How Marty Maraschino Taught Me Resilience

Resilience might be eligible for word of the year. You hear it everywhere you go. We talked a lot about resilience during the Pandemic. How do we bounce back and adapt?

One definition of resilience is: The capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Clearly, we need to embrace resilience as human beings. In a chaotic, unpredictable world where the only constant is change, you might drive yourself mad if you cannot adapt.

But more importantly, how is the skill of resilience strengthened, taught, or learned? Can it only be built when you face change or disappointment? Is it kind of like skydiving? You only learn how to really do it by jumping out of a plane?!

And how can I teach it to my son before he actually needs to draw on it?

Thinking back, I got lessons in resilience and rejection early. From professional acting as a child – where I never held on to any one opportunity too tightly and was on to the next if I was not cast – to participating in plays at school, 

While I got many juicy roles in school plays, I remember the ones that stung. Particularly one. A school theater director organized a joint 7th, 8th, and 9th-grade production of the musical grease. And I wanted to be Marty Maraschino sooooooo badly. She was the sophisticated red-haired Pink Lady, brilliantly portrayed by Dinah Manoff in the movie version. My favorite line of hers was “I’m Marty Maraschino. As in cherry.”

Before the audition, I studied the lines. I watched the movie. I perfected my sexpot pout (even though I had no idea what I was doing at 13). The director somehow knew I wanted the role ao it was mine to lose.

And lose I did. While I have been a choir singer for a very long time, I was (and still am) very insecure about singing solo.  So I bombed the signing portion of the audition, singing Freddy My Love offkey and likely too softly.

The director even (sharply) asked me later, “What happened?!”I don’t know, but the role went to a much more deserving classmate who did a fabulous job. 

And I got the part of Dorothy the Cheerleader.

I loved that my school plays would often give names to the extras, so we didn’t have to simply be known as Cheerleader #5. But I could play Dorothy, and give her a whole backstory! I got to be in every dance number, sported a very fun 50s cheerleading outfit, and even got to do the hand jive with a cute boy during the big dance scene.

I learned from moments like that to process my grief over what I’d lost, but embrace what was in front of me – and make it my own. Play Dorothy to the  hilt and perhaps, maybe even steal the show (I mean, I was voted “Best Pickpocket” in the 7th-grade production of Oliver)

Another unexpected resilience lesson came when I was in middle school. I desperately wanted to be on the Drill Team, which was the middle school’s and high school’s dance squad. 

I loved to dance. Channeling Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson with my bestie to their iconic 80’s hits on her living room couch, I even gained some brief notoriety with an unforeseen gift and rhythm for dirty dancing

But my Achilles Heel was not being able to do the splits. Despite taking ballet and gymnastics as a little girl, this flexibility eluded me. I even remember following random remedies like stretching after a hot bath, doing 5 minutes a day, or splits against a wall. If you were on the Drill Team, you knew how to do the splits. High kicks and all of that.

That didn’t stop me from trying out….THREE YEARS IN A ROW. I tried out in 7th, 8th, and then 9th grade for the high school team. 

The feedback? I nailed the routines, my smile was magnetic, but I couldn’t do the kicks or splits. And the competition was fierce, so…others made the team when I did not.

With each disappointment, I still got up and tried out the following year. What could I do better? How could I finally limber up enough to do the splits? Could I make up for this inability with precision moves and bringing the energy? They now call this a growth mindset, but it just came naturally to me.It wasn’t about being praised, it was about my own innate desire to practice and improve. What could I tweak to change the outcome next time?

A popular girl’s mom was on the selection committee, and even told her to tell me how amazing I was at tryouts, that I had such a great smile, but that the splits stopped me. 

But here was what I consider the truest test of resilience.  Back then, there was no email so you had to go to the school on the designated day and check the list posted on the door. Once again, my name was not on it. But two of my good friends were. 

