Lead By Example – The Secret to Happy, Healthy Staff
Recently I watched a Facebook live session where Jen Murnaghan from Digital Dandy brought up a very salient topic about the importance of providing leadership within your team by modelling good self-care practices.
This resonated with me while I was in the middle of writing my very first blog post on The Importance of Going Offline. Which shall henceforth be known as my second ever blog post…
Over the past 20 years I have worked with a lot of different teams across a number of different sectors and specialties. From the breadth of this experience, I can categorically state that when it comes to work life balance and self-care, leadership matters.
A culture of overwork…
My working career took off in my early 20s when I landed a job working for a Member of Federal Parliament. I had never before worked with such a driven, determined and dynamic woman. Prior to entering Parliament she had run her own business, served on local council and national tourism groups and raised three children. She was a tireless force to be reckoned with, well known and loved amongst her community and constituents. I would marvel at how she would get by on just four hours sleep a night and still be on her game each day to field difficult calls from the media, make passionate speeches in parliament and drive for hours to officiate the opening of a small community event. She set the workaholic tone for the office and I scrambled to keep up. Fortunately for me I was young and able to bounce back without too much trouble. Unfortunately for her, her long-term health bore the brunt of it this unsustainable balance.
Being such a determined advocate she generated a lot of work for her staff, particularly for me, her Personal Assistant and Chief of Staff. 10 hours days were the norm, longer if we were in Canberra. I often worked weekends and once every couple of months I would start work at 8am on Friday morning and work through until 2am on Saturday, just to try and catch up. I only lasted in the job for 5 years. Although I confess I worked right up until the 39th week of my pregnancy, the birth of my first child provided the opportunity for a graceful exit from that environment. I took it and did not look back.
Learn from others…
Fast forward several years and I am working for partners in a young start-up. The whole point of the business was to help busy people make space (in their lives) by doing everyday things well. They schedule into their calendars time to disconnect from work, connect with their families and friends, rest and recuperate. They lead by example and in doing so inspire me to do the same. We each have families with small children and have all suffered the physical, mental and emotional pains of overwork at some stage in our lives. We share a passion for “doing” work and life better.
Following on from this idea, Mindful.org posted an article earlier this month about how to Be Smarter Than Your Phone which is essentially about resisting the constant distraction of your digital devices in work and play. My greatest takeaway from that article was a lesson about work-life balance and leading by example from a successful female entrepreneur:
Shonda Rhimes, creator of the TV series Scandal and producer of How to Get Away with Murder, has an email signature that reads: “I don’t read work emails after 7 p.m. or on weekends, and if you work for me, may I suggest you put down your phone?”
That philosophy is the heart of my business: helping to facilitate a healthy work/life balance for my clients. I help businesses eliminate the unnecessary and get stuff done so they have more time to focus on the things that are most important to them, whether that is expanding their business, or simply making it home to their families at a reasonable hour each day.
My business model indulges my passion for helping others, while providing me with the freedom to do the majority of my work from home. I function in a professional capacity while still being there for my family when and as I need to be – these are the things that are most important to me.
However, working from home provides a great temptation to keep working outside of reasonable business hours. Sometimes it takes enormous effort and self-control to switch my computer off at 5pm and leave it off on weekends.
Now that I am a mother, I have a strong desire to raise children that are able to set healthy limits for themselves with work and technology. I lead by example because I impose these limits on myself. I am by no means perfect, but when I stray from this chosen path my kids notice and quite vocally provide the nudge I need to get back on track. Similarly, I’m sure many business owners see the advantages of employing and retaining staff that recognise what it is to be happy, healthy and well-balanced in work and play and to encourage each other down this path.
Lead by example…
With that in mind, here are three simple ways you can model a healthy, productive work/life balance for your team:
- Make sure you schedule regular holiday and rest time in your calendar and that you encourage your team to do the same. Include this as a discussion point in team meetings so everyone is clear on your position of the importance of this.
- Take Shondra’s advice. Set clearly defined expectations for after hours email use for your staff and yourself. Then make sure you stick to them!
- Take time off when you are sick. You are not effective when you’re sick, and neither is your team. The last thing you need it to send your team to their sick bed by sharing your lurgies. Unless your business is quite literally a matter of life and death (and I have worked in Palliative Care, so don’t bother arguing this point), it will survive a day or three without your supervision.
It won’t all be smooth sailing, but if you set your intention, talk about why it is important to you and do your best to provide a positive (yet realistic) example you will set the tone and expectation for your staff, your business and yourself.
Do you lead by example and model a positive work/life balance to your team or do you struggle with this I like so many of us?
What tips or tricks do you use to integrate self-care routines into your life?
I would love to hear from you!