Why Leaders Must Prioritize Health and Wellness

Business Health Fitness

Prioritize Your Health

Leaders are especially vulnerable to stress. Often leaders put others first and sacrifice their own wellbeing in the process. That’s not a recipe for long-term success and often results in failure.

Danielle Harlan, PhD is the Founder & CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential. She completed her doctorate at Stanford University and has taught courses at both Stanford Graduate School of Business and U.C. Berkeley Extension’s Corporate and Professional Development program.

After reading her book, The New Alpha: Join the Rising Movement of Influencers and Changemakers Who Are Redefining Leadership, I asked her about her research and experience in leadership health and fitness.

 

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” –Antoine De Saint Exupery

 

Your Health and Your Leadership

When did you realize that prioritizing health was linked to leadership?

Leadership is fundamentally about being able to set a vision and persist over the long run as you lead yourself and others to take on big challenges and work toward the finish line, so it seems like making health a priority would be a no-brainer, right? I mean, it’s pretty obvious that taking care of ourselves affects our energy levels and stamina in the long run.

However, in my experience, this is the one aspect of personal excellence that leaders are most likely to struggle with—and this is true across industries, types of organizations, and roles. As the work piles up, self-care often takes a back seat to other more “pressing” priorities, which almost never leads to good outcomes in the long run.

 

“Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” -Booker T. Washington

 

More often than not, leaders who don’t prioritize their health either become unbearable to work with because they they’re dehydrated, or tired, or stressed, or “hangry”—or they start to get sick. I’ve worked with people who’ve developed diabetes, pre-diabetes, and even heart disease because they’ve put work ahead of their health. I’ve also known people who’ve gained or lost too much weight because of work and even someone who eventually had an aneurism. I’m not saying that there weren’t other factors that played a role in some of these cases, but all of these examples are of people who put work ahead of self-care, and I think they (and their teams and organizations) suffered for it.

After seeing this pattern of behavior and outcomes over and over again, it became clear to me that managing your health is a key component of being an effective human being and a successful leader.

Copyright Kate Haley Photography Copyright Kate Haley Photography

 

 

“Tomorrow belongs only to the people who prepare for it today.” –Malcolm X

 

The Dangers of Putting Work Ahead of Self

Why do you think so many people miss this important link (leadership / wellness) to their detriment?

I think putting work ahead of self-care actually comes from a good place—a desire to put forth our best effort and do as much good as possible, and people can be very effective in the short run by working this way (I’ve definitely had moments, for example, where I’ve sacrificed sleep in order to meet a big deadline).

The problem arises when we consistently put “achievement” ahead of our health and wellness, which simply isn’t sustainable in the long run—and I think The New Alpha gives people permission to re-prioritize their health and wellness, even if it means perhaps being slightly less effective on a few short-term tasks.

 

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” –Winston Churchill

 

4 Steps to Improve Your Health Today

What Is That Smell in the Office?

This is an excerpt from The Thing About Work: Showing Up and Other Important Matters, by Richard A. Moran, permission of Taylor & Francis Group. I hope you enjoy his humor as much as I do.

The advent of microwaves ovens created a brave new world at work. The office no longer needed to reek of printer toner and whiteboard markers alone. The office could now smell of microwave popcorn!

Ah, but it didn’t stop there. We can pop something out of the freezer (with the notes on it about cleaning up after yourself) and cook a lasagna or chicken potpie. Going even further, the microwave is now the new home for cooking leftovers. How many of us have been distracted by what we know is a reheated bean burrito or beef chow mein that was nuked just a little too long? The smell of reheated burritos can be as distracting as the guy in the cubicle next door who talks to his mother all day.thethingaboutwork

I dare you to hold a serious meeting when the smell from the garlic in the clam linguini works its way through the halls. The mind wanders in the hope that we don’t sit next to that person in the next meeting. What was not eaten at the restaurant last night does not go home, it ends up in the office microwave. The odors are shared by all.

Some say that leftovers in the office create community when everyone goes out in the hall and asks, what is that smell? Who is cooking that? Leftovers allow colleagues to share their restaurant experiences, and leftovers are the inspiration for the ironclad rule about implementation: whatever is left in the refrigerator on Friday will be thrown away.

It is always good to know that inspiration about execution can come from new sources, like leftovers. And sometimes they are best left at home.

 

Excerpts fromThe Thing About Work: Showing Up and Other Important Matters, by Richard A. Moran, permission of Taylor & Francis Group.

Answer the Call to Exceptional Leadership

answer call

Leading the Unleadable

Taking a management job is not the same as answering the call to exceptional leadership. That’s what Alan Willett’s new book is all about: how to create a culture where people are able to perform in an extraordinary way.

Often new managers think that those following them are unengaged, cynical, or otherwise difficult. And that can be true, but many of these symptoms are a result of the manager not knowing how to lead, how to challenge, how to create team-wide expectations.

Alan Willett offers practical ways for managers to take on these challenges. Alan is the president of Oxseeker, a leadership consultancy with clients ranging from Oracle to NASA. His new book is Leading the Unleadable. I recently asked him about his work on exceptional leadership.

 

“Exceptional leaders have a personal, passionate mission that goes beyond results.” –Alan Willett

 

Set the Right Expectations

There are so many aspects of your book to discuss, but I want to focus on expectations. How important is the leader’s expectations?

It is amazing how even people that seem “defiant” are working to meet the expectations of the leader. When leaders are setting the wrong expectation it will have negative impacts – and the leader can do this without even knowing it.