And I remember being on the phone in my kitchen with one of them, as we compared notes. Weeping in silence as we talked, I found a way to share in her excitement. Through tears, I said, Ï’m so happy for you! You deserve this.”She said all the right things – that she was sorry, and it wasn’t fair -, but in the end, she made it and I didn’t. On that phone call, at the tender age of 13, I learned how to hold my own disappointment in check while still being happy for my girlfriend. 

Talk about #hypewomen  – thank you, Erin Gallagher, for naming this needed ability, starting this movement in 2023, and showing how it only lifts all of us up.

None of this answers my initial question about how you can “teach” resilience without any real fire actually testing your strength.  There are some great science-backed ways presented in this article by Greater Good on ways to build resilience,  – change the narrative, face your fears, practice self-compassion, meditate, and cultivate forgiveness, but I submit that these are more like things you can do to shore up your foundation so when you need to practice resilience, you are ready. 

I don’t know if these tips actually build resilience, because I’m still not sure it can be built until you are actually tested. I believe they make your internal landscape more amenable and open to resilience, they “seed the soil”, so to speak. Happy to hear other opinions about this!

I’m curious how you have learned resilience in your own life, as a child or an adult. Do you intentionally do things to set up a better environment for yourself to be resilient?  Did you have good role models, or was this something you had to teach yourself? Please let me know!

Photo Credit: https://grease.fandom.com/wiki/Marty_Maraschino

So, This happened This Year…Best of 2023

As we careen into the holidays and end-of-the-year hoopla, I wanted to share some reflections with you on the year that was 2023 here at Red Slice and offer some best-of hits for your enjoyment.

This year, I was honored to present more empathy workshops for leadership training programs and conferences, interview amazing guests on The Empathy Edge podcast, and even deliver powerful brand story work to amazing clients.

Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite podcast interviews and blog posts from this year. Hope you enjoy!

My favorite 6 episodes from The Empathy Edge podcast (although that’s like asking which child is your favorite!):

My Favorites Posts on Red-Slice.com

As we go into 2024, I am still putting together my plan and goals. I know I want to continue working towards Joy, Impact, and Magic, as I did last year as I said last year at this time, (it’s okay to renew your themes and goals if that serves you. And I can’t WAIT to share my newest book with you, The Empathy Dilemma: How Successful Leaders Balance Performance, People, and Personal Boundaries – coming September 2024!

Wishing you a joyful holiday season and merry new year. As our world reels from so much tragedy, hate, and war, may we continue to find ways to find the light in the dark and bring empathy, kindness, and joy into our own homes, workplaces, and communities. This is the way.

Gratitude Leads to Empathy

The reports are in. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are hearing more and and more about how having an attitude of gratitude enhances our lives – and our performance.

This is not some simple hack of Pollyanna thinking. Studies show that a sustained practice of gratitude improves heart health, increases resilience, improves sleep, provides great mental well-being, and even improves overall health and well-being.

Gratitude increases our emotional intelligence and empathy.

Why?

When we practice gratitude, we get out of our selfish center and notice what is around us. Including other people. I personally find gratitude grounds me. It literally causes me to slow down, lower my blood pressure, and calm my monkey mind.

Pausing is essential to building empathy. In order to see things from another person’s perspective, we’ve got to be able to SEE them, HEAR them, NOTICE their tone, body language, and facial expressions. 

Steadying yourself to think about what you can be grateful for enables you to slow down enough to notice who and what is around you.

In my leadership trainings, I often talk about the need to slow down. Going so fast is making us less effective and productive. Quite frankly, when we’re racing (when I’m racing), I tend to do a half-a** job at any one thing! You may feel this, too.

I’ve talked about this with leaders on my podcast before. That need – but more importantly, that ability – to force yourself to slow down in the face of pressure, stress, and chaos. Some of the most impactful interviews I had about this were with Paul Marobella, when he spoke about leading through crisis. We’re talking 9/11, the financial downturn of 2008, and most recently COVID. And Chris L. Johnson, who speaks about how when leaders pause, they win. I highly recommend you check out their episodes. 

