look has an impact and people will make a judgement based on this. But, more importantly your facial expressions will betray how you really feel. If you look disinterested or distracted you’ll quicklylose any connection. As will a poker face. You need to show your interest in your facial expressions.

BE HUMAN

Great leaders make room for laughter and joy. They accept that they are not perfect and that they make mistakes.

Excellent leaders will admit when they have made a mistake. They are not in the business of trying to protect themselves at all costs.

To connect with people we need to generate trust and make our colleagues feel safe. You need to create an environment where it is safe for someone to say ‘Hey, I screwed up’.

Most mportantly, what we evidence through our behaviour outweighs what we say. Telling people they matter to us is meaningless unless you evidence it through your behaviour.

6 ways to give up perfectionism and focus on being excellent

As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve realised that striving for perfection kills success! Here I share 6 ways you can quit that habit.

As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve realised that striving for perfection kills success!  I know that sounds counter intuitive, but bear with me.

If, like me, you have always been a bit of a perfectionist, then you will have looked at the heading of this blog and said to yourself ‘well they are the same thing aren’t they?’.

I have learnt (the hard way) that they are not. The sooner that you give up on perfect the happier (and more productive) you will be.

There’s a huge difference between doing something well and doing it perfectly. Attempting to be perfect results in feelings of inadequacy, and interferes with your ability to complete work.

Excellence, on the other hand, is attainable and is always more than good enough.

I have, finally, come to realise that my perfectionism was a sign of being overly concerned with someone else’s expectations and ideas of perfect. External factors that I can’t even control. Other people’s expectations have nothing to do with my own potential, skills, or knowledge.

When I changed my focus from perfection to excellence, I knew that whatever task I set out to do would be completed at a high enough level so that it would be more than good enough. This was something that I could control – it became all about me and what I wanted to achieve rather than some idea of perfect that I had imagined someone else held.

Here are some of the sentences that resonated with me when I started out on my journey to give up perfectionism.

Perfectionists value themselves by what they do. Pursuers of excellence value themselves by who they are.

Perfectionists, when they run into difficulty, get overwhelmed and give up. Pursuers of excellence experience some disappointment, but move on.

Perfectionists can be devastated by failure; pursuers of excellence learn from it.

Perfectionists remember mistakes and dwell on them – for ever in some cases! Pursuers of excellence correct mistakes and learn from them.

Perfectionists want to be number one. Pursuers of excellence can live with not being the best, especially when they know they’ve tried their hardest.

Perfectionists hate criticism; pursuers of excellence see criticism as a way to learn.

Perfectionists have to win to keep high self esteem.  Pursuers of excellence will feel good about themselves because they did their best.

I have to confess, I am still struggling with one or two of those. But, you can’t change a life time of addiction overnight!

Giving up a habit of pursuing perfection might seem challenging at first. So think about it like this: when you pursue excellence instead, you’ll be happier, more productive, and less stressed!

Here are 6 ways to give up on perfectionism.

1.Recognise perfection as a problem. Understand the difference between perfectionism and high standards. Realise that while having healthy  high standard is good for you, being a perfectionist is not.

2 Always do your best. If you are confident that you have made your best effort then you can do no more.  Accept that. Tell yourself, you have done all you can. Look at all the good things you have achieved. Put the mistakes down as a learning opportunity and move on.

3. Decide on a level of excellence before starting anything. Be clear about what you are aiming for. Set realistic goals and once you have met that level – leave it alone. Being more than excellent is not necessary!

4. Love yourself as you are, including your imperfections. See the bigger picture and know that you are worthy as a person. Failing to be perfect does not make you a bad or unworthy person. Be more accepting of yourself.

5. Always consider what you would say to a member of your team. Wouldn’t you reassure them if they were anxious about something not being perfect? If you were looking at what you have done as if it were a colleagues work would you be saying it wasn’t good enough? Look at what you have done from a different perspective and talk to yourself as you would to others.

6. Show up, get it done, and enjoy the journey! Waiting for perfect will stop you from being excellent. You will never feel happy and fulfilled if you are always super critical of yourself. 

As a leader you have to be setting the example for others. Your colleagues need to know what is expected, and those expectations have to be realistic. Excellent – of course! But, striving for excellence does not mean perfect. 

Plus, don’t forget perfectionism leads to procrastination. There is no better excuse for not doing something than the pursuit of perfection. As an excellent leader you won’t have time for procrastination.

Trust me – neither perfectionism nor procrastination will serve you well, so chuck out both habits and get on with being excellent.

10 ways to overcome overwhelm

Feeling overwhelmed?  You are not alone!

A common problems for leaders is that we become overwhelmed due to all the different demands on our time and energy. It’s very easy to allow it to get the better of us and this results in anxiety, stress, and fear. This 10 step guide will help you to overcome overwhelm and help you to be your best

Feeling overwhelmed?  You are not alone!

A common problems for leaders is that we become overwhelmed due to all the different demands on our time and energy. It’s very easy to allow it to get the better of us and this results in anxiety, stress, and fear. Often this leads to mental, emotional, spiritual and often, physical, pain.

