Leading by example can have a profound effect on the wellbeing of your employees. It makes you better, stronger and more effective as a leader and more importantly, when you are committed to taking care of yourself it means you can better look after others. If you would like to learn more about how you can support the wellbeing of your employees, click here to download the free eBook ‘A Practical Guide To Employee Wellbeing – How to Create Your Strategy’
As the leader of an organisation or a team, when you place high value on your own wellbeing, it gives permission for others to do the same. It makes it normal. There are plenty of things that you can do that don’t cost money or time. Committing to your own wellbeing doesn’t involve any self- sacrifice- quite the opposite in fact! There’s no need to make a point about it either – what’s most important is that you believe that it is the right thing to do. And just do it!
Here are some ideas:
1. Keep yourself fit and healthy – What you eat and drink impacts on both your short term and long term physical health as well as your immediate state of mind. Pay attention to the foods and drinks that drain your energy or put you in a negative state of mind. Be open minded to change. For example, if you need caffeine to give you an energy lift or help your brain to get started in the morning, imagine what it would be like if you got caffeine out of your system and you never had another energy low and your brain worked properly all the time! The mind and the body are two parts of the same system. Not only can keeping fit reduce your chance of becoming physically ill, but it can help you feel calmer, happier and more in control. Your own positivity and calmness is highly contagious so don’t underestimate what a massive difference it can make to the overall functioning of your team or organisation.
2. Manage (or preferably get rid of!) your own stress– This isn’t just about leading by example. Think about how your stress levels impact on your employees. When you are more stressed, don’t you become more irritable? Do you find yourself becoming more distant or disconnected from your employees? Aren’t high stress levels likely to lead to poorer quality decisions? But all that aside, yes, it is also about leading by example. If your employees see you operating under stress, not only will they get the message that you also expect them to do the same, they’ll also get the message that it’s acceptable to be irritable, distant, make poor quality decisions and blame it on stress.
3. Embark upon a personal development journey – When you consciously work on making your own life more meaningful it changes the way you interact with the world around you. It affects your relationships, the decisions you make, the things you do, the goals you aim for and the skills you develop. In fact it changes everything. There are many different approaches to personal development and each leader is unique. Some people view the job they are doing as a means of personal development in itself, others like to read books, listen to audio, use the internet as a resource where you can learn almost anything, embark on leadership or other training or engage a coach to help you get clear about and achieve the changes you want to make.
4. Work sensible working hours - By working unreasonably long hours, you, as the leader are giving the impression that the same is expected of your employees. It’s important to acknowledge that you are giving out an unspoken message. You may be merrily working away thinking that you are working long hours even though you would never expect the same of your employees - but remember, your employees can’t read your mind. They only thing they have to go on is what they see you doing. Even if you are proactive in communicating to your employees that they are not required to work unreasonably long hours, if you are demonstrating a conflicting behaviour they are likely to be guided by what you do and not what you say.
5. Place importance on your own hobbies and personal relaxation – The effect on your mental health of engaging in hobbies or relaxing activities will change the way you think, behave and work. Being part of social circles outside of the workplace will allow you to step outside of your work identity, experience relationships of a different dynamic and interact with people with broadly varying perspectives. You’ll unconsciously take all of this learning back into the work place making you more perceptive to the needs of your employees.
6. Invest in your relationships – Investing in your relationships, both personal and professional, involves reflection and learning about yourself. This will affect how you interact with your employees and how you lead. The way you interact with and treat other people will be an example to your employees of how they can do the same. An employee’s relationship with their manager or leader can have a significant impact on their emotional and physical wellbeing so if you can get this right, then you will effortlessly be getting the most from your employees.
7. Hone your communication skills – Everything you do is affected by how well you communicate. Being an excellent strategist, a visionary or a whizz with the finances won’t make your employees feel valued and happy in their job. However, being an excellent communicator will enable people to feel connected to you and trust you. This in turn will make them happier and healthier. You can work on your communication skills through formal training, personal reading or accessing the wealth of free resources on the internet.
8. Listen to your employees – Genuinely listen. When you listen to your employee’s questions, concerns and ideas, you can choose how to respond to them. You will pick up on changes that you can easily make, to improve their wellbeing and you’ll become tuned in to how your decisions and behaviours affect their performance, health and wellbeing.
9. Be present in the workplace – It is difficult to feel connected to someone if they are absent or aloof. If an employee doesn’t feel connected to their manager or company leader, they are less likely to trust them or feel valued. These are important components in feeling engaged at work and enjoying good levels of wellbeing. As a leader or manager there are many ways that you can be present, even if it is not possible to be physically present with all of your employees at all times. If you are in a large organisation you can keep in touch by email, video blogs or appropriate use of social media or intranet. When you are physically present, make sure you are fully present. Take time to connect with your employees, ask questions about them and build rapport. Even if it is only possible have this kind of contact with a small fraction of your employees, if you do it well your reputation will speak for itself.
10. See yourself as others see you – Be willing to remove all your filters (your personal values, beliefs and experiences) and step into the shoes of your employees. Looking out through the eyes of one of your employees, looking at yourself what do you see? What do you hear yourself saying? What do you see yourself doing? From the perspective of one of your employees or team, how do you feel about you? How do you feel about your job? Try this from a number of different perspectives – include those who may have gripes or differences of opinion with you as well as those who you think are supportive of you. Remember, the trick is to see yourself through their eyes, not just you looking at you (of course you will think you are perfect)! Don’t worry if you find this challenging at first. Like anything else, it’s a skill that you can get better at. By making a habit of putting yourself in your employee’s shoes, you’ll become tuned into to how you, as their leader, impact on their personal wellbeing.
You might have noticed that most of these points require no budget and are all relatively small and easy to change. All of them can be done without permission or agreement from anyone else and can be started immediately.
What other changes can you think of that you can make to yourself which will impact on those around you? What changes have you already make that you can share? I’d love to hear your suggestions and stories.
Saffron Grant specialises in improving business performance by improving employee wellbeing. She provides Resilience Training, Executive Coaching and can help you to create a watertight Employee Wellbeing Strategy for your organisation. If you'd like to get directly in touch, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Saffron is the author of 'A Practical Guide to Employee Wellbeing - How to Create Your Strategy' which can be downloaded here.