This month, we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States. Despite this holiday being fraught with misinformation and revisionist history, I believe it’s valuable that we honor the truth AND take that needed step back to be thankful. Thankful for what we DO have, for those in our lives, for any privileges we enjoy, and to take that step back to slow down and use our senses.

That is how we can gain emotional regulation and connect better with those around us. Whether coworkers or community, friends, or family. Embrace gratitude wherever you can and see how it enhances your relationships with others and yourself going forward.

Photo credit: Maria Ross

The Most Painful And Poignant Empathy Teacher

There is much talk about social-emotional learning in schools all over the world today. And I am here for it. In addition to helping kids from a young age regulate their emotions, negotiate conflict, and constructively express their feelings, there are many efforts to teach children about empathy.

Not “teach them empathy” per se – that is a skill innate to us as human beings – but to help them recognize empathy and strengthen that muscle so it becomes so strong, it is part of their self-identity.

I spoke about Golestan in my book, The Empathy Edge. An innovative immersion school that centers empathy at the root of their curriculum. The results speak for themselves. When their kids matriculate into public high schools, they are often the ones with higher grades, better communication skills, and the ability to diffuse conflict. Teachers want these kids in their classes!

But there are many such efforts afoot to help kids tap into their innate empathy early on, before the muscle has atrophied. Among them, the great work of Ed Kirwan and the team at Empathy Week, which is a worldwide program to help kids practice empathy through the power of film. If you missed it, please check out my podcast interview with Ed to learn more!

 But what we talk about less is how much we learn about empathy from our children.

Being a parent is an exercise in self-development every damn day. In order to teach your child life skills, you kind of have to master your own. You are put face to face with yourself in the mirror of your own foibles and deficiencies. Especially when teaching your kids about emotional regulation, forgiveness, and vulnerability.

When you teach, you need to model. And that is where the deep humility and learning come in.

My husband and I pledged to make emotional learning a core part of our son’s upbringing. Our hope is that he is better at communication, emotional literacy, and collaboration than even we are! A tall order. And one that requires us to reassess where we are in our own development of those skills.

Every day, I am forced to practice empathy because of my son. To meet him where he is, even when I don’t agree. When I am too tired or overwhelmed to listen. When I am trying to get us out of the house to school on time and he has still not put his shoes on.

And in the bigger stuff: I need to practice empathy that he is not me and I am not him and we see the world differently. He may not love game shows and reading mystery novels like I do. He may not (gasp!) desire to get straight A’s. He may not want to forgive a friend who has hurt him, even if it is the right thing to do because he does not bounce back as quickly as I do.

This all requires me to draw every ounce of empathy I have, take a breath, and reach out to meet him where he is.

If I want to model empathy for my son, I have to practice it with him. Even if I don’t have a neon sign pointing at me that says, “Pay attention! This is your mom being empathetic right now!”

As I navigate social and emotional learning with my son, I have worked to fill in my own gaps. Through reading, podcasts, reflection and outside therapy. What are my triggers getting in the way of my own success? How can I be more self-aware of my emotions? How can I make space to listen rather than speak? How can I learn to refill my tank and take a breath so I can be present for someone else? How can I redefine success?

Kids really are the best teachers. 

Photo credit: Maria Ross

Tried and Tested Ways To Motivate Your Employees

Enjoy today’s Guest Post about fabulous yet often overlooked ways to motivate your people from the team at Scalefluence!

All of us are aware of the fact that an organization can only be as good as its people. However, this is not limited to hiring the right people but also ensuring that they stick with the organization and remain engaged in work throughout the tenure. As a leader, you must ensure that the more motivated your employees are, the more likely they will stay with the company. It is your job to make them feel seen and motivated, and there are several approaches you can take. Here are a few tried and tested ways you can motivate your employees. 

