“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” – Peter Drucker
Traditional leadership has changed, we are now deep into this ‘new normal’ and we need a different set of tools to navigate our life and business goals. If you think about a company, the culture is the operating manual for the way of being in the world and influences behaviour and how decisions are made.
Working remotely and being isolated from your team and colleagues have provided its own unique challenges. When you don’t have the daily reminders and triggers in your physical workplace, how do you stay on track to achieve your goals? How do you remind yourself who you want to be during this time?
So starting today, I want you to see yourself as your own company. Tom Peters, the personal branding guru says:
“All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You”.
The way forward is to craft your unique company culture. This is relevant if you are in isolation on your own or whether you have a family with you. This applies to you whether you are a leader in a business, an entrepreneur, a teacher, a mother – whatever your role, you are leading yourself.
Here are some key questions you need to think through when designing your culture:
- What are your key values?
- What is your company promise?
- What does your company want to be known for?
- How do you want to treat your stakeholders?
- What kind of workplace do you want to have?
- What do you want to achieve?
- What is your WHY?
- What unique contributions can you make?
These questions should give you the blueprint for your operating manual and clarify how you want to show up during this time and how you want your stakeholders to remember you during this time. Your stakeholders include your family, friends, colleagues, and clients – basically anyone who is within your direct circle of influence.
The next step with any company’s trajectory is to list on the stock exchange. How are you going to encourage people to invest in your stock? You need to find a way to build trust and demonstrate intrinsic value. However, in order to convince someone else to invest in your stock, you need to buy into the company first. In other words, you need to invest in yourself first. You would never try and sell a product or service you didn’t fundamentally believe in. Here are some thoughts on how you can begin the process to truly invest in yourself:
Clarify your role
“Our intention creates our reality” – Wayne Dyer
Before Covid-19, you had the freedom of different geographic environments which helped to separate the different roles you play. At work, you were the colleague, leader, tension diffuser or perhaps joker. At home, you could be the parent, partner or spouse. Of course we play multiple roles within the work and home environments but the physical boundaries created a space for the relevant behaviours. You wouldn’t lose your temper in the boardroom (hopefully), you would compose yourself in the appropriate manner.
Now you are faced with the challenge of lockdown and one location. Your role can change multiple times in one day. My roles include wife, mother, daughter, writer, entrepreneur, coach, creator, listener, clarifier, peace maker and the newest one ‘ambiguity navigator’, just to name a few.
Although I play various roles, my values stay consistent and drive how I make decisions on what to prioritise and how to handle the various situations that happen in a given day. Some of my core values are family, growth, contribution and vitality.
When you reframe how you see your roles and set a clear intention on how you want to show up, you will take greater accountability for your actions.
Set your intention
Use triggers to affirm your intention for the various roles like setting an alarm to bring you into the present moment. Before you have a meeting, set an alarm 5 minutes before with a label such as ‘bold, confident and present’. I have an alarm set for 6PM daily with a label ‘patient, nurturing, kind’. My kids are 5 and 7 years old and this is the time of day where they think it’s funny to run around during their teeth time, I need a trigger to ground and remind me of who they need me to be during that time.
You can have a wallpaper on your phone, laptop or even have post-it notes in different areas of the house especially where you may get triggered.
The way to translate your values into actions lies in your calendar. What activities are you scheduling in consistently to match the value to the desired behaviour? I value vitality and have exercise scheduled in 6 times per week; my value of growth has the corresponding actions of reading and journaling. Beware getting caught up in writing down a bunch of words that sound good in theory; they need to translate into daily action. Clarity of role is extremely important as it dictates the daily actions you will need to take in order to walk your talk.
Self-leadership = self-care
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”– Lao Tzu
In order to create value for your stakeholders, you need to start by investing in yourself. Self-care is not selfish, it is the starting point of self-leadership. How can you possibly operate at your best when you are fatigued, stressed and in constant overwhelm?
Cultivate a culture of self-care and create a new title for yourself of CEO.
