Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Burnout Leadership Leadership Effectiveness Self-Care

We often talk about the responsibilities of leadership – bringing out the best in others, managing conflict, creating and engaging others in a compelling vision, maximizing productivity and profits. Unfortunately, self-care is often left off the list.

The truth is that leadership is hard work and hard work requires energy. Not just physical energy, but emotional, mental and spiritual energy as well. It’s especially vital for you as a leader to keep up your own energy. You are regularly called upon to lend energy to your team, to keep the momentum going, and the process moving forward.

It’s helpful to remember you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of your team. Here’s a mantra for you to remember: Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is actually, ultimately, an act of service. In order to give yourself permission to engage in self-care, you have to let go of these myths:

Leaders are invincible – Leaders are not invincible or invulnerable. You will get tired, angry, hungry, fearful and discouraged. Your very human frailties are what allow you to understand and relate to your team and help them relate to you.

Self-care is too hard (or too expensive, or too time-consuming) – It really isn’t. Especially when you compare it to the cost of burnout. It’s simply about creating and consistently applying good self-care practices. Period.

Leaders should come last – Taking care of your team members and your team as a whole is a good thing. In order to do that, you have to replenish your own energy and reserves. If you consistently put yourself last, your energy may be gone before you get what you need, hurting both you and your team.

So, once you put those myths to rest, how do you actually engage in self-care?

Start with awareness and taking inventory. Learn to pay attention to the cues that tell you that you need rest, food, water or a change of pace. Once you’ve done this, invest in yourself. Take the time needed to take care of you. Nourish and hydrate your body. Rest your brain as much as your body.

Next, create connections and a self-care system. Surround yourself with people who have your back and who tell you the truth when you’re doing well or when you need to self-correct.

Make time to replenish yourself with time away from work, time in nature, and spiritual nurture. There’s an old saying: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” While it may not be possible to consistently keep your own cup completely full, it’s important that you don’t let the level get too low before you do something to refill it.

Here’s the bottom-line: you cannot be a great leader if you’re running on empty, physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Self-care is an essential part of leadership responsibility.

Take care of yourself, and you’ll be able to take care of everything else and Increase Your Impact!

Dr. Sherene McHenry, Relational Leadership expert, is a widely acclaimed speaker, author and coach that demystifies how to lead, motivate and resolve conflict for optimal results. Known for being wise, witty and practical, Sherene provides instantly implementable tips and strategies for enhancing leadership effectiveness, increasing engagement and decreasing burnout, frustrations and miscommunications.

Be A Better Boss

Be A Better Boss

Achievement Conflict Resolution Employee Engagement Leadership Motivation Stress

I’m sure you’ve already noticed that the world is full of two types of people: those who get things done early and those who put things off until the last minute. Those who get things done early prefer structure, deadlines and plenty of breathing room to finish assignments. Their mantra is, “Once it’s off my plate, I can relax.”

Those who procrastinate prefer freedom in how and when they approach tasks, time to passively noodle the assignment and gather as much information as possible, and the adrenaline that accompanies an approaching deadline. Their manta is, “Relax, the deadline isn’t here yet.”

Managing those who get things done early is a dream. You give them a job and it gets completed in a timely manner. Unfortunately, the strain is transferred to employees who can’t bear to have unfinished projects, and who run themselves ragged to finish jobs only to be assigned additional tasks.

“If you want something done, give it to a busy person,” is the adage of most business owners and managers. Wonderful for the business and the manager, but not so great for the dependable employee burdened with one more task. In addition to not being fun or fair, it’s demotivating to be repeatedly asked to pick up other people’s slack.

What your persistent, getter-done-or-die-trying employees desperately need is protection from you, other employees and even themselves. As a wise leader, knowing they will sacrifice and suffer rather than be late or fail to follow through, you’ll want to keep tabs on their workload and how they are holding up.

High performers who keep getting additional jobs are at huge risk for burnout. Once that happens, they either quit, find a different job, or take their heart out of the workplace. At a bare minimum they’ll start doing “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay,” nothing more.

All it takes for your Rock Stars and Steady Eddies to soar under your leadership is for you to protect them. Do this by monitoring their workload, dividing up assignments so everyone is sharing the load, and giving them a bit of breathing space before dumping another task on them.

I can almost hear you panic at the thought of spreading out the workload, particularly to employees who procrastinate, turn things in late and always have a good excuse. While panic isn’t necessary, you will need to manage and train your Last Minute Lucys and Larrys to meet deadlines.

While they might not like it, procrastinators need you to set and hold appropriate deadlines and work boundaries. Without them, they will drop the ball and needlessly cause extreme frustration and stress.

It’s helpful to understand that procrastinators actually need the adrenaline that accompanies a deadline. Deadlines propel them to work smarter, faster and more effectively. Deadlines kick in their creative juices. Working on deadline is their preferred and most effective work mode.

