Self-Care Is Non-Negotiable

Self-Care Is Non-Negotiable

Sometimes we don’t realize how much something in our work life has impacted us until we are burned out. I know there’s a lot of talk out there about the importance of self-care, so much so that it may begin to sound like the next fad or buzzworthy topic, but I can assure you that the potential downside of not implementing self-care is exhaustion and burnout. I’ve been on the exhausted side in my career and it takes far more energy and strength to recover than it would if I’d had a solid self-care plan in place to begin with.

Our team is mighty but small—each of us plays a vital role in getting things done and driving results, so when one of us is off track or having a hard time, we all feel it…

On a recent, pretty high stakes project, I pushed myself hard. It wasn’t until the project was over that I felt the full impact of having pushed myself too hard—what I was not fully aware of until after the fact was that I did the project without having a solid and supportive self-care routine in place. I kept telling myself things like, “I’ll just work until I meet this deadline and take a break when it’s done.” The problem with that kind of thinking was that the end point for taking a break was constantly moving—I never took that extra break. I pushed and pushed, working long hours on the weekend because I knew the project had to get done and thought that the deadlines were hard and fast—the truth was with this big project there were so many components and other people involved, so deadlines and timelines kept shifting from outside of my control—but my mindset stayed the same: “After this is done, I will take a really long luxurious break”.

But here’s the thing…

I was tired and when you’re tired, your best thinking is just not available. You are running on fumes and think you’re doing your best, but your best isn’t available in this state.

MY best wasn’t available. 

Yes, the project was completed and a success, but at great cost to my health and well-being. Towards the end, I was often reactive and my zone of emotional endurance was low. It wasn’t that I was always in self-protection—I had moments where I was able to show up in Self-Leadership and move forward with confidence and clarity. It was that I did not ever give myself a full break (or any breaks at all) where I felt completely rested. I was on high alert and running on fumes for far too long and constantly moving the point I’d allow myself a break.

I didn’t have a good, consistent self-care practice in place. If I had, I would have never gone as long as I did during this project without allowing myself the space to decompress and unwind. I was driven by a sense of urgency, (I don’t think I am alone in this) and I kept thinking that taking breaks would distract me from giving my all and doing the best job possible. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Every single one of us needs breaks and we need them often. Sure sometimes, you may be completely in flow and forget to take a break, but being in a flow is totally different than pushing yourself to keep going.

When we build in self-care and create the space and habit to participate in activities that allow our brains to have a break and recharge, it is the equivalent of filling up our gas tanks with plenty of energy to keep us going. But the tank needs to be refilled over and over… 

We need the same. Just like we need to eat and sleep, we need to build in what recharges and refuels us in our self-care routine.

When you feel the urge to keep pushing, try the following instead…

  • Ask yourself, “Am I pushing through because I’m really almost done or do I feel like I’m behind?” If you feel behind, take a 5 minute break to recenter yourself. Chances are you have some negative self-talk happening because you’re not as far along as you’d like—AKA self-protection. Reminder: nothing good happens in self-protection.
  • Schedule short breaks throughout your work day to take a breath and reset. The length of these breaks depend on your needs and how much you are exerting yourself on a particular project. You may not need as long of a break from simple, easy, and habitual tasks as you do from something that requires complex thinking—but the opposite can also be true depending on how long you’ve been working on habitual tasks—check in with yourself to see what feels best.
  • Make a commitment to sign off at a reasonable hour. Sure, sometimes you need to put in a few extra hours because you absolutely need it the next day, but most of our work is a marathon and not a sprint, so honoring your own needs by signing off on time or earlier than normal will help you decompress and recharge.
  • Take your weekends off unless you’re in a short term, high stakes project that will be over quickly (for example, a launch or a training that is happening). Give yourself space between your work and non-work life. It’ll help you return fully recharged and ready to go.
  • Don’t ignore your body’s signals. Shoulders and neck hurting? Take a break. Eyes tired from staring at a screen too long? Take a break.