Your current state of being is determined by your rituals – if you are stressed, overweight, procrastinate and constantly anxious, you will have a vastly different set of rituals to someone who is fit, calm, confident and productive.
Conduct an energy audit by asking yourself some key questions:
- If you didn’t set an alarm clock, would you sleep past that time?
- Do you find yourself at your computer screen reading and then rereading the same sentence?
- Do you find yourself reaching for sugary snacks and caffeine just to make it through the morning?
- Do you ever feel exhausted but still plow into your next activity without a break, even though you know you should take a breather?
- Are you losing a sense of presence and falling into auto-pilot as you progress through the day?
- Is your mind racing anxiously from one activity to the next?
- What’s your leave policy and sick day policy?
Here’s the ultimate question – would you want to work for this company?
If you answered no, you need to think very carefully about the way you are treating yourself. It’s time to ditch the guilt and schedule yourself into the calendar daily. Make sure you honour that slot and treat it with the same respect you would any potential investor. It’s time to start making decisions in your own best interest because if you cannot lead yourself, how can you possibility lead anyone else?
It’s time to close the gap between knowing and doing. You already know whether you should start exercising more, eating less sugar, having a recovery ritual or getting more sleep. If you’re honest, you probably know exactly what to do. Now it’s just a matter of giving yourself permission and taking daily doses of action. Replace guilt by asking yourself ‘what will it cost me NOT to invest in myself? Where will I be emotionally, financially and physically if I continue on this trajectory?”
Create a culture of trust
“You can’t collaborate with people you don’t trust. You don’t partner with people you don’t trust” – Stephen Covey
Trust is the glue for any successful relationship whether it’s in your personal or business life. In his latest book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey so aptly says:
“Trust is a competency that we can learn and create from the inside out. Meaning, we first start with ourselves and we look in the mirror, and then we ripple out to our relationships, then to our teams, then to our organization, then to our external stakeholders, then to all society. It’s an inside-out process.”
How do you start to develop trust in yourself?
- Keep the promises you make to yourself
Confidence is directly proportional to the promises you keep to yourself. How many times during lockdown (and before) have you heard yourself say ‘Tomorrow, I am starting to be healthier, take more breaks and manage my mind?’ You set your alarm for a slightly earlier time to fit in this new found habit. However, when the time comes, you pick up your phone and hit snooze! This innocent ‘one time’ offense leads into a downward spiral for the rest of the day. You find yourself procrastinating on your tasks, you figure you will ditch the entire day and feel justified to get that sugary doughnut and then the inner critic arrives to remind you how you let yourself down. The bottom line – you broke the agreement with yourself and damaged your self-trust.
When this happens consistently, the self-talk elevates to ‘I’m the sort of person who can’t do those things’. It’s not just about self-care, it spills into other areas of your life too.
The way to break the pattern is to realise that it’s not enough to schedule yourself into the calendar. You may have every great intention of doing the activity but the key lies in showing up to yourself. You need to prove to yourself you are worth making the change, you need to show yourself you can do it.
When you mind starts to argue with you that it’s early, cold and you can do it tomorrow; you need to override the temptation. Just ignore your mind! Get up, take action and create a micro win. This could be 3 mindful breaths, 10 sit ups, read 2 pages of a book or watch an inspiring TED talk. The point is not about how much time you spend or even the result you achieved during the slot, it is about demonstrating you can rely on yourself and make progress.
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits says true behaviour change is identity change. Your actions need to create the evidence that you are the kind of person who can achieve what you set out to. That’s why ‘fake it till you make it’ is deranged. You are asking yourself to believe something with no proof.
Each micro win not only gets results but also teaches you something far more important: to trust yourself. You start to believe you can actually accomplish these things and your confidence builds as a result.
What are doing to inspire trust in yourself and ensure you are keeping the promises you make to yourself?
2. Have self-compassion
To have compassion for another means having the ability to empathize with someone who is suffering and to feel compelled to reduce the suffering through acts of kindness.
Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain and having a double standard mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Eat.Pray.Love’, was interviewed on the Tim Ferriss show and she spoke about how universal compassion that does not include the self is not universal. You cannot have compassion for others if you have voices in your head that are so vicious and constantly holding you to an impossibly high standard.
