Lead by Example: the ripple effect
What expectations are you setting as a leader through your behaviors, and how much does it impact the performance and mental wellbeing of your team? Your behaviors send a clear message to your employees about what it takes to be successful. Whether you've gotten to this point in your career BECAUSE of your wellbeing practices or IN SPITE of them, you are in a position to influence their wellbeing and performance.
As leaders, we set the tone for the culture of our teams. Not by our words, but by our actions. Telling our teams to take breaks, unplug during vacations, and avoid working all night / weekend come across as disingenuous and shallow when they see how you handle the demands of your job. And if you don't have any boundaries when it comes to work hours, chances are you aren't respecting the boundaries of others.
I'm sending email, chats and texts all night and weekend...but you don't have to respond.
I'm attending meetings and responding to emails during my 'pretend time off' (PTO), but I want you to actually unplug.
Rewarding the wrong behavior
Are you saying that results matter…but rewarding long hours and 24x7 responsiveness? Are you telling your team you care about their mental wellbeing, but not being open to talking about their workload?
Your behaviors make it clear: if you want to advance and be successful, this is the level of sacrifice and burnout you should expect. Each time you recognize and celebrate those on your team who emulate your habits, you are reinforcing those expectations.
So what happens to the productive, focused employees who can achieve the same results (or better) but aren't willing to do it by working non-stop or sacrificing 'balance'? They leave. Because they know that results aren't what leads to success on your team.
You aren't fooling anyone
When are you most focused, creative, present, supportive and compassionate? Chances are it isn't after yet another night of not sleeping, another long week of 12-hour days, another month of working through the weekends and feeling completely exhausted.
We all like to believe nobody notices. We convince ourselves we can handle it; we are still performing and getting things done. And we think that we are just as effective at leading our teams. But we aren't fooling anyone.
Your employees notice that you are short tempered. They see the exasperated look on your face, even if just for a split second, when they try to bring up a concern at the end of another very long week. They notice you working long hours, week after week, without any breaks. And they see the guilt you feel about sacrificing your health, family and personal time because you are simply 'too busy'.
Starts with you
As a leaders, you have a big influence on the wellbeing of your team...and you can't pour from an empty cup. Taking a real break means trusting your team to handle things while you are gone. Respecting boundaries means the 'quick question' can wait until tomorrow. And modeling self-care means you have to take rest and recovery seriously if you expect your team to do it.
How well does your team perform when they are constantly on the brink of burnout, checking email non-stop, and feeling like they can't take any time away if they want to succeed? Ultimately it comes down to the business results you want to achieve. And it starts with you.
Author: Becky Jacobs, Chief Engagement Officer