One of the struggles we’re hearing from our CU leaders, and leaders everywhere, is that this COVID thing is getting old. You’re tired of it. Me too.
There seems to be no real end in sight. Even as we open businesses there are concerns about a second round of shut-downs and stay-at-home orders if we see another spike. And we’re only beginning to see the true financial damage this has done to members who have lost jobs and businesses, and those who are still on the edge.
We have a lot of CU leaders in our SENSEI LEADER MOVEMENT membership. I’m hearing your concerns and your stresses every day. And I do mean leaders at all levels.
Before I talk about some responses, I want to share something from the heart. You are going to feel the pain. You’re going to feel the pain and stress of the people on your team as you continue to adjust. You’re going to feel the pain and stress of your members as they bring you their challenges.
You’re going to feel it because you care.
It’s the nature of CU people to care. Ever since we started working with the CU community I’ve seen some of the most caring people in the world and certainly the most caring people in the financial world. You cannot help but feel the pain.
Ever since this COVID thing started I’ve been nothing but impressed with how responsive CU leaders have been. I mean from the front line leaders dealing with long lines of sometimes frustrated and impatient people at the drive-through, leaders in maintenance adjusting to new protocols, managers, executives and board members who are squeezing two-year rollouts of new systems into weeks while also trying to keep yourself and your staff healthy, physically and mentally.
And you’ve got to keep yourself healthy!
Now one of the greatest challenges I hear from leaders in this area is just the fact that you tend to put other people first. Again…
Because you care.
What we always need to keep in mind is that if we want to really take care of others, we’ve got to take care of ourselves. Once in a while someone challenges me on that point. They’ll say they just can’t take the time right now, or that there are just higher priorities. After all, Simon Sinek discovered that the best “leaders eat last.” Right?
You might eat last––but he didn’t say you’re not supposed to eat!
The least selfish thing you can do for others is to take care of yourself. When you’re at your best, mentally, physically and spiritually, you are much more valuable and helpful to the people you serve.
Now I’m usually talking about this in the context of making sure you’re taking care of your own development––that you keep learning and growing. At times like this, it also means making sure you’re taking care of your health. You can’t give your best when you’re sick, stressed out or cracking up.
You’ve heard this before. Nothing new. I’m just going to approach it from a different, maybe a more hard-core angle. From the angle of “discipline.”
Discipline is the cultivation and practice of meaningful and purposeful habits. These are not one-offs and they’re not “to-do list” items. Those can be too easily scratched out and postponed.
These are things you embed in your life and in your leadership practice.
I told you you’ve heard this before. Are you DOING it?
I can’t tell you how many times I hear someone say, “I haven’t worked out in two weeks.” I’m not going to throw rocks at that house, but we’ve got to carve time into our schedule to make exercise a habit.
Right now that’s doubly important. Exercise and proper nutrition are two of the most important factors in building immunity to this or any other virus. Do it.
#2 Take a break.
Again, you’ve heard it before. But again––are you doing it?
This means carving in time to just sit and think. Sometimes to review and reconsider strategy and decisions. Sometimes to study and learn.
Sometimes to do nothing but rest and recharge.
(If you need some help with this one, visit this link for free access to “Sit Still, Shut Up and Breathe.”)
#3 Share the burden.
This doesn’t mean emotional dumping. It means truly reaching out and asking for help when you need it. It means spending some time with peers and talking about challenges, stresses––and opportunities.
Most of all, it means soliciting input––from all levels.
I’m still amazed at how many leaders still think they’ve got to do it all themselves––take the world on their shoulders. Yes, you’ve got to embrace responsibility, but you are not doing it alone no matter what you might think or feel.
By the very nature of the job, a leader is someone who brings people together. One of the biggest mistakes I’m seeing amplified during this crisis is leaders who try to act alone, then find themselves trying to sell their ideas and directives to people who likely resist.
Involve people. At all levels. Early and often.
You may be surprised that some of the best ideas and solutions come from the most unexpected sources. And of course there’s always the reality that the people who do the work are usually in the best position to know what works––and what doesn’t.
General Patton famously said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise with their ingenuity.”
That’s not shirking responsibility. It’s making sure you’re fully leveraging the skills, talents and abilities of everyone on your team. Everyone.
These disciplines are simple. Not easy.
Don’t put them on a list, carve them into your calendar, in ink! If you know the story of putting the big rocks in the vessel first, these are the big rocks. Don’t let the sand and gravel displace them. Put the big rocks in first and let the sand fill in the gaps. Then there’s room for everything.
Your people need your “best you”. If you really want to take best care of your people, take care of yourself!