Within hours of Simone Biles' decision to withdraw from select Olympic competitions, waves of support poured in from around the world. Fellow gymnasts, Team USA, international competitors -- even private businesses applauded her decision to put her mental health front and center.
It was amazing. And yet, in some ways, we missed the point.
While shining a light on mental health issues is almost never a negative, what followed from Biles' Internet-breaking announcement was a resurgence of what we saw in the early days of Covid-19: social media platforms inundated with messages about how we should prioritize self-care and wellbeing. Okay, but how? Who do we look to for guidance?
Biles reminded us that addressing our mental health starts with leaders. How do those in the limelight handle moments of wavering stability? How do they model the behaviors we're meant to follow? We need someone to take the first step -- someone of trust and authority to model self-care.
This opportunity falls to leaders in every corner, including business leaders. Leaders like you. While it may not be an opportunity you seek as a harried entrepreneur or small business owner, it's one that's easy to take advantage of -- and will keep your employees engaged, healthy, and happy. Here's where to start:
Be honest, vulnerable, and open. There's not a single entrepreneur I know who hasn't had ups and downs. This isn't just the nature of business; it's human. While your employees may admire your skill, energy, and unwavering commitment to business success, they also need to identify with you -- and that means revealing your imperfections. Let them know when you're struggling and model self-care by taking time to rest and recharge.
Be supportive. Acknowledge moments when employees are struggling, and remember that this struggle can be personal, professional, or a combination of both. Recognize the entire person and offer space for them to address whatever challenges they face. Concretize this with time off specifically for wellness or mental health.
Be proactive. Addressing mental wellbeing is not a "one and done" performative act. To ensure your team is as healthy as possible, identify stressful periods during the year and make a point to schedule time away from work -- either fun team outings or simply time off. Also, make a point to regularly communicate the importance of mental health and wellbeing to your entire team. This doesn't have to be labored; just make a note of it in company-wide meetings, "big message" emails, and other regular communications. Lastly, be sure you address wellbeing in your vision and mission statement. Make mental wellbeing part of your company's foundation -- not a tacked-on afterthought.
As the late great Zig Ziglar taught us, "You don't build a business. You build people and then people build the business." Let's take a cue from Simone Biles and model self-care as we build the people who make our dreams possible.