Many qualities make a great leader, however, if there could only be one attribute, it would be their ability to motivate productive teams and empower individuals. Leadership responsibilities are typically outward-looking and selfless, as managers work tirelessly to create working environments in which others can excel.

Nicole Gorton, Director of Robert Half, explains why leaders can fall short of their responsibilities simply because they neglect their own wellbeing in the process. This is easily done when you’ve been recruited to put your team’s interests before your own and alleviate team stresses. However, workplace wellbeing is crucial for all employees, at both staff and management level.

Workplace wellbeing is important for everyone

In any position, a lack of wellbeing at work can lead to disengagement, low morale and reduced productivity. For these reasons, poor mental health at work costs the Australian economy billions of dollars each year. A portion of this is due to workers compensation claims.

A mentally healthy workplace is one which acknowledges the risks and puts protective mechanisms in place to mitigate them. There’s no shortage of incentives for organisations to start taking workplace wellbeing more seriously. Studies have shown that happiness in the workplace makes people approximately 12% more productive. Similarly, wellness initiatives can significantly improve employee satisfaction (Proto, Sgroi, Oswald, 2019).

Happiness gives workplaces the ability to access and benefit from three key positive emotions:

  1. ‘Enthusiasm’ is said to mobilise individual efforts
  2. ‘Interest’ helps professionals focus their energy
  3. ‘Contentment’ causes people to reflect and replicate their successes

There’s no doubt that these human emotions, and the positives they bring, are beneficial at every level of an organisation.

Creating an environment where self-care is encouraged

Given its direct relationship to wider business performance, managers must understand self-care in the quest for happiness is of equal importance to any other skill required of great leaders – especially when ‘leading by example’ is one of the top characteristics of effective management. From the top down, leaders must create and nurture environments where self-care is both encouraged and enhanced across the entire workforce.

When maximising the bottom line is the primary focus, prioritising self-care might seem impossible. Here are tips to help you find a balance between people management and caring for your own wellbeing:

Have a calming strategy in place

Typically, when we feel high levels of stress, our performance decreases. To stay productive, you should consider taking a moment to recuperate as soon as you experience those niggling red flags. Some recuperation strategies could include pausing for a refreshment, engaging in exercise or focusing on a different task. Whatever works best for you.

Understand prevention is better than cure

Holding a position of high responsibility can sometimes cause leaders to feel like the working day is endless. Continuously working excessive hours often results in a lack of exercise, poor sleeping patterns and developing unhealthy eating habits. Negative health impacts from long working hours include exhaustion, heart conditions, high blood pressure and mental health disorders.

Know when to end your working day to prevent burnout and maintain your position as an effective and productive leader. Incorporate weekly exercise into your routine and avoid dropping the ball on an otherwise healthy diet.

Delegate where appropriate

Not knowing when and how to delegate tasks to direct reports is one of the most common management pitfalls – especially if you’re new to the role. Without sufficient delegation, managers can find themselves neglecting their supervisory and strategic responsibilities.

Where possible, delegate appropriately by understanding when it’s time to let go of tasks and how to play to your individual team members’ strengths. Establish your own priority list, teach new skills to others and communicate clearly.

Know your early warning signs

Sometimes, poor workplace wellbeing can creep up on you in a stealthy manner. This is why it’s important to recognise exactly when your body is showing tell-tale signs of stress before things get out of hand. Symptoms could include a sleepless night, an unusual feeling of tiredness, a loss of appetite, an inability to focus, or emotions of anger or irritability, among others. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to identify and address the cause quickly.  

Take a holistic approach to health

Self-care in the workplace is about making sure all the building blocks of ‘good all-round health’ are firmly in place because when something is missing, it could have wider implications for your overall sense of happiness – especially in the long-term. While plenty of sleep, exercise and a healthy diet might seem like obvious components to a healthy lifestyle, there are other aspects to consider too. For example, continue to learn new skills and adopt new ways of thinking to improve your intellectual health, build positive relationships inside and outside the workplace, and perhaps most importantly, don’t be afraid to take a step back and re-evaluate your role. Ensuring your work is meaningful and that you are living true to your values is essential for a healthy life and effective leadership.

