31 Jul Great Management Starts With Self-Management
We get it. You’ve been leading your people through a storm and are hoping you are over the worst of it. But no one can know the true extent of its impact yet. The problem is, when your sole focus has been to get your team and company through to the other side safely, it can be easy not to see past that. This article shines a light on the importance of self-management in leadership.
There are always going to be challenges. And you will always need to be in a position to lead your people through them. But they also require your leadership after them, when the dust settles, and people need to rebuild things, differently. Your people need you just as much then as they do now. That will always be the case whether during this time or not. And if you don’t know how to manage yourself well, then you risk burnout and being a sub-par leader who neither you nor your team wants or deserves.
How Can I Spot Poor Self-Management?
Poor self-management appears in all the usual guises such as stress, being reactive to your people rather than responsive. It can show up as taking you a lot longer than normal to get through your work, more conflicts and obstacles than usual that are trickier and trickier to sort out. Not remembering the last time you took a proper lunch, never mind some time off. It can be repeated miscommunication and feeling like things are not moving in the right direction or at a rate, you know they can. These can all feature in a regular workday, but when they start to become much more regular in your days, it’s time to pay attention.
What Is Successful Self-Management?
Successful self-management is about you, showing up for yourself so you can show up for your people. Therefore, this starts with the self. This includes your professional alongside your personal life as they work in tandem to support each other. They are all part of you.
Getting self-management right is all about ensuring the processes and disciplines you adopt in your work support you. And it’s about what you choose to do or don’t do for your wellbeing. This doesn’t mean you have to transform your office into a wellness centre. But there are small efforts you can make across the board in self-management to better support you – making you a better manager.
How? Because you set the tone and lead by example so make sure they are great ones.
Practising Awareness and The Regular Review
Self-awareness is the place to start. How aware are you of your overall health and wellbeing? How aware are you of your management style and it impacts on others? The aim here is to be in tune with yourself so that you can be in tune with your team. If you are grounded in knowing how you are and how you work, you can adapt as they grow, and know-how best to respond. If you aren’t aware, you are going to overlook something.
“If you don’t have a workplace that values wellbeing,
then you can’t expect yourself to be well in your workplace.”
Apply the same to the environment and culture you are operating. What’s it like for you? Does it support you in taking your annual leave, or is it a place where working overtime is the norm? Are you provided with the tools you need to achieve your goals? Do you have access to support? If you don’t have a workplace that values wellbeing, then you can’t expect yourself to be well in your workplace. And the same applies to your people.
This is all about becoming aware, reviewing regularly and then taking steps to make necessary changes. We understand that not everything is changeable and not all at once. But you can control yourself. Sure, you are responsible for your team, but you are in the first instance responsible for yourself. If you find some areas need improvement, make the change.
Balancing The Personal and The Professional
The relationship between your personal and professional sectors have a huge role to play here. They must be able to work together. Yes, you need to have healthy boundaries between the two, but if anything, in recent months, we’ve seen them merge more than ever with the increase in people working from home.
It’s better for you as a leader and for your team that they have too. It gives you a more in-depth insight into your people and their experiences and vice versa. It humanises you and shows them a different side to the person they call their manager. This strengthens dynamics and supports you in making better decisions for you and your team.
When reviewing the equilibrium between the personal and the professional in your life, how balanced are they? With your personal, for example, this includes your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. What steps if any, are you taking to care for them? Do you get outside for some fresh air during your day? Are you getting enough sleep? Do you find it difficult to relax in the evenings? How do you feel about your work? Can you switch off when you get home from it? These are the kinds of questions to ask yourself.
There are tons of people who work endless hours supported by gallons of caffeine to make it through the week, all to roll into the next one to do the same all over again. You don’t need us to tell you that’s not a sustainable way of living, and certainly not a way to sustain yourself successfully in management. We aren’t wellbeing experts but prioritising your wellbeing, should be a non-negotiable.
“If you hold onto the old ways of leadership,
you’ll get left behind as your people move forward.”
Whether it’s an activity or practise that helps you manage stress such as meditation or the gym or one involving another community with similar interests that help you switch your mind off and revitalise, it’s a must, whatever it might look like for you. If you are consumed by work all the time, you can’t see it the way you need to. You need to break to see the bigger picture and get a fresh perspective. Otherwise, it, you and by association, your people, will suffer.
Your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing all contribute to being a better manager. You can think clearly, you respond better and you are physically able to do your job. Old school notions of stoic management are a thing of the past so leave it there while being an emotionally balanced leader is favoured in the present and the future. If you hold onto the old ways of leadership, you’ll get left behind as your people move forward. It doesn’t mean you have to be an expert in any of these, just take the little steps needed every day to support yourself in supporting others. It’s all part of great leadership.
When you know where you stand with yourself and what pillars of support you need to live your life, you can turn to the equivalent in your work. For example, review your processes and establish best practice routines. Maybe you have a system that you go along with because it’s always been there, but it could be improved to make your working day a whole lot better. Think the equivalent of moving from paper-based to digital as an example. Making that move would in the long term, save you time, money and bring better order and flow to your life as well as your teams.
“We are not necessarily motivated by our goals,
but by the feelings we attach to them.”
The same applies to meetings, are you leaving them feeling energised or drained? Does the communication flow? Have you a system and approach that works for both? Maybe your management style might require review. After all, it will need to evolve as you do. These are the things that are worth the time to reflect on and update. Anything that better supports you in your workflow, as well as your work-life balance, will be – for you and your people.
It also won’t take you long to identify the areas causing unnecessary stress. They are usually the parts that slow you down and fill you with a sense of dread. We are not necessarily motivated by our goals, but by the feelings we attach to them. The same way you avoid something you don’t like, it’s because of how you feel about it. You have the power to replace it with positive feelings by replacing the systems.
When it comes to the professional in self-management, you are seeking optimum flow to your communication processes, being supported in your work, progression and engagement with your teams, centralising currently displaced systems as well as consistency across the board. But only by knowing yourself, what works best for you and ensuring it, will you know how to work with others to achieve it for them too – a core component of excellent leadership.
Where To Go From Here
It might not feel like it as a leader that you have the time and energy to do any of this, but the long term return of these small efforts mean a better return in the future. It’s worth making the space to combine these practices, and over time, you’ll strike a balance. This isn’t a straight line, progression never is, and you won’t get it all right but look out for your indicators to alert you.
For example, it might be something as simple as a small project is suddenly taking you much longer than usual. Perhaps there is constant over and back about something where there wouldn’t usually be or you can’t recall the last time you ate lunch away from your desk. You know what signs to look out to show you are tipping the scales in the wrong direction and need to bring back the equilibrium on self-management.
And how does all this help you be a better leader to your people? It’s like when you are travelling on a plane with dependants and right before take-off you are advised in an emergency, tend to your oxygen mask first. Self-Management is all about looking after yourself, so you are in the grounded, clear-headed, healthy professional space to make the best decisions, oversee great processes and lead your people in the right direction. Because if you lose yourself, you’ll lose your people.