Be proactive about your self-care routine and do activities that fill you up and help you recharge on a regular basis. Don’t wait until you’re too tired or too overwhelmed to think about it—make your self-care a priority and make sure it’s non-negotiable.

The time is now to make your well-being and needs a priority.

To your self-care and health!

Heather

 

Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

The Generosity of Leadership

The Generosity of Leadership

As humans living in extraordinary times that are difficult for so many people, it is normal for us to be triggered and upset and to react in self-protection. As the world contracts, it is normal to want to do the same. But, what if we consciously lean in to make the deliberate choice to be open and kind instead? Being able to recognize your own self-protective behaviors in the face of adversity and to consciously choose your impact is key to showing up in Self-Leadership.

I recently had an experience while running errands that demonstrated the importance of being aware of my own self-protection and consciously being able to choose my impact. I decided to drop by the local nursery where I’d placed an online order a few days earlier to see if it was ready to pick up. They hadn’t called to let me know whether I could pick it up or not, but since I was already in the area, I decided to drop by and check. It’d save me some time if it were ready by not having to go back later in the week when I knew I’d be too busy.

When I arrived, I noticed that there was only one person working inside of the store and another person out in the back—the line was long and I could feel myself getting impatient, but still I consciously chose to remain in line, recognizing that there was nothing I could do but wait patiently or leave and come back another time. It was clear that they were understaffed and still doing the best they possibly could under the circumstances. Recognizing this truth helped me to stay present and calm while I waited instead of giving in to any self-protective, reactive behaviors.

Then there was a person who walked in, took a look at the line and saw that he wasn’t going to get immediate attention, impatiently bypassed the line and decided to wait outside for the woman who was helping another customer with a tractor. But, I was next in line. I recognized my frustration and my reaction wanting to jump ahead and explain that I was there first, but I still chose to remain calm and remind myself that they were doing the best they could given their resources. Fortunately, the woman outside recognized that I was there first and helped me first before the impatient man who bypassed the line.

What I found interesting is that the woman was still upbeat and choosing to show up in a positive way even though it was busy and they were understaffed. She was happily doing her work and very clearly showing up in Self-Leadership. Under the circumstances, if she had been in self-protection, she could have reacted in a way that would have been felt by everyone there—she could have been apathetic or snippy or anything in between but still she chose to show up and do the best she could under difficult circumstances. That’s Self-Leadership.

And I like to think of choosing to show up in Self-Leadership even when there’s good reason to be upset and reactive as “The Generosity of Leadership”. When you are able to choose to show up in Self-Leadership under difficult circumstances, it demonstrates the value of choosing consciously to be aware of your impact on others. It is easy to react in self-protection when things are difficult—it’s automatic and normal. But when you are able to pause and lean into the opposite choice of being open and expansive, you are able to consciously choose the positive impact you desire. The more that you (and all of us) consciously choose to be generous and compassionate in the face of challenge, the better it goes for everyone. Choosing your impact and choosing to show up in Self-Leadership is an act of kindness and generosity—it creates a powerful ripple effect that can be felt all around.

So how can you consciously choose your impact and show up in Self-Leadership even when things are tough?

Here are a few ways to help you choose…

  • If you find yourself reacting to a circumstance in self-protection, pause and ask yourself, “If I let this play out without considering my part, is this the impact I want to have?”
  • If you feel triggered in the moment, pause to notice and focus on your breath. This simple redirect can help slow down any self-protective reaction you may be having, allowing the space to choose differently. 
  • Remind yourself that you never know what one person is experiencing in any given moment and that you have the power to show up with kindness and compassion.
  • Remember to forgive yourself for any reactions you may have. This helps you to let go of any judgments you are having towards yourself and others and allows the space to choose your impact.

You have the power to consciously choose your impact no matter what is happening around you. And it’s even more important as we all experience and move through difficult circumstances, here and around the globe, to take the time to pause and consider our impact. We always have a choice. You can react from self-protection or you can consciously choose to show up in Self-Leadership. Which will you choose?

Barbara

 

Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

How to Define Company Goals

How to Define Company Goals

When I ask leaders and their teams about their main obstacles to performance and what prevents them from achieving results, the number one answer—by far—is “Not having clear goals.” They say things like: “I don’t really know what we’re doing,” or “I don’t understand the bigger picture here,” or “We keep changing our plans, and I’m confused about what we’re really going for now.”

My CEO clients are routinely shocked when I share this with them, saying things like “What do you mean, they don’t understand the goals? I talk about them every week! Plus I just explained them in depth at our all-hands meeting a month ago! And what about all the strategic planning we did? My entire leadership team attended those sessions and said they loved the vision and goals!” I remember my leaders saying the same thing to me at Coffee Bean, and thinking to myself, What the heck more could I tell them? I’ve given sales goals, and new store counts, and customer satisfaction targets—what else could they possibly need? 

I was perplexed about this for years until I realized that when team members said, “I don’t really understand the goals,” what they usually meant was, “I don’t know how to achieve the goals, nor do I know the plan to make them happen,” or “I don’t really understand my part and how it will contribute to the goals,” or “I don’t believe I can achieve those goals, but I don’t know how to say so.” No one wants to commit to outcomes when they can’t see a reasonably clear path to achieve them. As soon as we focused the leaders and team on creating the strategy and plans to achieve the results, the confusion and uncertainty disappeared, which then made alignment and agreement easy.

But how do we form those original goals in a way that everyone can understand them and have confidence in achieving them? How do we form goals that the team commits to achieving, and then does? And what about when the goals change?

Our process produces what we call your “Visionary Master Plan,” and after Self-Leadership, it’s the most important element that enables teams to achieve desired results. In the Visionary Master Plan, you’ll learn how to articulate clear goals along with the “big why” behind them so that everyone knows what success looks like. You’ll also need to identify the strategic and internal projects that create the path to get you there.

But before we dive into that, we need to temporarily back up and discuss how business happens in the “real world” today. The old ways of working, where unusually smart, driven people gave orders from the top and everyone else did what they were told, are completely obsolete. The modern business environment changes faster and faster—technology innovates at blazing speeds, customers demand better quality for fewer dollars, and competitors pop up everywhere. So how do we grow a business amid such rapid change? 

You have likely heard people talk about going from point A to point B. To describe the process of business growth today, I use a model that, instead, charts the journey from point A to point V. Point A in this model represents your current state, and point V represents your Vision State—the state you want to get to, where your vision for your business is made manifest. 

You’re probably now wondering, But what does “vision” really mean in this context? Well, this V State is a set of high-level goals that you can describe in relatively concrete terms, as if you’re standing three or four years in the future and have actually achieved those goals.

And this V State doesn’t just describe the business results you are aiming for—it also includes the level of operating excellence needed to achieve them. I’ve found that most small-business owners don’t give the quality of their operations much thought. They think that if they just focus on achieving results, then good performance will happen naturally. But as with any activity in which you want to reach a mastery level, your company will hit a plateau if you don’t take deliberate measures to improve. So when you are planning your future V State and defining the outcomes you want to reach, you also need to think about how you and your team will operate to achieve those outcomes. When you have successfully reached the V State, what level of professionalism, teamwork, communication, structure, and processes will you have in place that have propelled you to reach that point? 

Thinking from your V State is a simple concept, yet it’s a major empowering mindset shift. Picture yourself in the future, already having achieved your goals, and then imagine what your work and the work of your team members will look like. 

  • What kinds of things will you be doing differently from the way you operate now? 
  • For example, if your team currently plans everything at the last minute, how will that work when the revenue doubles? 
  • If you make all the important decisions yourself and haven’t yet developed your team to take on more responsibility, how will you focus more on strategy and innovation? 
  • And if your customer service team currently has to enter the same information into three different software systems, how will that work when your volume triples?