Here are seven tips for bringing out the best in your procrastination-prone employees:

1. Set clear deadlines.

2. Ask for their commitment to meet the deadline.

3. Ask when they would like for you to check their progress.

4. With clearly outlined expectations, allow great freedom to determine how and when they approach the task.

5. Refrain from doing it yourself or reassigning a task before the deadline.

6. Hold them accountable for missing deadlines by letting them know the physical, financial and emotional cost of their actions. If this doesn’t bring about desired results, set consequences. No matter how brilliant or charming, if they can’t meet deadlines, they aren’t a good fit for your company.

7. Lastly, recognize the immeasurable gift they bring your company by being able to nimbly respond to anything that gets thrown at them. You need and want them on your team.

While boundaries and deadlines are your best friends as a manager, remember to refrain from rewarding your persistent rock stars with yet another job. Effectively manage both types of employees and you’ll set yourself and everyone else up for long-term success.

Originally published in Garden Center Magazine, February 2015, http://www.gardencentermag.com/article/garden0215-managing-procrastination-prone-employees/

Are Your Dreams For Your Life And Organization Big Enough?

Are Your Dreams For Your Life And Organization Big Enough?

Achievement Dare To Dream Dream Employee Engagement Leadership Motivation

For as long as I can remember, my father has given me the gift of encouraging me to dare to dream big dreams. When an opportunity to win a trip to Europe through our middle school magazine drive was presented, I knew that would win it. All I had to do was sell a copy of Reader’s Digest and submit a 25 word essay on what I would learn from the experience trip abroad. No problem. I eagerly rushed home and asked my mom to buy a copy. “No, dear. Grandpa gives us a yearly subscription.”

Undaunted, I canvased the neighborhood. Everyone turned me down. Mom suggested I try doctor offices and helped by driving me around town. Repeated rejections followed from doctors and staff. Unwilling to give up, I pressed on. Finally, I sold the coveted subscription to Dr. Brown.

After batting about ideas as a family, I sent my essay off praying, “Please, Lord, let me win.” Months came and went without word, but deep inside I knew I would win. I even turned down an invitation to a prestigious competition, saying, “I think I’ll be in Europe.”

Then came the announcement. “All students please report to the auditorium.” Upon entering, I immediately spotted the man from Reader’s Digest. Someone had won. Heart pounding, I anxiously awaited my fate.

After thanking everyone, he declared, “Out of 13,500 submissions, we selected 17 winners. One is from here.” He paused for dramatic effect … then, he called my name. Overjoyed, I took the stage. While it may not happen every time, don’t let anyone tell you that dreams don’t come true.

As an adult I read Barbara Sher’s “Wishcraft: How To Get What You Really Want.” Promising good things would result, she suggested identifying 100 things that I wanted to be, have or do. So I created my first Top 100 List in 1996 with dreams ranging from the dramatic, to the mundane, to the fanciful and the heartfelt.

About five years later, I found my list. Amazingly, 40 of my wishes had come true with little or no effort on my part. I don’t even remember writing down one of my favorites, “Overdose on the theatre in London.” Mom and I had a fantastic trip and even got upgraded to first class on the flight over.

Before you’re tempted to think I get everything I want, I don’t. Several of the deepest longings of my heart, haven’t and won’t come true. I, like everyone else who walks the planet, have mourned unfulfilled dreams. The good news is we humans are incredibly resilient, and our dreams can change over time.

What about you? Do you have lofty dreams for your business? For the people you lead and serve? For your life? For your community? For your family? Do you have a Top 100 List? Do you encourage your staff to dream? To set grand goals for their departments and individual performances?

Or, have you forgotten to dream? Did you learn along life’s way that dreams are for other people? That it’s safest not to dream or expect good things? That if you don’t dream, you don’t get hurt? Worse yet, do you squelch the dreams of those around you, particularly those who work for you?

I encourage you to compile your personal Top 100 List. If that’s too daunting, do a Top 25 List. Additionally, create a Top 25 List for your business and/or department. Then, ask your employees to create a Top 10 List for the business, their department and/or their job.

Depending on the size and structure of your organization, combine appropriate employee groupings and work together to determine your priorities for the business and/or department. You’ll be amazed at the creativity, energy and teamwork that result. You’ll also know where to focus your energy, time and other resources required to turn lofty and yet worthy dreams into reality.