I have seen many leaders consistently tell their teams that they want the “most aggressive schedule possible.”  Of course the projects with the most aggressive schedule possible are invariably late. Along with being late, there are many negative aspects that can include quality problems and morale issues since team members feel they are failing. Many leaders who set these expectations later ask me, “Why are my teams always late?”

What the leader really wants in these situations is for the team to have the “smartest” plan possible and a commitment that the team can definitively meet or beat that plan. Setting those expectations correctly will get leaders who they really want.

 

“Exceptional leaders are fearless in setting expectations in clear language.” –Alan Willett

 

How a Leader Sets Goals

It seems that you can set the bar too low and not challenge the team or be “so positive” that you demotivate everyone. What’s the best way to set the goal appropriately?

Set clear motivating goals for the team, but also leave out some specifics, leave them a little vague. Then challenge the team to make it more specific and meaningful to them. In doing this the team members almost always grumble about the lack of precision. They then get to work to make the goals better. The team then creates the goals that are that high bar you refer to. Since the team set those specific goals, they are committed to achieving them.

 

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” –Pablo Picasso

 

I have worked this method with leaders over 300 times, and it never fails to inspire the team ownership and commitment. Leaders are often stunned at what the teams can really accomplish.

 

Expect Excellence Every Day

Customer Experience Starts by Ignoring Your Customer

Excellent Customer Experience
This is a guest post by Dr. Tracy Maylett, Ed.D.. Dr. Maylett is the Chief Executive Officer of DecisionWise, an HR management and consulting firm specializing in employee engagement. He offers an intriguing viewpoint on providing great customer experience.

Want a Great Customer Experience?

Is your organization’s success dependent upon creating an extraordinary Customer Experience? Then start by ignoring your customer. No, really.

 

“If you want a successful customer experience, start by ignoring your customer.” -Tracy Maylett

 

Throwing resources at your customer experience does not guarantee a transformative one. You can redesign stores, roll out cool new products, and engage customers on social media. You can implement every form of customer satisfaction measurement known to man. There’s nothing wrong with those steps. But without employees who care, a beautiful store is just a pretty shell. A sparkly new product is just another new release with a limited lifespan—if it even makes it out of the production room.

Without people engaged in their work, where are those cool innovations coming from? Where are the people who care about the superlative customer experience? Don’t get me started on the dangers of having jaded staffers interacting with customers on social media.

 

“Throwing resources at your customer experience does not guarantee a transformative one.” -Tracy Maylett

 

It All Begins with Your Employees

Creating a strong customer experience is like gardening: hoping and measuring won’t give you the results you want. Gardening requires tending to the components that create the desired outcome: using soil amendments, watering, and weeding. The gardener can’t do much more than that. But, assuming it’s done well, the odds of a solid harvest are high.

Growing a successful organization works in the same way. Success comes through quality products, stellar customer support, prudent financial decisions, great leadership, and employees who personally care about delivering an extraordinary customer experience. When an organization can create a top-notch Employee Experience, the likelihood of delivering a superior customer experience increases exponentially.

The opposite is also true: When employee experience is poor, the customer experience will reflect it. We call this the “Law of Congruent Experience.”

 

“When employee experience is poor, the customer experience will reflect it.” -Tracy Maylett

 

THE LAW OF CONGRUENT EXPERIENCE:

Employees will deliver a Customer Experience that matches their own experience in the organization.

7 Leadership Lessons from the Political Arguing

political argument

Finding the Positive or Are You Sick of It, too?

I’m not sure about you, but it’s hard for me to take much more of the political fights happening throughout my social media world. It’s obvious that we are in unchartered territory here in the United States because I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

 

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Dr. Seuss

 

Even a simple comment by one person can erupt into a full-blown fight. Naturally, logic is often missing from these so-called conversations.

I’ve seen many people un-friending and un-following people who don’t wholeheartedly agree with their “right” position.

On the other hand, I’ve seen true leaders emerging in the midst of it all. What do leaders do when an unexpected blast of political winds threatens to overwhelm?

 

“Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.” –Stephen Covey

 

Leaders Emerge

I’ve seen leaders ask more questions to understand and clarify. Instead of proving someone wrong and the rightness of a position, I watched someone modify language and communication. Or, try this: Start with the positive before you believe the worst about someone. And especially gratifying was when two people agreed to actually talk. Yes, talk—you know, when you are actually sitting down, face-to-face and having a real conversation instead of a social media onslaught. What an idea! Finally, I was particularly pleased when someone took my counsel. My advice was to see if you could argue the other side passionately and factually. That required research and time, but I was told it was an incredibly enlightening process. He didn’t change his mind, but he did reach a common understanding with his friend.

 

“Leaders start with the positive, always believing the best first.” -Skip Prichard

 

I’m taking these simple lessons beyond these arguments to use in my everyday life:

  1. Ask more questions
  2. Clarify positions
  3. Assume positive intent
  4. Reduce emotions by hearing the stories behind the raw emotion
  5. Modify language from extreme positioning
  6. Increase face-to-face conversations
  7. Learn to articulate the other side with passion and facts

 

I can’t say that I’m not frustrated with it all. I still cringe when I see someone post a question as bait ready to hook someone into an argument. At least now I’m hoping for a more positive resolution.

“Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.” -Laurence Sterne

 

The constant negative political talk had me pen a little poem about it all.

Here it is: