It’s been a very long 12 months. Impacts from the Covid-19 pandemic, a significant economic downturn, and widespread social unrest have placed tremendous pressure and stress on us all. That stress is even higher for leaders who bear the added responsibility of driving business success while navigating truly uncharted territory.
This leaves today's leaders in precarious positions, worried about their business, external influences, their organizations, and their people. But who worries about the leaders?
Being Your Best Self
ECC Executive Coach Terre Tuzzolino has been coaching senior executives for over 15 years. “When I ask, ‘What are you doing for you?’ during a coaching session, leaders are inevitably taken aback. They’re so conditioned to being asked about the business, their teams, results, and issues, that to put themselves first comes as a surprise. But the reality is that we’ve all been through a lot – as individuals, as family members, and as leaders. And during this prolonged period of isolation, negative impacts can be exacerbated for those individuals and leaders who might be living alone.”
Terre offers 6 suggestions that leaders can implement today:
- Take care of yourself. What are you doing for you? Draw from the airplane analogy of putting on your oxygen mask before helping others. Be cognizant of the basics – good sleep, good diet/nutrition, and some exercise/activity. Make a list of 3 things you can do every day, like having a stockpile of healthy snacks and taking a ten-minute physical activity break mid-day or prior to what may be a stressful call.
- Identify patterns to better understand yourself. We all experience times when our head’s not 100% in the game. Perhaps we skipped lunch, or we were on our 7th Zoom call of the day, or we were distracted by issues at the office or at home. Keeping a journal of what was going on when you were not able to be fully present, helps identify patterns that then allow for conscious change.
- Break the cycle. Constant repetition dulls the senses and drains energy, even for the most agile leaders. Consider shifting where and when you do work at various times during your day. Do some work standing up and some sitting down. Take short breaks. Avoid ‘back-to-back’ syndrome by scheduling hour meetings for 50 minutes and conclude on-time to breathe, stretch, and prepare mentally for the next meeting.
- Use visual cues. Notes on your computer screen specific to each meeting may help remind and reinforce an intention of who you want to be on the call. Some clients use the acronym WAIT - Why Am I Talking? to help them remember to listen first.
- Employ the 10-second rule. We’ve all been on that path where we’re fine, we’re fine, we’re fine … until all of a sudden, we’re not fine. Don't be hijacked by your amygdala. Recognize your triggers and take 10 seconds so you can respond rather than react. Whether on a call, responding to an email, or facing a tough situation - pause, take a deep breath, rethink, and even reconvene if necessary.
- Seek and lean on supports. The old adage is true – it’s lonely at the top. As we move up, our peer networks become smaller and smaller whether driven by power imbalance, need for confidentiality, lack of peers with similar experience or position, or all of the above. Consider a coaching partner to serve as a sounding board. By providing support in a safe space, an executive coach will help strengthen leadership and resilience by allowing you to decompress, be vulnerable, talk through scenarios, audition new ideas, and get candid feedback. They'll help bring out the best in you to tackle the challenges you face.
We've all heard the phrase 'physician heal thyself'. That applies to leaders, too. Before we can expect the best from the people we lead, we need to be sure we too, are at our best.
Terre Tuzzolino is an ECC Executive Coach based in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Prior to ECC, Terre held senior level positions in direct marketing, corporate relations, advertising, and brand/marketing communications with a leader in the Insurance industry and was named by Advertising Age as one of the 100 Best and Brightest Women in Marketing and Advertising.
Terre holds a Master of Arts in Communication from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology/Psychology from Purdue University.
In addition to being a member of the International Coach Federation, Terre has been a volunteer mediator in the Illinois Court system through the Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR) and was honored to receive CCR's Goodwill Ambassador Award for her work in community outreach. Terre is also adjunct coaching faculty at Northwestern University, providing coaching to executives in Kellogg’s Advanced Management Program.