Healthy Leadership

One aspect of leadership that often goes unaddressed is the well-being and health of the leadership team.  It is not discussed because it’s “personal” and, as such, considered off limits.  Even so, I would argue that all of leadership is personal and everything is fair game.  We assess leaders on their integrity, honesty, communication skills, passion, follow through and results.  And, these leadership attributes are personal to the individual leader and just as visible to the leader’s team, clients, prospects and referral sources as is our health and how we are taking care of our bodies and well-being.

Sometimes, the elephant in the room is the  lack of well-being or persistent health issues present within the leadership team.  Left unaddressed, these health issues can impact your productivity, the team’s mojo, or the overall image of the firm.  In our leadership coaching, we focus on all aspects of leadership, including maintaining health and well-being, ensuring commitments outside of work are kept and balanced, and envisioning and planning for the future.  Since a leader is expected to develop a vision and keep commitments that fulfill that vision, you also need to have stamina and energy to act on it. And, when we’re healthy, we are more passionate about what we’re up to and have more fun, too.

In recent years, we have seen organizations in and out of the CPA profession commit to wellness programs and the most successful ones are those that have commitment and participation from the top down.  According to Jim Harter, Ph.D., chief scientist, Workplace Management and Well-being for Gallup, “Over the last decade, Gallup has worked with hundreds of organizations to help leaders create engagement and enhance the well-being and performance of their workforce. The most progressive organizations not only understand that they are in the business of boosting their employees’ well-being, but they also use this as a competitive advantage to recruit and retain employees.”

I’m not saying that focusing on wellness is easy, either.  It takes real commitment and daily choices to foster good health.  My health challenge is to consciously maintain my weight.  While it is tempting to hit the snooze alarm and sleep for an extra 45 minutes before speaking or facilitating a retreat or ordering that yummy special at the restaurant, I have to continually choose healthy options to support my commitment to my health.  Doing so is actually a matter of integrity – doing what I say I’m committed to.

Sharing my commitment to being the healthiest I can be and setting goals (often many short-term goals) helps me to stay on track and I hear other leaders that have success in this area do the same.  Some ideas to make health and well-being achievable include:

  • Assessing your current health – yes, this actually means going to the doctor for annual check- ups (which I know can be difficult, especially for the men in our lives!) and actually heed the advice the doctor provides related to losing that extra 20 pounds, eating more vegetables and getting active.  Your local YMCA or gym likely provides physical assessments and will help you develop an exercise plan that fits your current health and lifestyle.  You can also find a coach to help you assess your current fitness level and make a plan towards improved fitness. As a leader, you have to be willing to have the mirror held up and have your image reflected back to them to honestly assess the actions to take that will enhance your leadership.
  • Setting (small) goals – one trap I’ve found on my weight loss and maintenance journey over the years is setting lofty goals and getting trapped by the “quick fixes.”  I’ve found that setting smaller short term goals, like losing 10 pounds or running a 5k gives me something achievable that I can work towards, especially to start.  As I’ve become more confident in my physical ability, I often find that if I set activity goals, such as riding the Red Ribbon Ride, a 300-mile bike ride over four days to raise money for HIV/AIDS in Minnesota, my activity and food choices will line up to achieve those goals.
  • Sharing your commitment– let others know about your commitment to health, for you and your team, and share your personal goals with them.  If you have some big goals to achieve, such as losing weight, or a health issue that you’re dealing with, consider how having the courage and vulnerability to share it with your team will help you achieve your goal and have them be motivated to take on their health by watching you take on yours.  You may even start a fun team program, such as the “biggest loser” or using a pedometer to track steps and then making a donation to a favorite cause when the team exceeds a certain number of steps in the month.
  • Achieving balance – one of the biggest reasons I hear people give when justifying not exercising, eating right or scheduling basic maintenance appointments is that they’re too busy.  When they face pressure, they drop their health and well-being activities to find some kind of balance. The opposite of balance results, however.  When you commit to being the most healthy and fit you can be and your exercise and doctor or other well-being appointments become as important (and un-cancellable!) as your client appointments or feeding your kids, you will find more balance – and higher energy, increased productivity, reduced stress and more positive outlook on life.  Setting goals and sharing them with others will help you develop this balance and have it become more natural over time.

When we set our annual goals at ConvergenceCoaching, we encourage our team members to share a personal commitment and often it involves some aspect of taking on a next level in our health or exercise regimen.  Then, we share our progress (and roadblocks and milestones) with each other in our weekly work-to-do emails and team calls.  The support and accountability this provides goes a long way in making healthy living a part of our culture and our daily lives.

I know as leaders, we are committed to having our health reflect who we are and we struggle when our current health or fitness is incongruent with that commitment. Start small, and start today, with a full assessment of your health (with someone else!  A doctor, personal trainer, coach…) and set one or two small goals that you can begin to work toward immediately.  My commitments this year are to lose twenty five pounds and run a 10k this fall.  I will keep you posted on my progress.

If you really can’t see how to work health into your daily life with all your other commitments, find someone who has and talk to them about how they’ve done it (contact me or one of my Convergence colleagues – we’d love to assist you in making your ideal health and well-being attainable!).

Please share your health, well-being and fitness commitment and goals with us and others.  We would like to support you – and gain new ideas and inspiration for taking our health and well-being to the next level!