Are you a leader? If so, let me offer some conventional wisdom: To take care of your followers and set them up for success, you need to take care of yourself first.

As the focal point of your team, others take your lead and follow your patterns. This is especially critical during times of stress or a crisis. If you're ill-equipped to manage yourself emotionally, they'll notice.

Truth is, when you handle the craziness of work with confidence, your tribe becomes more confident and trusting of you.

And it all starts with you--the leader--practicing self-care, recharging regularly, and showing up with your best self. Now you're in the right mindset to set the stage for high performance in others.

The Plan for Your Leadership Success

Some of these techniques are about your personal development and self-care, others are about engaging your team. In either scenario, it's all about your success. Here's what to do:

1. Energize yourself and your team.

The office doesn't have to be boring. Make it a habit to energize it with scheduled retreats, celebrations, and fun activities that engage, stimulate, and motivate. Science has found that people who have fun on the job are more creative and productive, make better decisions, and get along better with colleagues. Humor also helps you think more broadly and creatively. Laughter releases endorphins into the body--a chemical 10 times more powerful than morphine--with the same exhilarating effect as an intense workout at the gym. What goals and activities that lead to business results can you set for yourself and your team that may be creative, out-of-the-box, and even outlandish?

2. Reward yourself and your team daily.

It can be with verbal acknowledgements and praises or small tokens of appreciation that you know each team member will love. This will require developing personal relationships with your team, of course. How well do you know each member?

3. Have recognition moments.

Ring a bell, play a special song over the sound system, and hand out kazoos as you gather the whole team to celebrate someone's accomplishments or special moments. As a leader, give it freely and learn to gracefully accept it in return as cultural values.

4. Reassess your plan and goals.

Do they still fit? Feel free to make changes and get the team involved in those decisions. After you're done, refer to No.3 on the list! Listen, changing a goal is not an admission of failure that you didn't meet the original goal; it's the highest level of leadership efficiency--flexibility.

5. Don't stop growing.

Leadership is a journey, and if you think you've reached the end of it, think again. Keep examining your personal and professional growth to stay competitive. Are you keeping your skills (with an emphasis on soft-skills) and knowledge sharp and are you using them most effectively? With some humble self-awareness, identify opportunities for learning something new.

6. Take regular time outs.

I recently wrote on the importance of downtime, and how neuroscience recommends that, for every 80-120 minutes, we need to take a 10-minute break to calm down our brain activity so we don't get overstimulated and lose our sharpness. I recommended (among others) activities that can take as little as 5 to 10 minutes, including:

  • Practicing mindful meditation.
  • Listening to music
  • Laughing.
  • Going on a short nature walk.

Now that you're taking time outs with activities that replenish the brain, encourage your employees to do the same.

7. Choose every opportunity to experience joy.

I actually borrowed this section from another article I wrote, where I highlight "5 daily choices the smartest people make." Choose every opportunity to express your joy as a leader, and make it a habit to share it with your team -- quotes, funny pictures, uplifting or hilarious stories, jokes, positive books, blogs, and good news to pick them up and add color to their lives. It's contagious and builds a culture of positive energy, passion, and enthusiasm for life and the work you (and they) are doing.

8. Inject yourself with intrinsic motivation. Then, pass it on.

Passionate leaders, who believe the work they're doing matters and are making a positive contribution to clients and society-at-large, are naturally motivated and goal-oriented to achieve their best. But they guide and inspire others to scale the mountain and meet their goals. They help give meaning and purpose to their employees' work, communicate the vision regularly and how their work connects to the vision. Then they cheer them on to success. As a leader, you can't help but be empowered and feel happy yourself when you serve your employees this way.

9. Don't just preach work-life balance, practice it.

In the 24/7-connected world we live in, it's much easier to get work done without being tethered to an office. Research by Georgetown University and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation confirms that 80 percent of employees would be happier with more flexible work options and alternative schedules that meet their personal needs. Think out of the box with some of these strategies for yourself. Then make it working policy for your team to boost morale and increase satisfaction:

  • Start the workday before office hours (7 a.m., for example), and leave in the mid-afternoon to pick your children from school.
  • Are you a nigh owl? Arrive at the office around lunch and leave at 8:00 p.m.
  • Whatever the case, have a creative schedule that meets your personal needs. How about this: Four 10-hour days followed by three days off, or a Monday-Thursday schedule of 9-hour days, followed by Fridays off and some flex-time on weekends.
  • How about working from home more often? Many remote workers are typically happier and more productive.

What's working or not working for you here? What would you add to this list? Leave me a comment here or on Twitter.

Published on: May 12, 2017
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