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Do Your Own Mask First...

bni leadership mindset peter sylvester self care Oct 13, 2020

During the past weeks, many of us are struggling to find a balanced path to respond to what is happening on the global stage, national stage, local stage, and - for some - in our own personal lives.

It really is a tough time at the moment

Who we are at our very core can really shine through during times of challenge like this - and if we want to be a great leader, then it is important that we take care of ourselves first.

Against our beliefs

I realise this message is a bit opposite to our cultural beliefs.

Most of us were cautioned against selfishness. My Grandmother taught me to believe that it creates self-centeredness and that anything "selfish" is wrong.   In my business life, I chose networking as the best way to grow our businesses, and I became quite active in the worlds largest networking organisation - BNI.  

Our activity was very successful, and I would recommend networking in all its forms to any switched-on business owner.

BNI's motto..?   Givers Gain..!

Yet, having a sense of self-awareness - and knowing when and how to care for yourself - is actually the opposite of being selfish. If we don't care for ourselves, there is no way that we can then go on and care for others.

Do Your Own Mask First…Just think of the inflight announcements on planes:

"In the event of an emergency, please put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others."

As leaders, we need to attend to our own foundation first, so we can respond to our situation on a strong basis and in a manner that is consistent with our values.  Only then can we go on and help others.

You owe it to those around you..!

Think about a time...

Let's do a small exercise - think about a time you pushed yourself to meet a deadline.

It may have meant you didn't get sufficient sleep. You may have been caffeine powered, or maybe augmented by your favourite sugar source (diabetics beware..!).

Can you recall a time you did this and responded to someone more harshly than usual?

(Did you need to do damage control later?)

We all have these moments of stress-related inappropriate responses. The challenge for all of us, especially in the current environment where civility, morals and consistency seem to be in short supply in some leadership circles, is to find our own path to sustain our own sense of balance - so that we can be the source of civility when it is lacking from those around us. It is during these times that OUR leadership is most critical.

So, I recommend that you do these 4 things - and it will help you set the foundation to build yourself as a great leader.

  1. Take care of your physical well-being

We know insufficient sleep and a poor diet take a toll on us. Do your best to draw boundaries that will allow you to recharge. I do walking when possible so that I can get some physical activity and sunlight during the working day.

  1. Manage your thinking

This one is critical.

You cannot control those around you, but you can control how you THINK about those around you..!

Research tells us five minutes of negative thinking causes six hours of negative physiological impact on our bodies. A lot of people are strong proponents of mindfulness - just staying aware of what they are thinking and reframing so they can see the positive in ANY challenging situations.

Scenario planning is also a great way to avoid stress. If you look at the worst-case and plan accordingly, then it is no longer a surprise - and you feel in control; you can then feel free to move back to the positive opportunities you want to create in the world.

At Integrus, we have a daily reflection process that helps our people regroup when life feels challenging - it celebrates success, and creates great learning for the future.

  1. Develop emotional intelligence and a sense of purpose

Emotional intelligence is grounded in our ability to manage our own emotions and respond appropriately to others.

For me, one of the biggest keys to managing my emotions is to build a routine that allows me to be aware of my emotions and the impact they are having on me. As a "Red" behaviour style, this was one of my weaknesses in my formative years. I was happy to avoid feeling things and, yet, those feelings still impacted my behaviour.

When I was unaware of them (or suppressing them), the impact could be a negative one, on me and all those around me. It stifled my growth for quite a long time.

If we can maintain awareness and digest our emotions appropriately, we can return our focus to the activities of leading - and being a great Leader in our very core.

Remember - we are not talking about finding better ways to ignore them - we mean working through emotions in a healthy way, and harnessing them for a positive future for ourselves and those around us.

For people who will dismiss this as "touchy feely" – please don't discount the impact this skill can have on your ability to stay focused in a positive manner. The other part of this step is to have a sense of purpose that is bigger than yourself and take daily steps toward that purpose—most of them will be small but significant steps.

  1. Build a strong support system

Do Your Own Mask First…Having a network of caring relationships is invaluable. For some people, the network may be one or two. For others, relationships really do look like a web of inter-connected personalities.

There is no one formula—what is important is that we have at least one honest and authentic relationship and an outlet to support us.

Just knowing and feeling the support of others on the days when everything seems wrong is invaluable.

And they don't need to be able to voice their approval or negative comments - Pets are also a great connection and really are an invaluable source of unconditional love and support.

I have had some of my best conversations with my dog Milly at 4:00 am in the morning, just before I went off for my BNI business networking meeting..!

She always gives me GREAT advice..!


This content is produced by Peter Sylvester who is the Founder of Integrus Global.
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