Liz says that ‘universal human compassion starts by extending an olive branch of mercy between you and yourself. Self-love is a difficult concept for most people to digest; I like to use the Buddhist concept of Maitri which is developing an unconditional friendliness towards yourself. When you can treat yourself like you do your best friend, you will start to make decisions in your own best interest. When you operating from this place, guilt will no longer even be an option because self-care is seen as a necessity not a luxury.
Liz has a beautiful way she practices this and shares the internal dialogue she has with herself to begin this journey of self-compassion:
‘I don’t know why they gave me you to take care of. They dropped me into this body, this mind, this family, this culture. They dropped me into this moment in history, they gave me these talents, these mental illnesses, these gifts, these addictions. I don’t know why they gave me you but I accept. I accept the sacred responsibility of taking care of you and I will take really good care of you. I haven’t always, but I will now”
In order to develop a culture of trust, you need to incorporate daily acts of kindness; be less self-critical and to move into a space of unconditional self-acceptance.
Cultivate a board of directors
“Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.” – James Lane Allen
Every great leader has something in common, a powerful support structure. It is not possible to achieve success in isolation. To lead yourself, you need to surround yourself with people who support you and have the courage to tell you the things you need to hear and may not necessarily want to hear – done with your best interest at heart of course.
What are you doing to cultivate a board of directors for your company?
My board of directors are people who can grow me emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally. By having this amazing team of people behind me, they give me the confidence to pursue goals I may not have been confident enough to do on my own.
Your board of directors can include special family members, friends, coaches or teachers. The purpose of creating this group for yourself is that there is great power in knowing someone will always believe in you in times when you may not believe in yourself. They also provide accountability for consistent progress on a weekly basis. I am blessed to have people on my board who make me want to be a better person. I can’t face the feeling of discussing the same issues week after week because it means I am not growing or I am not looking for solutions. By having these incredible people in my life, they catapult me to want to become a better version of myself.
They also provide a safe space for me to be vulnerable. It is so important to have people in your life that you can open up to with no fear of judgement and share what your challenges are. Make sure you select the right people for your board, there needs to be psychological safety in the relationship to ensure you know they are not attacking you as the individual but perhaps your approach or idea. There is a freedom to express yourself in the trust that they have your best interest at heart.
How can you equally be this person for someone else and contribute to their board?
Create a culture that inspires challenge
“Personal confidence comes from making progress towards goals that are far bigger than your present capabilities” – Dan Sullivan
Creating a culture of challenge and providing opportunities for personal growth are the highest rated elements that top employers provide. In your company, what are you doing to do to inspire challenge and growth?
In your personal culture, seek out ways to challenge yourself during this time. Perhaps you need to develop a new skill in order to adapt to the new circumstances. It could be public speaking, learning a new technology or developing a meditation or mindfulness practice.
What are you doing to stay relevant to your industry but more importantly to yourself?
You should never stop learning. If you aren’t feeling slightly overwhelmed with your learning curve, you’re not growing. In times of uncertainty, you are provided with the ultimate platform to develop your courage muscle. Use your Personal Board of Directors to help move from your comfort zone to your courage zone; it is where the magic happens and where you truly meet your best self.
“Wouldn’t it be great to be gifted? In fact… It turns out that choices lead to habits. Habits become talents. Talents are labeled gifts. You’re not born this way, you get this way.” — Seth Godin
Charles Duhigg, author of ‘The Power of Habit’ speaks about the power of creating keystone habits. Keystone habits are “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.” Keystone habits create a domino effect that change every area of your life.
In order to create a company you are proud of, trust and that you invest in personally, start by developing the keystone habit of showing up to yourself. This means no more hitting the snooze button, no more broken promises and no more neglect.
The ultimate skill is the habit of showing up consistently and keeping the promises you make to yourself. This develops true self-confidence, courage, self-compassion and resilience. With these tools, you have a company that is unstoppable.
Here’s to investing in yourself,