By taking the lead on self-care, you’ll not only be a more effective leader now and in the long-term, but others in the organisation will observe and follow with positive results. Sometimes that may even mean setting the example by removing yourself from a stressful situation momentarily.   

Nicole Gorton Workplace Wellbeing About Nicole Gorton

Nicole has over 20 years’ experience in the recruitment industry. As the Asia Pacific Director of Strategic Accounts at Robert Half, the largest specialised recruitment firm, she is responsible for partnering with large corporate organisations across Hong Kong, Japan, Shanghai, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.

1) Proto, E., Sgroi, D. and Oswald, A. (2019). New study shows we work harder when we are happy. University of Warwick. Available at: https://warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/new_study_shows/


In modern times, leaders are burnt out and living overscheduled lifestyles. Stuck in cycle of overwhelm, never accomplishing enough, and living in acceptance that this is the way life is. People are drained, emotionally exhausted and stressed. Many women tell themselves to “suck it up, princess” rather than rest and reassess.

Often people are redirected to manage your time better, prioritise, make better to do lists, delegate unnecessary tasks and then when you find the extra hour, you fill it up with some other task. Time is not what we should be tracking. Instead, you need to manage your energy.

Time is inevitable, infinite and unchanging. You schedule your day around timed activities, plan dates with friends and measure your knowledge based on the amount of time that you have been doing something. Yet many people focus on time management to only ever spend numerous hours doing projects and spending little time on themselves.

In a culture of ever-constant burnout, it’s time to shift our focus from managing time to managing energy. Let me share with you 8 tips on how to transcend the time management myth to boost your energy.

Build awareness

To create a shift in thinking requires you to build awareness of your energy. Asking yourself quality questions to expand your thinking –  Identifying what drains you the most? What activities increase your energy? What contributes to a life worth living?

When you have a clear picture of what the picture looks like, you are in a better position to appreciate the activities that elevate your energy or what sucks the energy out of you. Self-reflection is the key to gain clarity and the platform to make different choices.

Identify your natural high energy

You will have a favorite time of the day where your energy levels feel effortless. Some limitless energy in the morning whereas others come to life after lunch. The key is to identify you highest energy levels and exploit them.

Unplug from work

The Harvard Business Review tackled the topic of energy management back in 2007. Eleven years later, their words still ring true. Altering the course of your energy, especially when depletion is on the cards and burnout around the corner. When you can recognize the costs of energy depletion behaviors, you can change them.

Refocusing your energy by practicing de-stressing activities such as meditation, yoga or going for a walk creates a space for you to unplug and feel rejuvenated. Developing rituals before and after work, creates a preventative energy strategy that when you need to intently focus your energy on a project, your energy can be sustained longer term.

Be present in the moment

Presence is the key to building strong relationships as true connection only happens when you give your full attention to others. When you let go of the multitasking attitude and break free from technological distractions, you are more likely to experience a state of flow. Incorporate practices such as mindfulness, meditation or yoga that nurture being in the moment.

Relearn the basics of taking care of yourself

Adequate sleep, healthy food, exercise and deep breathing are the necessities of life. In today’s modern world, people move from stressor to stressor, not allowing their bodies to calm naturally for repair and healing. Bodies remain in a constant state of tension, rather than in a practice of deliberate calm. Calm and energy intertwined create productive work and a happy life. Rest and free time create moments for new ideas to come to surface. Inspiration strikes in moments of idleness.

Lead the way with compassion

Self-compassion inspires you to learn from failures and try again. Self-compassion gives you the energy to progress forward. Self-compassionate people have less anxiety and stress, exhibit more curiosity, creativity and will power. In today’s workplaces, compassion is the driving force that connects people. A go-giver attitude, clear boundaries create a compassionate culture, happier and more productive people. When you do the hard work of cultivating qualities that nurture compassionate environments, the chains of stress and overwork start to break down.

