By far the top struggle that I see with directors and chief execs is that leadership is bad for their health. Now leadership isn’t bad for their health, but the way that they are going about it is.
On my merry travels to networking events, professional trainings and through my experience coaching hundreds of leaders, I’ve seen many cases where people quite frankly look ill.
The Elephant in the Room
Leaders come to me because they want a better performing life, team and company. Except many times they have red eyes, plump bellies, double chins, saggy grey skin, and seem generally stressed out.
Now I have much compassion for them and I’m in no way criticising, but as a coach I’m not there to be their friend.
So I say to them something like “you look ‘done in’, let’s talk about that…”
And we get the opportunity to explore what’s really going on (even though in that moment they are shocked that I’m so blunt).
I’m there to serve them, which doesn’t always look or sound pretty.
When I get the chance to dig a little deeper, it turns out that their health problems are symptomatic of wider issues. They are the manifestation of a lack of care and attention.
People may wonder why I even talk health within the context of business, this is surely something to share with a counsellor?…
Well, this is incorrect thinking, because my client’s are leaders, and if they’re failing to look after themselves, how can they lead and inspire others.
How can they model standards for others to live by if they are living by poor standards themselves?
If they lack care and attention in this area then I guarantee that their:-
- business is underperforming
- satisfaction is waning
- relationships are failing.
Maintaining The Engine
It’s unfulfilling to be unhealthy, overworked and frustrated most of the time.
It’s interesting to me when client’s want better results, but they are failing to maintain their engine.
It would be like taking your family car that’s in need of a service, and without changing anything – entering it into a race at Silverstone.
The chances are the car’s going to break.
You can’t make a car perform at a higher level without maintenance, in the same way that a leader can’t perform without proper maintenance.
So we can’t talk ‘business performance’ without talking ‘personal standards’ – the two are symbiotic.
A Lesson From the Slopes
When I used to teach advanced snowboarders, I’d take them back to basics, which they hated. Basics seem pretty slow and boring when you’re advanced.
Except I know that with a weak foundation they will struggle on slopes that are steep or icy. They don’t have the technique or strength to manage the extra stress.
So take a company director who has been operating from a stance of weak health and vitality for some time, they may be getting results that seem ok, but the reality is that they’re underperforming.
Address the Obvious
My work is to address the obvious, which sometimes is difficult and uncomfortable, because it can seem out of context with why I’m brought in.
If I fail to mention health and wellbeing because I’m trying to be ‘professional’, then I’m doing my clients a disservice.
Applying Kaizen Principles
Unhealthy leaders create unhealthy teams, they have no slack in their system and any additional challenge breaks them.
This is why I love the principle of Kaizen, because it gives permission for the little changes to be important to the whole.
It’s the small actions taken consistently that produce results.
So a healthy leader, that takes care of his or her vitality, combined with a balanced home life – creates the conditions for the increased demand required to perform at a higher level.
Model What You Want
My suggestion is that if you identify with what I’m saying – to seek out a community that are modelling what you want – normalising the behaviour that you want.
If you want happy relationships – find people who have that already. If you want a more effective company and to be healthy – then find leaders who have built successful companies without sacrificing their health.
My mentor Rich Litvin says that:
“If you are the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room!”
If you want a more effective team then you need a more effective ‘you’ first.
As Jocko Willink, Former Navy Seal and Author says: “There are no bad teams, only bad leaders”.