Appreciate them

You must ensure that the employees are engaged and they know that you appreciate their hard work. You can do this by giving them a gift card or an award at the annual party. Awards and recognition go a long way in keeping the team motivated. Alternatively, you can create an initiative to ensure that the culture of the company becomes a matter of pride for each employee. Your team is working hard for you, and you need to show recognition to ensure that they feel confident and motivated at all times. 

Celebrate together

No matter how big or small a win is, celebrate it with your team. Make it a point to stay connected to the team members and celebrate their little joys. This will make them feel like a part of your family and encourage them to bring their best to work. Let the team celebrate their joys and success at work. 

Understand their purpose 

All of us have a goal in life, and we want to achieve something or become someone, and as a leader, it is your job to understand this purpose. You need to find out what truly motivates your employees and understand their “why”. It could be through a map of drivers or even a heart-to-heart conversation. You need to understand your employees to know what is it that they are searching for. 

Train them 

One way to motivate the employees is to train them and take them towards their goals. This will increase their self-confidence and improve productivity. You need to provide specific training to help improve the job performance, and it will create a win-win situation for you and the employee. Ensure that you have clear goals and you can work with them to accomplish them. Once they are achieved, you can reset the goals. 

Bonus time off

All employees enjoy bonus time off and this is something they will always appreciate. Leaders need to understand that when employees relax and reset, it improves their mental health and productivity. You need to give your employees time to reset so that they do not feel stressed or burnt out. Keep a watch on the amount of work they are doing and ensure that they are making progress but aren’t overworked. 

Set the right company culture

The company culture speaks a lot about the leadership and whether the team is happy with the same or not. Motivated employees will follow the actions done by their leaders, and you need to be an active leader who leads by example. Allow opportunities that can motivate others and understand what they expect from you. Employees can thrive in the right company culture, and you need to create one that helps everyone grow. 

Ask them what they want

Not many organizations do this, but you must ask your employees what they want and try to give it to them. Look for their preferences and try to meet their needs. There are times when they will not be happy to speak about it openly, but ask them again. Give them a safe space to talk about their needs and deliver them. This will have a huge impact on them, and they will feel like they belong to the organization. 

Pay for professional education

Encourage the employees to have an always-learning mentality and you can do this by providing them access to online training, classes, and educational benefits. Pay for the professional courses they are willing to take as this will help your company in the long term. Help them identify their weaknesses and the areas where further learning can benefit them. It will show that you are happy to invest in their growth and success. 

Set a system that allows growth, engagement, open communication, and advancement. This can be achieved through regular huddles where employees can talk freely, and share their ideas. Let them communicate their problems with the team leaders and ensure that you stay engaged with them. This will set the pulse of your organization. You can have workshops, team outings, or even weekly meetings that can help bring up new problems and brainstorm ideas and solutions. 

Image credit : Unsplash

Leadership Skills for Global Expansion: A Guide for Business Executives

This is a guest post, by Sam Cortez. She is a freelance journalist and has held previous internships at 20/20 magazine, Marie Claire, the NY Daily News, and Parenting magazine.

Globalization is an exciting strategy that can significantly improve a company’s revenue and brand reputation. It, however, does not come without challenges.

While the company’s structure readjusts to accommodate the new market, its leadership is also required to navigate the new globalized business landscape efficiently.

Since business executives are the primary decision-makers in their organizations, it is recommended that they are equipped with the necessary leadership skills before commencing an international expansion.

What are leadership skills for global expansion?

Most leaders have their education and work experiences in the same country, which means they are more familiar with their home country’s culture and business operations than other nations across the globe.

Meanwhile, companies with a global presence will likely have more than one headquarters. Managing these various offices, along with the cultural diversities, requires a flexible mindset.

Leadership skills for global expansion are a set of soft skills business executives must acquire to effectively handle business operations in countries other than their home countries. They help to manage growth and tackle challenges in the new market.