As a leader the pressures are going to be great at times and we have to be super savvy to do everything required of us, as well has provide the support that others need from us.

There are steps that we can take towards keeping things in balance and avoid this overwhelm taking control. Often all it takes is a shift in focus. It involves changing and amending our mindset.  Why? Well, because we tend to get what we focus on. If we focus on feeling overwhelmed, we can become even more overwhelmed. The more time and energy we spend being anxious about everything we have to do, the less time and energy we have to start doing anything at all. It’s a vicious circle which gets tighter and tighter.

In my life this feeling of overwhelm has stopped me from achieving things that I now know I could have achieved.  Because of overwhelm I have limited my own possibilities, given up, or didn’t even try to do some things.

Does this resonate with you?

If so let me share what I have learnt.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or even completely defeated right now, don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s OK to sometimes not be OK!  Being not OK today does not mean that you will feel like this forever – you may not even feel like it tomorrow! You can and you will bounce back. The trick is to use strategies which help you to overcome and then avoid the overwhelm.

The way out of the overwhelm trap is to change the thinking and actions that drive it. So, here are some strategies that you can use to avoid feeling like you’re at the end of your tether.

1 .       Breathe and let go of the past

The first and most important way that you can avoid feeling overwhelmed is to breathe. Breathing exercises, where you focus on your breath can help to do a number of things. Breathing in deeply and holding that breath helps to deliver more oxygen to your blood. Breathing exercise helps to calm the nerves while also detoxifying the body.

Breathing also releases carbon dioxide, which is essentially a toxin built up in the body. It rejuvenates the lymphatic system with the delivery of that oxygen. It helps to stimulate and create hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, literally making you happier. As you breathe in deeply, draw your breath for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4 and release for a count of 6. As you release, feel the negativity of the past leaving your mind and your body. (Trust me on this one and actually imagine it floating away from your body.)

Doing this doesn’t mean that you will be cured of your overwhelm but it will reduce the effects that overwhelm can have on you. Do the exercises for at least 5 minutes every time you feel the overwhelm come back and do it with intent.

Unless you believe it will work it won’t work – but it totally works for me. So much so that I finish every day with a few minutes mediation before I go to sleep. I sleep better for it.

2.       Change the narrative.

Very few people manage to keep a completely positive narrative in their mind. We are so much better at listening to the negative voice in our head than the positive one.  Past mistakes, other people’s comments, things we were told when we were growing up, all help to create the soundtrack that runs in our head. Here’s a shocker – not everything you think is true!  Ban language/thoughts such as, “I won’t be able to handle it,” “I can’t cope”. Tell yourself you can cope, you have coped, you will cope. Yes, you have 200 emails, but you can handle it. Yes, you made a mistake in the past, but you now know what not to do! Turn up the volume on the positive voice and tell that negative one to GET LOST! It takes practice but the more you do this the easier it gets. Never believe everything you think about yourself!

Believe me I still hear my negative voice  – she’s a real cow to me! But my positive one is so much louder these days.

3.       Release toxic energy

Exercise is a great way to help shift your focus when you’re feeling overwhelmed. I HATE exercising but try to do something anyway. A brisk walk is all you need to get the blood pumping and release more of those powerful happy hormones in your body and mind. Again, the mindset you have is vital. When you walk, go to the gym, swim – whatever floats your boat – focus on the exercise and how it feels in your body and mind. If you are walking focus your mind on how that feels – working up your body – in your feet, legs, hips, back, abdomen, arms and neck. Walk with intent and breathe to feed those muscles. Imagine the good energy flooding into your body.

Yoga is great for this and so is Tai Chi – which is much harder than it looks but fabulous for releasing toxic energy without even breaking into a sweat!

4.       Understand your values and your beliefs.

We often feel overwhelmed when what we’re doing on a daily basis doesn’t make us happy. This is because it is contrary to who we are, or what we believe in. When you feel this way, it’s time to reassess what you value and what you believe in. The easiest way to do this by writing it all down. What do you value? What are the most important things to you in life? What do you believe in? Then, take a look at your goals. Are you actively pursuing your long-term goals in your daily life? Are those goals in harmony with what you value and believe in? The truth is that we often do things for the wrong reasons, thinking that we have no other choice, when in fact we have a very powerful choice in the matter.

I really really wish I had been sat down 30 years ago to work out what was important to me. Now I know and I achieve so much more.

5.       Do one thing that you love

One way to avoid the feeling of overwhelm is to do one thing that you absolutely love to do. What haven’t you done for ages that you keep thinking you need to do? What’s stopping you? If you love to walk on the beach, plan a trip to the beach and do some walking. If you love going to park and reading a book, do that. you enjoy listening to a particular song? Whatever it is, do it.

For me this is painting. I hadn’t painted for years and I started colouring as a way of stilling my mind. Now I just paint, even if for only a few minutes. It doesn’t matter whether my paintings are any good. All that matters is that I enjoy doing it and it stops me thinking about everything else for a few minutes.

