In Challenging Times, Take Care of Yourself First

In The Midst Of Crises And Chaos, You Must Keep Yourself In Good Shape.

By Steve Schumacher

The last couple years have put stress and pressure on nearly everyone and everything associated with our businesses. Quarantines, supply shortages, remote working, hiring challenges, etc. have impacted us in ways that nobody could ever have predicted. At the same time, the resulting stress and pressure have been unpredictable also. Everyone has some stress in their lives and careers, but the last couple years have created challenges unseen before in their depth and breadth.

As a leader, regardless of the situation, it is part of your job to help your employees deal with their stress on the job. Historically, that stress would typically come from working too many hours, challenging customers and/or co-workers, bad bosses, etc. Now, those are still in place but basic health has risen to the top of employee concerns. That safety factor on the job is an open challenge for all of us, so the stress is a constant.

You are human too and many of the stresses you feel are compounded by the big picture responsibility you have for all your employees. To be the best you can be in your role as a leader, you must take care of yourself and keep all of your skills sharp. It is very easy these days to fill your days with new policies around vaccines, trying to fill open positions, supply line issues, and dealing with staffing shortages. In order to be most effective in all of those arenas, you must make sure you are the best you can be.

Some thoughts on staying on top of your game during crises and chaos:

Think positive. Even in the face of extreme adversity, work on your mindset and attitude. There is an old adage in golf – the body tends to do what the mind thought last. The same principle applies here – if you have a defeatist attitude or feel like there is no hope, you will act that way. Looking forward to bad things is not good for your personal psyche and it does not project a good image to your employees. Work on yourself and look for the good in situations, no matter how small. Believe that the bad times will end, that everyone will get through adversity, and be successful in the long run.

Stress relief. We all know about work/life balance. We all know we should take care of our lives outside of work and keep the big picture of life in perspective. This approach to work is always important, but even more so when there is so much uncertainty around us. Get your exercise program going again and stick to it. It is impossible to feel sorry for yourself when you are sweating and pushing yourself physically. Get a hobby that you find fun and rewarding. Find a charity to give your time to, not your money. When you help others, your challenges seem much smaller. The key to all of the stress relief tools is to stick with them. You know by now what works for you to balance work and home, focus on how you will keep doing those things 90 days, six months, and one year from now.

Sharpen your saw. In extreme times of uncertainty, your leadership skills are of paramount importance. Your employees are looking to you more than ever for a compelling vision, even if it can only be very short term. Even though people may be working remotely, you still have a team and need to pull them together to act as a team. Remind yourself how to look for the good things and work and recognize them. The outside world has plenty of negatives, we need to focus on the good stuff at work. Get some feedback on your leadership skills from someone you trust. With staffing shortages, you may want to brush up on some of the technical skills that are required of your employees, in case you need to fill in at some point. Brush up on interviewing skills, especially on how to sell the job and your company to applicants. In the current climate, there is a lot of competition for few applicants.

See opportunities. Even in the darkest of days, there are opportunities. You will see leaders above you not knowing what to do in times of crises. The lack of skills to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity will become very clear. Show upper management that you know how to deal with uncertainty, get the job done, and keep employees motivated. That is one way to get promoted in these tough times.

Remember, you cannot be the best for your employees and company unless you take care of yourself first.

Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected].

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