Below are the skills you need to succeed as a leader of a multinational company:

Strong cross-cultural communication skills

Any leadership role in a multinational company will require working in a diverse workplace with people from different countries and cultures. It is also possible that some people you will be working with speak a foreign language. 

Meanwhile, research states that meaning may get lost in the translation process. This may reduce the effectiveness of information communicated about the market. 

Since it might be tough to learn and instantly understand a new language, using accurate translation services can help. This allows effective communication with workers and customers in other countries where your firm operates.

Excellent networking abilities

Acquiring networking skills is vital for people looking to work in an international business. Landing a new job is no different from taking a new product to market, except that, in this case, the product you are selling is yourself. 

According to experts, over 70 percent of job opportunities are not published; they are landed through networking. 

This skill makes it easier for existing leaders to acclimatize to the new work environment. Networking can offer invaluable insights into the new market beyond what any market research report can indicate.

Effective collaboration

Success in international business requires effective collaboration. The leaders across departments and countries must be able to collaborate. The company must also be able to collaborate with partners in the new market.

It requires the willingness to learn new things and accept others’ views on solutions. As a leader from another culture, you may need to rely heavily on others who understand the new market. This does not mean you are incompetent. It means placing the company’s interest above your ego.

Interpersonal influence

Every leader, irrespective of the size or complexity of the team they oversee, must be able to influence others. 

This skill is even more important for business executives as they might be in charge of pitching to secure funds or present the company’s goal for a new expansion. You need to know what you are doing before influencing others to come on board.

Workers are best productive when they understand the company’s goals and what they can contribute to achieve them.

Interpersonal influence is a result of good professional relationships, which is only achieved when you can command the respect of your team members. People value leaders that treat every member equally. 

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (also known as EQ) is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions. Emotionally intelligent people can also accurately interpret and influence others’ emotions. 

Many modern businesses value EQ above IQ. Over 70 percent of employers believe employees with high EQ are more likely to stay calm under pressure and manage co-workers with empathy.

There are four competencies you will need to improve your EQ:

  • Self-awareness
    Ancient Greek Philosopher, Socrates, advised, “Know thyself.” Self-awareness is the ability to understand your strength and weaknesses. It also requires you to understand the impact of your emotions and strategic decisions on your team’s performance.
  • Self-management
    Emotions are easier to manage when there are no challenges. Self-management, however, is the ability to be able to keep your emotions in check even when there are challenges that seem insurmountable. As a leader, you are the light of your team; your emotion and body language significantly influence their actions during a hard time. 
  • Social awareness
    Social awareness is the ability to quickly grasp the emotions and dynamics in your organization and new market.
    This is best achieved through empathy, putting yourself in others’ shoes, and understanding why they act the way they do.
  • Relationship management
    This is the ability to influence others. It is crucial for effective conflict resolution. No matter how insignificant, resolving conflicts in your organization as soon as possible is important. Unaddressed conflict can result in gossip and other unproductive activities.

photo: Unsplash

The Power of One

What can one person do?

We often ask this question when faced with insurmountable odds or unfathomable injustice.

In recent years, many are asking themselves that question around how to combat climate change, homophobia, gun violence, or healthcare inequity – you can actually pick about a hundred given the state of our world today.

When I start to lose hope, I remind myself that many of the world’s most successful movements, non-profits, and social enterprises were started by ordinary people. Usually by one person, maybe two people,who saw a need. 

People like….

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action (gun control)

Candice Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Saint Teresa of Calcutta, founder of Missionaries of Charity

Ian and Brittany Bentley, founders of Parker Clay

Oprah Winfrey (yes, she was once just an ordinary news reporter)

Sojourner Truth

Greta Thunberg, climate activist

Nelson Mandela

And many more individuals I have recently been reading about in the amazing book, Citizens: Why the Key to Fixing Everything is All of Us (highly recommend!)

But then….

This person or those people connected with others to make their vision a reality. They were able to rally like-minded individuals and start a movement.  That is the power of a team.