Originally published in Garden Center Magazine, January 2015, http://www.gardencentermag.com/article/garden0115-top100-priorities-list/

#1 Reason People Quit Their Jobs

#1 Reason People Quit Their Jobs

Bad Boss Burnout Conflict Resolution Employee Engagement Leadership Motivation Stress

A recent Gallup Poll of more than 1 million U.S. workers indicates the #1 reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or supervisor. Wondering if you or one of your managers is struggling as a boss? Look at your turnover rates. If they are low, you’re doing well. If they are in the middle, it’s time to start paying attention. If your turnover rates are high, you’ve got a problem. Unfortunately, turnover rates are often overlooked or explained away with a, “They’re leaving for more money.” Research indicates otherwise.

Your ability to communicate and resolve differences is key to your leadership success and employee satisfaction. For almost a quarter of a century Dr. Arnold Lazarus’s “Rules for Fighting Fairly” has been my go-to guide for teaching people to respectfully resolve conflicts.

If you want to maximize your effectiveness as a leader and strengthen relationships:

Rather than criticizing the person, address specific behaviors. While it may be accurate, telling someone, “You’re inconsiderate, lazy, or rude” only escalates problems. Instead of attacking their character and forcing them to either shut down or become defensive, state the problematic behavior. “When you are late,” “When you interrupt,” “When you leave customers waiting,” all clearly identify a problematic behavior without attacking someone’s personhood.

Addressing problematic behavior allows you to get to the heart of the matter quickly, decreases defensiveness and significantly increases your likelihood of being heard, which is critical to resolving conflict.

Refrain from telling employees what they are thinking/feeling, how they’re going to react or what they do/don’t know. Sentences that start with, “Now don’t get mad, but…” or “I know you think you know best, but…” are pretty much guaranteed to escalate into arguments. While you might be spot on, it’s not helpful or productive to micromanage another person’s emotions or thoughts. Instead of throwing gasoline on the fire, say what you need to say, then allow the person to respond.

Avoid saying, “You always” and “You never.” Unless you’re complimenting someone, “You always/never” is guaranteed to escalate emotions and derail disagreements. Instead of coming to a resolution, you’ll be hearing about the time(s) they did or didn’t do “xyz.” Drop these two phrases from your vocab and you’re well on your way to a productive disagreement.

Avoid right/wrong, good/bad categories. Most of how you desire things to be done as a business owner or boss are a preference rather than a rule that exists proclaiming there is only one way to do things. While cheating, stealing and lying are non-negotiables for most, how and when something gets done is generally a preference.

Determine your non-negotiables, values that are unshakable if someone wants to work for you and things that must be done in a precise way. Then, with clearly established goals and expectations, give your employees the freedom to determine how to best accomplish their tasks. They’ll be less argumentative, feel respected and be far more productive.

You’ll want to be prepared with appropriate consequences for employees who are chronically late, treat others poorly or do subpar work. As painful as it is, good leadership entails holding people responsible for their actions or lack thereof. Other employees take their cues about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior from you.

While conflict may not be pleasant, it doesn’t have to be destructive. These four guidelines are a great starting point for productive disagreements. If you’re thinking, “Wait, Sherene, there’s got to be more,” you’re right. Stay tuned. I can hardly wait for the next blog.

Originally published in Garden Center Magazine, August 2014, http://www.gardencentermag.com/article/garden0814-leader-employees-relationships/

7 Ways To Improve Employee Engagement and Productivity

7 Ways To Improve Employee Engagement and Productivity

Employee Engagement Leadership Motivation

How are you doing as leader? Is your enthusiasm high or are you feeling overworked, underpaid and in need of a vacation? What about your staff? Are they motivated or has their zest been zapped by being asked to do more and more with fewer and fewer resources? Unfortunately, the footprint of the average job has mushroomed over 30% since the recession started in 2007. How are you and your people doing? Has relief ever arrived, or are you all still being asked to continuously perform above max capacity?

Just as plants need fertilizer to maximize growth, employees need nourishment to stay motivated, engaged, and highly productive. Lots of books and articles address ways to motivate employees. Here are seven of my favorite easy, low cost ways to immediately improve employee engagement, morale and productivity:

Take time daily to interact with your employees. Walk about as they are working. Say hello and thank them for all they do. Look them in the eye, shake their hand or give them a pat on the back. You’ll be amazed at how valued they feel when they know you care and truly see them.

Ask what they need to be more successful. Regularly ask your staff if there’s anything they need to be more successful. Most will smile, say things are fine and get back to work knowing they have a great boss. Others will share concerns. Some you can take care of with little or no cost. Do so and you become someone they want to please even more.

If you can’t do something easily, but it makes sense, let them know you’ll work on it and when they can expect to see the request met. If it’s not something you’re ready or able to do, thank them for their input and let them know you’ll consider it.

Then follow up with them at a later time. If it’s not financially feasible, you can respond with “While it’s cost-prohibitive at this time, I appreciate your suggestion.” If it’s an outlandish request, you can laugh good-naturedly and say “Wouldn’t it be nice?”

