How to become a fully connected leader
My favorite get-to-know-you question is ‘what does connection mean to you?’. While everyone has a different answer, there are common themes.
‘Connection is a two-way relationship between people.’
‘Connection is a willingness or a shared agreement to be vulnerable.’
‘Connection is not about what you’re doing, it’s about who you are being.’
I genuinely believe that connection starts with you. Before we can be connected to others, we need to be connected to ourselves. We need to know what makes us tick. We need to put ourselves first. It is more important than ever to connect with ourselves. Leadership – and life – is getting harder, making it increasingly difficult to find the time and energy to put ourselves first. However, if we don’t first look after our own health and wellbeing, how can we bring our best selves to work? Self-care isn’t selfish. Yet when we face increased pressures with work and life, it can be hard to put ourselves first.
Too often, we are afraid of others’ reactions to our vulnerability. Add to this the growing epidemic of loneliness negatively impacting our health and increasing the risk of anxiety and depression. Is it any wonder we so often struggle to connect with ourselves? The noise and pressure of technology and social media also challenge our ability to filter out the unwanted and unhelpful. And then, of course, we are dealing with the ongoing impact of Covid-19. All of which contribute to our lack of connection with ourselves and others.
Fully connected leaders thrive.
They take back ownership of their lives, reclaim their health and have stronger relationships. They energise their workforce, communicate with conviction and create cultures of belonging. I speak with many CEOs who say:
‘It’s really lonely at the top. I didn’t expect that.’
‘Everyone wants a piece of me – my staff, my board, our customers, my wife, my kids. I don’t have any time for myself.’
‘I feel like I’m on a never-ending cycle of stress, alcohol, not sleeping and anxiety meds, and I don’t know how to stop it.’
Five ways to become fully connected
Becoming fully connected is not easy, but it’s worth it. There are five things we need to focus on if we want to become a fully connected leader.
- Know your personal story: Your story will have good, bad and ugly bits, and these all define your past, present and future. Mindset coach Ben Crowe says, ‘When you know who you are and you can own your story … you don’t get distracted by these expectations of others or expectations of the outcome.’
- Know what you stand for: What are your values, strengths, attitudes, and behaviours? Having a solid understanding of these means we can see ourselves more clearly.
- Do something that gives you joy EVERY DAY: If you have forgotten what joy looks like, then make a list of what you loved to do as a child. Do one of those things today. If life right now is really hard, then plan your joyful activity before you go to bed, so you have something to look forward to tomorrow.
- Know what gives you energy and what saps it: Some of the common elements include nutrition, exercise, sleep, doing work you love and being mentally fulfilled, and spending time with people who lift you up. And now think about how you spend your day. Are you all-systems-go from the moment you get up? Do you have a jam-packed to-do list? A never-ending collection of emails to answer? A calendar filled with meetings? If this sounds familiar, it’s no wonder you’re tired.
- Prioritise self-care: Self-care looks different for us all. For me, it’s a walk on the beach at least five times a week and reading crime fiction while sitting on my daybed with a cup of tea or a G&T. It also looks like regular medical appointments to keep on top of my physical and mental health. If you haven’t been to the doctor in a while, make an appointment today to make sure that all your bits are doing what they should be doing.
It’s easy to get busy and forget to take care of ourselves. And yes, change can be scary, especially when it requires deep work to get to know yourself better. But life is really short, so please, prioritise yourself, reclaim your energy and do what brings you joy.
Written by Mel Kettle.
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