This is why I am committed to helping every single person understand that their voice matters. When you speak up, you are a magnet for those who see the world the way you do and want to join together with you to solve complex problems. 

If no one person speaks out, others who believe the same thing can’t find each other and make change. (TWEET THIS!)

I have long dreamed about creating a movement called One Dollar DIfference. Donating $1 might not seem like enough on its own to benefit anyone. But what if you can inspire  800,000 people to all donate $1 to cause at the same time? Or each donate one hour of time to a community effort? That is an impact!

Empathy is what enables us to connect and engage each other. To solve these tough problems together. To make a difference. 

Never be afraid to stand up and act as “just one.”. In truth, you rarely are ever alone. You just have to connect with others to have the impact you desire

If you want your team to more effectively bring the ideas of “just one” to life, I can help! Let’s chat about an empathy workshop or talk to boost collaboration, innovation, and performance – and make magic happen!

Photo credit: Guardian ng

The Bear on How to Deescalate Conflict

If you’re not watching The Bear on Hulu, go. Now. It’s the story of Carmen Berzatto, a world-class chef who returns to his Chicago home to take over his brother’s working-class sandwich shop after his brother commits suicide.

My husband and I love it because it’s all about the restaurant business, which we’re kind of fascinated by from a team dynamics point of view (and my husband worked in a hotel and catering kitchen when he was a teen), but the family drama, tension, acting, writing, and how they make Chicago an actual character are everything. As an Italian-American myself, the family dynamics resonate! And I get to enjoy post-college nostalgia, having lived in Chicago in the mid-’90s.

Some episodes are tough to watch. Your heart will race. The arguing will stress you out.  And some are so poignant, you will shed a tear. So much goodness!

Anyone who’s worked in a kitchen before knows the stress and drama. It’s real. And the show helps educate viewers on restaurant slang. One of which we might all want to employ. Carmen teaches his new head-chef Sydney a great signal to help de-escalate conversations when they get out of control.

We’ve all been in those conversations – at work or in life. They start out civil enough, then someone gets offended, the other person reacts, and pretty soon you’re both shouting over each other and no one is listening.  It’s not productive, and frankly, all it results in are bad feelings and a headache.

Carmen teaches Sydney the American Sign Language sign for “I’m sorry” When he has messed up, wants to apologize, or even wants to take the temperature down in a tense conversation, he makes a fist and rubs in small circles over his heart. 

There is one episode in Season 2 when they are arguing about the menu for the new restaurant they are opening. It quickly escalates. And one of them immediately uses the signal to help them both take a beat and reconnect. They are then able to constructively talk with each other again, not at each other.

What signal can you use for yourself – or create with your team – to let each other know that we recognize things are getting out of hand, and we are sorry for our behavior? How can you create a signal to reset the conversation to something more productive to move forward together?

Photo Credit: Mashed

Change is Hard – Even When It’s Good For Us

My son loved his play kitchen when he was a toddler. His toy groceries, pots, and pans came to life for him, so he would bake cakes, fry up eggs, and offer me and my husband dinner, which usually consisted of waffles, a chicken leg, asparagus, and a side of fries – and chocolate milk.

As he got older, he played with the kitchen set less and less. But the thought of donating it terrified him. Especially since his world turned upside down in the Pandemic. One day in 2019, he was in kindergarten, playing with his friends. The next, he was taken home, away from his friends and school, for many, many months – and had no idea why.

As he neared 6 and 7 and he went back to somewhat normal life,  he still clung to what he knew, refusing to make any changes. And that meant we could not give away a single toy or book without drama. Despite telling him we wanted to make room for new toys and games – and bring happiness to another child – he wouldn’t budge. And so the toys collected dust and took up room.

I get it. Change is hard. Even when it’s good for us. Even when it’s worth it.  Even for adults. (TWEET THIS!)

Why?