When you think about these things from your current A State, you may realize that things are getting difficult and that you need some extra resources, or more planning time, but you aren’t thinking of what will be different about the business at scale; you’re just thinking about what would solve the problem right now. In fact, each of these issues needs to be addressed not only to solve the problem for now but also to work effectively for a bigger future that’s coming soon! This V State mindset should inform all of your strategic planning, major decision making, and problem solving, because it both widens your perspective and moves it into the future. Thinking from your A State, or doing what’s easy and convenient in the short term, does the opposite. In business, long-term, sustainable success is tied to your ability to face the problems of the current moment and address them with thought out solutions that not only resolve the issue in the moment but are also in service to your future V State. Short-term-only solutions are likely to cause even more problems down the road, keeping you and your team locked in a perpetual state of running fire to fire, so it’s worth thinking ahead in the “now.” 

To learn more about how to define company goals and everything you need to know to achieve the best outcomes, order a copy of The People Part. This book contains valuable information to help you become a better leader and work collaboratively and effectively with your team. 

Warmly,

Annie

 

Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

Expanding The Zone of Emotional Endurance

Expanding The Zone of Emotional Endurance

As human beings we don’t have control of what happens, but we (almost) always have a choice in how we respond. As a leader, making choices from Self-Leadership ensures that you can navigate challenges and find the best way forward. It also enables you to create psychological safety and build secure working relationships. However, it does not mean that all your team members are going to feel good all the time.

When it comes to psychological safety, the most common misconception by far is thinking that it’s about making people “comfortable.” Let’s be clear: Total safety and comfort in business isn’t possible (or even desirable). Instead, business inherently faces challenge, loss, and problems. To achieve lasting success, companies need to endure the tough stuff and grow despite the difficulties—which means that people need to not just survive but thrive, even when they’re experiencing stress, challenge, and change.

When we say that team members need psychological safety to do their best work, that doesn’t mean they need to feel good, comfortable, or at ease all the time. Rather, we want our team members to feel psychologically safe enough—enough to endure the inevitable discomfort they’ll experience and stay anchored in Self-Leadership so they can use their thinking brain to problem-solve, as well as step up to taking on greater responsibility and risk.

Trying new things is inherently uncomfortable. Often as humans we stick with behavior that’s familiar, even if we suspect it will not get the best results, because at least we have relative certainty—we know we didn’t die the last time we behaved that way. To be a part of a business that remains relevant, you need to know how to innovate with your team. Innovation sounds exciting, right? It is! But being effective at leading innovation means that you have to master your ability to spend a lot of time in discomfort, and make it safe for your team to be in discomfort right alongside you. I’ve made a model to illustrate this delicate balance between being totally at ease and being totally overwhelmed—a zone in which we’re uncomfortable but still able to think clearly and take calculated risks, despite feeling fear and/or discomfort. This is how we learn and grow. Take a look at the graphic below to see how I think of it visually.

The top zone is where you succumb to emotional reactivity: the panic, punishment, pleasing, and paralysis zone. Different people experience this differently. For some, extreme stress comes across as highly punishing; they think, This is just too much, I can’t take it, it’s not worth it, I have to take a day off. Others respond to extreme stress with panic, unable to be still or control their racing minds, which leads them to speak every irrational thought and every difficult feeling, including anger, out loud. They’ll say things like “I can’t believe this happened. I’m so upset! How did you mess this up?” while frantically putting notes and reminders in their phone. Still others become paralyzed, frozen in overwhelm or fear. They’re often on the receiving end of someone yelling, “Gosh darn it—do something!” And some even go into appeasing behaviors, where they will say and do anything to reduce tension and avoid conflict, even if that involves lying, evasion, or manipulation. Such as “I’m sure I can get this solved before tomorrow”—when everyone who’s in their right mind knows that’s not possible.