6.      Implement good self-management

People call this time management, but in reality we cannot manage time. We all have the same amount of time. No one has more than the next person. How well we use time is up to us though.

Are we wasting our time on things that don’t help us progress? So often we spend more time fretting about doing something than it would actually take to just do it. We have all done it, spent half an hour shuffling our work around, convincing ourselves that we don’t have time for something. Maybe spending some time having a little moan about it, if not to others at least in our heads? I’ll be honest – I do this exact thing all the time. My answer … JUST DO IT!

Seriously, just start doing whatever it is. Nothing is ever as difficult as we imagine it will be. Stop doing things that are neither urgent or important and get started.

A few tips for using the time you have as effectively as possible….

Start your day organised. A random approach will lead to overwhelm. You will start reacting rather acting and this can quickly spiral. So begin each day with a little plan for the day ahead. Know what you will focus on and you’ll feel more purposeful. Be clear about the ‘must do’s’. If you can, plan in some ‘if I do them now they are done and off the list’ tasks. This will create space another day. Write a ‘today’ list, as well as a ‘to do’ list and tick things off. Writing things down creates space in our heads. You will feel so good when you look back and see how much you ticked off.  But, don’t give yourself a hard time about what didn’t get done today. Re-evaluate and if they have now become ‘must do’s’ then put them at the top of tomorrow’s list.

Set your intention. Set an intention and timeline for each activity. By x time I will have done y. And reset this with each new task. If you can, take at least 30 seconds to bring full focus to whatever the next task is.If you are working on major pieces of work go on a short walk (it can just be to the kitchen) before switching to another activity. Use that time to refocus on the next task.

Qualify urgency.Time pressure is a huge factor in overwhelm. It drives a belief that everything is an emergency and must be done immediately. Nonstop motion makes everything appear urgent. We need to qualify the urgency of tasks, and take a breath to do so. What’s the urgency of doing it now? Busyness isn’t the same thing as being productive. Understand the timescales and plan.

7.       Set boundaries

In life we all try to do too much. We take on too many responsibilities often because we don’t know how to say no.

At work it should be clear what is expected of us but if you have too much going on in life generally it can be work that suffers. This becomes another vicious circle because then you start worrying about work as well as everything else in your life. If this is you you need to think about how you can set boundaries. Much as we like to think that we are super beings, we are really not. There is only so much that we can cope with.

If you have a lot on at work, you may need to rebalance life out of work and take more time for yourself to rejuvenate.

If your load feels completely overwhelming take responsibility for looking at what is possible and what is not. Is it that you have too many tasks, or that you don’t use your time as well as you could? Evaluate the problem and establish a plan for addressing the issues.

This is where a good deal of honesty is needed. Some times you are going to have to adjust how you spend your time to ensure that what matters gets done. It can be difficult to set boundaries in work of course so for me this is about changing my mindset about what is most important at any given time.

If I am required to do a piece of work which I hadn’t planned for then I have to decide what I can spend less time on than planned.

Often I find it is still possible to get everything done, but I may have had to take some shortcuts, or take a more simplistic approach, than I would have liked.

8.       Set the terms of engagement with devices.

Turn off devices and check them at set times. Shut off the attention seeking messaging and interruptions. You will feel more in control, not at the mercy of an avalanche of notifications, rings, pings, and pulses. Cut the volume of email, and use strategies to do so. Do you get a lot of unwanted irrelevant emails?  If so use the block, junk and unsubscribe options. Do you get a lot of personal messages? Turn off the notifications and don’t give in to the idea that you have to respond to them immediately.

When you are at work try to avoid being constantly interrupted by events outside of work. This is one of the biggest changes in the workplace over the last 15 years and one of the biggest devourers of time. In the past we weren’t even allowed personal calls without permission! Now we are expected to manage both our work world and our home life simultaneously. Not that I want to go back to having to ask to make a personal phone call, but putting our phones out of sight can massively reduce distractions

9.       Stop multitasking

Multitasking is a myth. Loads of studies have proven that you can’t do two cognitive tasks at one time. Each time you multitask you self-interrupt. This, in turn increases the time it takes. Sometimes by up to 50% longer, to complete tasks. The interruptions make your brain feel that tasks are harder than they really are. And, this fuels, those feelings of overwhelm.

I am a terror for trying to multi-task but have learnt that to do my best work I really must focus on one thing at a time.

10.     Reach out for support

When overwhelm is at a level that is causing serious health issues, say something—to a manager, supervisor, spouse, significant other. Reach out for support. Others can help us to examine our stories and bring fresh perspective. There are always other ways of arranging things.

So often I have felt completely overwhelmed but, when I have reached out, shared how I feel and then I am asked ‘what can I do’, I realise that I don’t actually need any help. I can suddenly see a way through.

Finally, and this is a good tip for life in general… WORRY LESS. We tend to worry about everything. Literall, if we don’t have something to worry about then we find something! JUST STOP IT!  I am going to start right now by not worrying about all the mistakes I have probably made in this blog!