Manage your focus

Instead of taking action, people delude themselves into a false sense of achievement as time is invested in planning the day with a time-management calendar or app. Time is wasted as you spend all your time planning, reading and plotting to manage your time. Ultimately the only thing that really matters is execution. Consistent action, to produce real results.

One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is creating rituals that match your peak energy. The most successful entrepreneurs created rituals to maximize their energy opportunities. Warren Buffet wakes up at 6.45am and spends 80% of his day reading. Richard Branson wakes at 5am, exercises and spend time with his family first thing in the morning. Oprah begins and ends her day with stillness.

Successful people execute habitually when their energy levels are at their peak. This creates a platform where they don’t manage their time, they allow themselves to perform consistently at their best.

Humans are not robots

Human factors drive productivity, not traditional time management practices. Humans cannot perform efficiently and perfectly 24/7. We are not machines or robots. When you invest your energy into scheduling your most important activities around your highest energy levels, book in regular down time and create rituals that you stick to religiously, you are leading you. Manage your energy, not your time.

 

Going against the grain can be challenging. It requires creativity, a willingness to explore and reshape the systems that we operate in. If more people start to reclaim their energy, new realities are created, and new visions are brought to life. Isn’t time? If not now, when? If not you, who?


Angela Kambouris is a highly-valued leadership coach and business leader having spent over 20 years in the field of vulnerability and trauma. She is super-passionate about unlocking human potential to deliver extraordinary results and has spoken on stages and worked with thousands of people in the areas of self-development, leadership, mindset, human behavior and business.  She has master-minded with leaders and expert authorities in personal development and business all over the world.


Women Leading Change is a one-day event run in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney by Wake Up Project. With a line-up of international speakers, it is about “catalysing a new way of envisioning women’s leadership” and “harnessing the growing movement of women who want to lead from their authentic voice, cultivate an inner vitality and live their truth”.

Leaders in Heels attended the events in Melbourne and Brisbane as a guest of Women Leading Change, and will also be at the upcoming event in Sydney on Saturday May 16. We will be doing more in-depth coverage of it after the Sydney event, but we enjoyed it so much and were so inspired we wanted to share a little snippet with you.

One of the speakers at Women Leading Change was Tara Moss. Many people still associate her with her modelling career, but these days she is a bestselling novelist, UNICEF’s National Ambassador for Child Survival, an advocate for the rights of women and children, a PhD candidate at Sydney University, and a mother.

Tara shared the story of her past, and spoke passionately about the need for women to make their voices heard. She highlighted how we are so often drowned out by men–even on topics that specifically affect females, such as abortion, birth control, and planned parenthood. She talked about how we need to ensure we don’t burn out, and the importance of caring for yourself. Below are the three components she identified.

1. Prioritise your health

Eat well. Exercise. Get enough sleep. It’s amazing how many mental issues and illnesses in general stem from a lack of sleep, though it’s one of the first things we skimp on when things get busy.

2. Value your time

If you don’t value your time, others won’t either. Make time for yourself, even if it feels selfish. Life can get very rough, so you should do what you need to in order to get through it and do what you’re truly passionate about.

3. Learn self-care

Learn to look after yourself and take time out. Do something that makes you smile and brings you joy. Tara shared how her method of self-care is to go travelling in a vintage caravan. Yours may be a good meal, or a walk on the beach, or in the case of one colleague, doggy fashion shows!

When you’re under a lot of pressure, self-care is normally the first thing that gets forgotten, but that’s when you need it the most. Like the instructions for using the emergency oxygen masks on an airplane, you must assist yourself before assisting others. You cannot care for the people around you properly if you don’t care for yourself first!

 

If you want to hear Tara’s speech in its entirety, as well as be inspired by many other amazing speakers, you can check out Women Leading Change and buy your tickets for the May 16 event in Sydney at their website.