The bottom zone represents comfort and (sometimes) denial. Unlike the top zone, this zone can actually have a productive use. We can’t spend our entire lives with tension and stress present in every moment, so the comfort zone is where we recharge our batteries so we can face challenges later. This is the zone where we may busy ourselves with data entry or cleaning up our e-mail inbox, and it helps us cool down after a challenging workday (or week!). But you can indeed have too much of a good thing, and staying in this zone as a way to avoid facing issues (or deny they even exist) guarantees that there’s no growth or learning going on. You’re avoiding the stress of being challenged, sure, but you’re also denying yourself opportunities for both you and the business to improve!

The middle zone is where you are at your most productive. In this zone, you are psychologically safe and secure enough to meet challenges, take deliberate risks, learn new things, and, yes, innovate—even though you’re uncomfortable, doing things you haven’t done before or stretching your capabilities beyond where you’re confident in your own performance. You may even be experiencing pain, fear, frustration, or any number of emotions; however, these emotions don’t control your behavior—you perform well even while experiencing some discomfort of negative emotions. And as you spend time in this zone, you’ll function better and better in it. Imagine you’re about to present a new idea, suggest a solution to a tricky problem, or have a potentially difficult conversation with a team member. You aren’t 100 percent sure of the outcome and it’s a bit nerve-racking, but you feel safe enough to give it a try. Once you make it through in one piece—even if the outcome isn’t exactly what you hoped—you’ll feel confident to do it (and other tough stuff!) again. Every time you reap the rewards of taking a risk, you grow your confidence and competence and “level up” your work.

I refer to this as building your emotional endurance—an element of Self-Leadership—and it is a key competency for team members and leaders alike. 

To learn more about psychological safety and Self-Leadership, pick up a copy of my book The People Part: Seven Agreements Entrepreneurs and Leaders Make to Build Teams, Accelerate Growth, and Banish Burnout for Good. You can order it everywhere books are sold or head to anniehymanpratt.com/book.

 

Warmly,

Annie

 

Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

The Habitual Behaviors that Make Up Culture

The Habitual Behaviors that Make Up Culture

Self-Leadership and secure relationships, the Business Operating Triangle, role clarity and agreements—comes into play when we’re talking about the way a team interacts and the habits and behaviors that make up the fabric of each day’s work. Many of the best practices that make up an effective culture are combinations of multiple behaviors that we demonstrate all at once. But we need to clearly define those behaviors and essentially give some instruction for how to demonstrate each best practice, so that team members can learn and practice them until they become habits. We’ve identified four best practices that every organization needs to cultivate in their habits and culture.

#1: Inviting Engagement and Candid Dialogue

The two strategies I teach to foster open, engaged, and highly collaborative communication are:

  • Soliciting engagement through asking for opinions
  • Talking tentatively

Often when my team comes into an organization, we find that they have been operating in a paradigm in which the CEO does most of the talking and critical thinking, while fielding very little information or input from the team. The cost of this is high, because leaders are prone to making poor decisions when they lack the critical information and perspectives possessed by their people on the ground. This habit of CEOs is common because when they start a business, they are the ones who, for example, understand their clients most—since they work with them directly! But when the business grows, and the CEO’s role moves into growth and strategy and away from client interactions, they may find it hard to accept that they no longer know the clients or their situations as well as they used to. In fact, it’s usually the client delivery team and salespeople who have the most current and relevant information and insights, so the CEO should invite opinions from them!

Inviting engagement and soliciting relevant opinions works best when it’s a habit that becomes part of the culture. You might have heard someone say, or even thought to yourself, I wish we had a more open, collaborative, and inclusive culture. I almost never get to contribute my ideas or share important feedback that would benefit the company! I guess no one cares what I think. In fact, the other people usually care a lot about relevant input, but other assumptions and habits get in the way. They might think they don’t have the time to ask, or they just might not be in the habit of asking. Or they might assume that if someone has something relevant to say, they will. However, over the years I’ve learned that people in the workplace, as a group, generally stay quiet and don’t volunteer extra information unless they’re asked. In fact, to be respectful to others, most people feel it’s not their place to speak until asked.

