Want to Be a Better Leader? Try This in 2014
How often do you find yourself complaining about being exhausted?
Almost every entrepreneur falls into the pattern of not getting enough sleep, working too hard, and not exercising, even though these things are scientifically proven to make you happier. Instead we come up with excuses for why we don't have the time for what matters.
When I was CEO of Contour Cameras, I was doing the same thing. Despite having a healthy foundation as a former National Collegiate Association athlete, I was running myself into the ground. My family received the brunt of the neglect, while my body took the rest. It got so bad that if I didn't feel exhausted, I worried I wasn't working hard enough.
Unfortunately, the only thing that stopped this downward spiral was getting fired from my own company. It was only then that I realized taking care of my family and personal health was more important than all the rest.
Most leaders forget that their lifestyle sets the precedent for their company's culture. If you value quantity over quality, your team over family, or work over everything else, your team is going to feel stressed and deliver unimaginative work.
So as you think about the next year, I challenge you to make it one when you refuel and find your way back to the passionate, high energy entrepreneur your team once knew.
This transition won't be easy, but there are a few things you can work on everyday to be a happier leader in 2014.
Silence Your Phone
When you get home, unplug--especially during dinner and family time. Your significant other will notice because you won't constantly be checking your pocket and actually show up for the conversation.
If this sounds like too much, you can work up to it by putting your phone on vibrate, turning off updates, and leaving it at your desk during meetings. Being able to disconnect on command will help you get over the anxiety that no one can reach you all night.
Hit the Gym
Every week you should exercise most days. Yes, it does require to you schedule this on your calendar, but it can--and should--be done. If you have to wake up early, go to bed an hour earlier. If you're going after work, bring your workout clothes with you. And if you're on the road, wake up early to run a short circuit in your hotel room.
The best leaders are incredibly vulnerable. They are willing to share their deepest fears, show their emotions, and tell stories that go well beyond the company to their heart.
You can practice this every day by writing a thoughtful sentence about how something made you feel in an email, or responding with something deeper than just "fine" when someone asks how you're doing. Learn to pause when you address large groups of people so you get comfortable with silence.
If you need more practice, try taking an improv comedy or theatre class that forces you to get up in front of random people. It's not enough to discuss work topics; you have to get to the point where you won't get nervous every time it's your turn to speak.
Get More Rest
This is by far the most neglected aspect of any entrepreneur's life, despite being among the most important. Buffer wrote a great piece about why taking naps and having a consistent sleep pattern matters. I suggest you read up on it.
A lot of us became entrepreneurs because of the freedom in lifestyle. But once we started running a company, we chose to work constantly. It may be agonizing to walk away from your office, but taking vacations is healthy for you and everyone in your life.
Weekends and three-day holidays don't count. Try taking at least a two week vacation in 2014, when you don't check email or make phone calls. If your team can't execute without you, your leadership is broken.
Remember, when you look back on your life, the stories you tell will be about your adventures--not the time spent in front of a laptop.
Find Things That Inspire You
If you want to inspire others, you've got to inspire yourself. This is hard to do when you're sitting behind a desk all day, thinking about business. But inspiration can come in any form. I personally find it through reading, writing, discovering pictures, and traveling.
Each day, try to find something small that you're inspired to share with your family or team.
Find a Mentor
Almost every leader neglects his or her own personal development. It's easy to value the hiring of topic experts, but of greatest value to the company is your strength as a leader.
I like to think of business leaders as athletes. Peyton Manning didn't become the best quarterback in the world without amazing coaches, a training regimen, and countless hours of hard work--and neither will you without the right support.
If you can't afford a coach, find a mentor you can visit on a regular basis. Ideally, you want someone you personally like who has experience leading people and some understanding of your business.
Marc Barros is the co-founder and former CEO of Contour, a hands-free camera company. Shortly after graduating from the University of Washington, Marc co-founded Contour in 2004 and led the organization from a garage to a multi-million dollar company. Contour products were sold in over 40 countries through action sports retailers and national chains, including Best Buy and Apple.