Keep them informed. Good information is critical to job satisfaction and success. In its absence, the rumor mill kicks in and conclusions are drawn, often erroneously. The better the communication, the more effective your employees will be. Being in the know allows them to keep their focus where it should be, on their job.

Find out your employees’ passions. People who are doing what they love perform at the highest levels. Any time you can tie in their job to their passion, you’ll have a super motivated employee. Is this always possible? Of course not. And, when you can, you’re an ever bigger hero.

Let your people come in one hour late, or leave one hour early, one day a week. Your industry is demanding. Think how happy and motivated your people will be if one day of the week they have an extra hour. Their loyalty, motivation and productivity will far exceed the hour they are gone.

Have a contest. Create a contest for almost anything that can be measured and produces results. For example, largest increase in sales, best idea to cut out waste, the lowest accident rate… Couple it with a prize such as a trophy, plaque, pizza party or something reflective of the value added to your bottom line. Do this individually or by department. Post results, create a buzz and watch how a good-natured competition promotes productivity, fun and hustling to win.

Offer an incentive. Set a high but reachable goal for your individuals or departments, and offer a meaningful reward for those who accomplish it. Increased sales, employee safety, quality control and on-time deliveries all positively impact your bottom line. Pass some of the savings and profitability along, and your employees will work even harder.

While it’s not easy to keep your employees motivated, working hard and feeling valued. And, a motivated workforce is critical to success and a better bottom line. Think outside of the box and let me know what happens as you intentionally cultivate employee engagement.

Originally published in Garden Center Magazine, June 2014, http://www.gardencentermag.com/article/garden0614-motivated-employees/

Burnout Or A Better Bottom Line

Burnout Or A Better Bottom Line

Burnout Employee Engagement Leadership Motivation Stress

Run, run, run. Do more with fewer and fewer resources. Deal with difficult people. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. It’s another day in the life of a leader.

Depending on your position and personality, you might flourish working under the gun. If you’re like some, rushing around, rising to the occasion and problem solving brings out the best in you. There is no mountain you can’t climb. No obstacle you can’t overcome. Your biggest challenge might be turning off your brain long enough to get a good night’s rest before you dive in all over again.

Unfortunately, what you find stimulating, inspiring and exciting, can be overwhelming and stressful for others, especially those under your leadership. It’s one thing to create a vision and quite another to be tasked with bringing it to fruition. As a leader, it’s critical to look at stress and burnout and how you can create an environment that maximizes productivity and improves your bottom line.

Stress is generally caused by having too much to do, and the worry and anxiety that accompanies problems in and out of the workplace. Stressed individuals lose their tolerance for frustration, take things personally, and either become agitated or emotionally shut down. Not good for business, productivity or employee satisfaction.

Burnout, the collapse of physical or emotional strength or motivation resulting from extended periods of stress or frustration, also negatively impacts your bottom line as it leads to exhaustion, loss of motivation and ineffectiveness. Highly stressed or burned-out individuals are not good for employee morale or engagement, stellar customer service or the bottom line.

Here are quick tips you can immediately implement to minimize workplace stress and burnout:

1. Take care of yourself physically and encourage your employees to do the same. Get plenty of water, nutrient-rich food and a good night’s rest so that you aren’t burning the candle at both ends. Encourage your employees to do the same. Whether your people are engaging in outdoor labor or working in a temperature controlled environment, a hydrated worker is a more efficient worker. Think of your employees like athletes. Coolers full of Gatorade aren’t just for dousing the coach after a big win.

2. Express appreciation regularly. Employees who feel valued and appreciated are motivated to work harder and are far less likely to be stressed or burned out than those who are treated like expendable objects. Appreciation is a wonderful antidote to stress and burnout.

3. Make sure everyone carries their load. It’s tempting to not want to rock the boat with a temporary employee or someone who is slacking off. Unfortunately, overlooking the slackers puts a lot more pressure on your high performers. It also is incredibly frustrating and demotivating, and leads to stress and burnout. Why should your best people perform at their highest levels if others are allowed to lollygag?

4. Address problems as they arise. Problems are never pleasant and often ignored in hopes they will go away. Unfortunately, problems rarely disappear on their own. Taking care of problems is like weeding. Baby weeds are easy to pull, but once they take root, they can be a bear. If an employee is unhappy, have a conversation. Find out what’s wrong and if you can do anything to help. Unresolved and ongoing arguments drain energy and take a huge toll on productivity and work satisfaction.

Even during your busiest season, you have the power to minimize stress and in doing so significantly decrease the likelihood of burnout among your staff. Implementing even one of these tips will bring about good results.

Master all four and you’ll have the satisfaction of watching productivity, job satisfaction and profitability soar.

Originally published in Garden Center Magazine, April 2014, http://www.gardencentermag.com/article/garden0414-avoid-burnout/