Leadership is such a diverse subject.
However, for me, there are very simple and easily consumed ideals and boundaries that if disregarded have dire consequences for your staff, their relationships and their overall well being.
To begin with, more and more I am saying merely this…”these are peoples lives you are dealing with, and you do not have the right to treat people unkindly, without care, without wisdom or a full understanding of the sacrifice most people make towards your vision, your outcomes, your leadership success.”
Creating environments and cultures where staff feel trusted, valued and appreciated is such a boost to your leadership in some many many ways, yet I continuously work with organisations that have somehow forgotten who it is that drives their successes and make the organisational wheels turn smoothly and effectively. I ponder on how we can overlook the powerhouses of business and forward momentum — healthy happy people. Feeling valued sits square in the centre of the well-being factors. Moreover, if I feel valued, then my whole person has value not just my professional persona. We are not a single faceted being. We are heart, soul, intelligence, emotion, expectation, desire, despair, hope, (feel free to empty the dictionary into this sentence). If these attributes are nourished, low and behold you get greater creativity and more impacting innovation and greater outcomes all around.
The question of how are my people doing individually is not a broad enough question.
The idea that through technology and the information age that we have become highly efficient resulting in more leisure time and better lifestyles is offset by the reality of the 80-100 hours per week we donate to our professions. I say donate for I have yet to see a contract that adequately compensates for the actual hours given nor have I seen an employment contract that contracts to care for your intellectual, emotional, physical and relational well being. Don’t give me the BS of ‘if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen’ or I will tell you plainly, no chef, no food on your table…and hows that working for you?
When we fail to observe the well being of our staff, this results in increased sick days, lower productivity, less enthusiasm, lower engagement, costly mistakes and high team turn over. That annoying sucking sound you hear is your cash being syphoned from your bank account.
The question of how are my people doing individually is not a broad enough question. The work culture along with its stresses and emotional pain, is packed up tightly every evening and shipped home to the suburbs and apartments of our peoples’ actual lives. So who gets the privilege of unpacking that box? Husbands, wives, partners, children, siblings, and even the poor old cat.
So my question is, “Is your job stealing your relationships?”
If these attributes intellectual, emotional, physical and relational well being are nourished, low and behold you get greater creativity and more significant innovation and greater outcomes all around.
One of the first concepts I lay out in leadership workshops is merely this. I want to see you sitting on a swing seat on your porch at 90 with your significant other, smiling and laughing at photographs of a life lived well and enjoying the memories of a fabulous career and not your partner sitting there alone looking at your pictures wishing it could have been different.
So how and what do I measure to make sure my team are flourishing?
I apply a simple five-question grid to help leaders assess where they and their teams are doing in their well-being.
For those nautically minded you will recognise the Plimsol Line. A small clustered array of lines on the side of a ship. The Plimsol Line is placed there by the shipbuilder and indicates at a glance, if the boat is listing to port or starboard or if the vessel has become overloaded beyond its design capacity.
Bear that in mind when you evaluate these five topics.
- Physical – a pretty easy one to assess. Is my physiology indicating trouble in my vessel? Given that the brain translates stress and other detrimental conditions into our physiological self, (notwithstanding that we often ignore the warning signs our bodies are communicating to us) it is a pretty valid metric of our active health status.
- Intellectual – what time are we spending filling up our intellectual hunger and staying ahead with podcasts, books, posts, webinars, articles and professional development. It is easy for the months to pass without feeding your skill set with good food. Even snacking contributes to the minds dexterity.
- Professional Relationships – how am I with my colleagues. Simple test. Strained, sharp, brief, tense and protective or pleasantly collegial and collaborative, relaxed, communicative and patient?
- Personal Relationships – who is getting the best of me and who is getting the worst of me? Am I becoming isolated, non-verbal, sharply-verbal, distant, impatient, intolerant, cold, lethargic, disinterested or am I in contact with my passions, my best self, my hobbies and interests, enthusiastic, empathetic, interested, warm and giving?
- Emotional Balance – often this is overlooked. When we work with people and the daily problems that that entails as leaders, we can tend to overlook the emotional weight that can build upon our psyche. Leaders understand how much of our teams’ humanity can collide with our professional intentions to perform tasks. (Anyone here work with people?) It is life. For excellent reasons, other professions – Pastors, Counsellors, Police require professional supervision and the ability to unload and disconnect from the emotional strain of other peoples problems. This is not un-empathetic to unload, it is merely being wise and keeping yourself well. I could ask you if you have that scratching post of a someone who listens and nods and smiles and drinks coffee, wine or beer with you regularly. It is simple wisdom to do so. Lament is an important part of any cultures narrative. The west just does it poorly if at all.
Leading people is never an easy task. It is a constantly changing environment where people present new and interesting challenges to your thinking and your expectations. People delight us, disappoint us, surprise us, ambush us, run towards us and run way from us.
If we never ask intentionally “how are you really?”…we may miss vital signs of business cultural life.
We can stay out in front but it requires deep thinking, more collaborative questioning and an intention that is looking at the ideals of well-being, longevity and sustainability before profit that coincidentally delivers sustained profitability, longevity and well-being. Go figure.