10 SELF-CARE TIPS FOR THE FAST-FLYING EXECUTIVE
I see it every day when interviewing leaders for mission-driven C-suite positions—the executive who will not rest until the job is done. When interviewing, I focus on the full person. Yes, my primary goal during these conversations is to uncover key leadership traits, but I also look for insights on the candidate’s take on life outside of leadership. In these conversations, I often find that many executives talk about unplugging as a negative thing instead of a welcome opportunity to recharge! Unplugging is often more of a concern to those surrounding an executive.
Executives who constantly run a mile a minute have family, staff and stakeholders worried that they won’t be able to sustain themselves in the long-run. Of course this is contrary to what most executives want. Many executives want to have it all and all at once. They want to be considered engaged at work and at home, and always on-top of their organization’s and family’s most pressing needs. If you know that your team, family and friends are worried about your fast-driven, never-resting leadership and lifestyle, here are 10 tips to help you change that perception.
- Perfection is relative: Striving for perfection, as defined by others, is an exercise in futility. You’ll gain more headway evaluating your best mix of skills, life balance, mission and capacity to define perfection for yourself. Definitive perfection is the enemy of development. We learn the most from our mistakes, so give yourself permission to be great and to learn.
- “No.” is a complete sentence: If you’re committed to self-care, you have to get serious about telling people “No.” No one can do it all, and that includes you. Double-booking equals attendance, not presence. Multitasking is actually just task-switching—a practice proven to be inefficient time and time again. Program and project overload leads to mission-creep, not impact. Use your “No” to maintain focus on your mission, and to create balance overall.
- Delegation is not optional: If you keep everything on your plate it won’t overflow, it will break. If you have the luxury of a team, you have an obligation to use them. Releasing control of some things will undoubtedly result in regaining control elsewhere. The more things you’re holding onto, the less control you have over each.
- Migraines are not mandatory: Avoiding triggers is one of the easiest ways to care for yourself. If being late to meetings triggers anxiety, build in a 10-minute buffer to protect your sanity. Send email instead of scheduling meetings. Protect your peace and establish practices that allow you to show up as your best self.
- Paid-Time-Off is part of your compensation package: Picture it, the first day of school, and everyone brings home “the calendar.” For many executives, that calendar might as well be foreboding reminder of every missed recital, game and assembly throughout the year. Without fail, it beams up at you in judgement, as you gaze back in self-defeat. But what if this year, you take that calendar and hand it to the keeper of your schedule, and actually take some time off of work to attend the events? Never forget to take advantage of the benefits you make available to your staff. You’re on the team too.
- Yes, your staff is smart enough to problem-solve without you: And, they might just teach you something while they’re at it. Professional development comes from all directions. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you aren’t in a position to learn from your staff. Use their expertise, ask for their advice and implement their ideas. It will relieve your stress, and goes a long way in showing that you value your staff’s input.
- Career coaches are worth the investment: As the lead coach of your organization, you’re constantly giving, but when do you replenish? The biggest mistake a leader can make is neglecting their need for growth and development. Take time for yourself and find a coach who can help you reach your career and leadership goals. Being in a position to be cared for—when you’re so often in the reverse position—can be therapeutic on its own. Think of how productive a team lead by a properly developed and nurtured executive can be. You owe it to the mission of your organization to be in good mental, physical and emotional health.
- Anniversaries come the same time every year: Anniversaries, birthdays (especially yours), weddings, family reunions, mitzvahs, etc. they all matter. Place “board meeting” importance on the personal milestones in your life. They’re non-negotiable and essential to your well-rounded life. Never miss another marathon, festival or tour that’s important to you. You deserve life outside of your mission, but it’s up to you to create space for it.
- Unplugged vacations are good for everybody: Put up an OOO message and throw the whole phone away. Not really, but you get the point. Disconnecting from one thing allows you to be fully present and connected to another. Actually take time to rest, rejuvenate and give your staff the opportunity to prove that you’ve made good decisions in hiring them. And believe it or not, they sometimes need a break from you to recharge, so encourage them to use their vacation time too!
- True leaders have succession plans: Let’s be honest, if you win the lottery tomorrow it might be pretty difficult to convince you to stick around for the six months to a year that it will take to find hire and train your replacement. Succession planning is at the heart of strong professional development. Start with an emergency plan that distributes your tasks evenly amongst your senior leadership team, and create a more detailed plan of development for each to grow into the function. By executing these plans correctly, you create a value proposition for your team that will likely result in your ability to balance your full life.
Don’t get me wrong, it is incredible to follow-through on all executive tasks, but it all can be done, and more, when self-care comes first.
Myra T. Briggs
Impact Search Advisors
Myra serves as the Managing Director for Impact Search Advisors by Nonprofit HR. She brings over 18 years of experience in executive search recruitment to the firm. She has effectively managed high-volume recruitment needs through substantive communication, organization and attention to detail. She has expertise in directing the creation of marketing tools and steering the execution of recruitment marketing programs. See a letter to mission-driven organizations from Myra now.