To create an open, collaborative, inclusive culture, you’ve got to habitually invite input and opinions whenever you’ve got multiple stakeholders involved in a project or issue. I have trained myself to always be asking, “What do you think?” Because I’m always asking, they don’t wonder whether I want their opinion—of course I do! Their input and opinions are extraordinarily valuable and necessary for our success. Team members who work with me now often anticipate this question and offer their opinions even before I ask.

There is a second dialogue behavior that goes hand in hand with the question “What do you think?” that actively cultivates an environment in which people feel free to share what’s really on their minds. It’s called “talking tentatively.” Here’s how it works: Let’s say that I’m negotiating to solve a problem with my team about the schedule for a high-stakes project. I have a solid opin- ion about it, but I also want their opinions and input before I make a final decision, because I might be missing something or perceiving the situation incorrectly. I know (from tons of experience) that if I share my opinion in an authoritative, definitive way, it sounds like I’ve made the decision, and therefore the dialogue and input from the team will come to a screeching halt. No one wants to challenge the boss’s decision once it’s made. And if I ask for thoughts at that point, it sounds like a rhetorical question and leaves people wondering if it’s a test of their compliance.

Instead, whenever I’m working with the team to solve issues, plan, or make decisions, I’m always talking tentatively. Using tentative language implies that my ideas and opinions aren’t fixed and final. It will likely sound something like this: “I’m thinking we should move project A forward and delay project B until second quarter. What do you think?” If I present my ideas as a directive or a demand, I shut down the collaboration, as team members resign themselves to doing what I say, whether they think it’ll work or not. But if I say, “I’m thinking . . . What do you think?” This lets the team know that I’m receptive to feedback and open to change. It creates space for others to ask questions and bring challenges forward. It also allows you to test ideas, theories, and alternative solutions without signaling a clear bias. Whatever plans and agreements result are better set up to succeed.

Some more examples of tentative talk include:

  • “Given these facts, I’m considering this (plan, solution, etc.) . . .”
  • “I’ve considered (context), which is why I’m intending to . . .”
  • “The story I’ve told myself about this situation is . . .”
  • “The meaning I’ve made of this information is . . .”
  • “I’m not certain of this, but here’s how I see it . . .”

To learn more about the remaining 4 best practices that every organization needs to cultivate in their habits and culture and go in-depth into the 7 agreements that every team and leader needs to create a thriving and sustainable business, order a copy of my newly released book, The People Part: Seven Agreements Entrepreneurs and Leaders Make to Build Teams, Accelerate Growth, and Banish Burnout for Good, at anniehymanpratt.com/book.

 

Here’s to your leadership success!

 

Warmly,

Annie

 

Leading Edge Team’s CEO, Annie Hyman Pratt’s new book, The People Part: Seven Agreements Entrepreneurs and Leaders Make to Build Teams, Accelerate Growth, and Banish Burnout for Good is being released April 26, 2022.

You can pre-order it here: 

 

This book is for you if…

  • You’re just starting out
  • You have a business that is stalling
  • You’re a leader feeling like you are just not good with people, but you really, really want to be
  • You’re a member of a team within a business
  • You’re an entrepreneur with a great idea and no desire to manage people
  •  

The People Part is a comprehensive tool kit for how to work effectively with your people, with workable solutions for CEOs, business leaders, and team members. It will teach you the competencies that you (almost certainly) don’t yet have (and didn’t know you needed).

 

Advanced Praise for The People Part:

“Annie’s approach to managing people has transformed our business here at Hay House and my life as CEO. Let her help you and your business too.” — Reid Tracy, CEO of Hay House, Inc.

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