Change requires us to lead the status quo behind. And that makes us uncomfortable. The status quo is what we know. It’s why moving cities and developing a new routine is hard. It’s also why seasoned leaders sometimes have a tough time embracing a new paradigm of emotionally intelligent and human-centered leadership. Even though our brains know we might land up in a better place, our hearts don’t want to let go. And our brains are wired to exert the least amount of effort on actions and activity – change requires us to think harder again, for lack of a better phrase!

Change means we risk failure. We may not know how to expertly navigate the change. What if we do it “wrong”? What if we cause more harm than good? What if we look like an idiot? What if we don’t know the next right step to take? This often happens to people trying to strengthen their empathy. What if I offend you with all my questions? What if I appear weak? What if someone walks all over me? All valid fears to feel – but also myths about what empathy really means!

Our brains understand the need and desire for change. But it doesn’t make it any less scary and hard.

So I invite you to calm your heart when facing change. We should allow ourselves to feel the emotions associated with it fully. Denying them is pointless and counterproductive. We can grieve the loss of the status quo or our idea of comfort by focusing on all we gain when we change.  And we can seek support as we make the journey – and celebrate achievements along the way by measuring success.

My son has eventually learned the power of decluttering to make room for new interests. He has learned how happy his old toys can make another child. And yes, he gets half the money if we sell the items – no one said you can’t incentivize change!

The only way to live, evolve, and grow is to experience and embrace change. The alternative is to stay stuck and stop learning. And really, who wants that? What is the point of life if you live and work that way?

Photo credit: Magnet.me on Unsplash

How Empathetic Leaders Can Set Strong Boundaries to Avoid Burnout

We are in some tough times. 

Layoffs, Market volatility. For many, returning to work or at least navigating change in a hybrid environment.

Managers are currently caught in the middle. They are feeling pressured from above to get back to delivering stellar results and improving profitability. And they are squeezed by their people, demanding (rightly, after many decades of the opposite) a more human-centered and healthy approach to integrate their work and life. The Pandemic accelerated this movement, and many workers don’t want to go back.

That leaves many leaders stuck – and exhausted.

These folks want to embrace compassionate leadership as a catalyst for innovation, collaboration, and engagement They really do. But how can they do so without losing their own health and sanity in the process? How can they avoid burnout?

The answer is not to give everyone whatever they ask for, nor is it to force you or the team to take on extra work. It also does not mean you become an unlicensed therapist and then slip on your own responsibilities. 

In my new book, I’m developing five pillars to being an effectively empathetic leader while still expecting excellence, setting boundaries, and avoiding burnout. 

Setting boundaries is essential for any leader to prevent burnout and maintain high-performance standards while still caring for their people as…well, people. Here are some strategies that can help leaders set better boundaries at work:

  1. Set clear expectations: Communicate with your team members and colleagues about your availability, working hours, and the time it takes to respond to emails or messages. This will help them understand your boundaries and respect them.
  2. Prioritize self-care: Take care of your physical and mental health by exercising regularly, eating well, and getting enough rest. Find hobbies that keep you in the present moment or simply give you joy, working out a different part of your brain. This will help you feel more energized and productive during work hours.
  3. Delegate tasks: Identify tasks that can be delegated to team members or outsourced to external vendors. And then trust them to do it! This will help you focus on high-priority tasks and prevent burnout.
  4. Say no: Learn to say no to requests that do not align with your priorities or are outside of your capacity. It’s better than saying yes and then dropping the ball! Saying no can be difficult, but it’s necessary to maintain boundaries and prevent over-committing.
  5. Take breaks: Take regular breaks during the day to refresh your mind and recharge. This can include taking a walk, meditating, or engaging in any activity that helps you relax. Schedule them in your calendar, or you likely won’t do them!
  6. Unplug: Set aside specific times during the day when you will unplug from work-related technology, such as email and messaging platforms. This will help you disconnect from work and prevent burnout. Again, scheduling and time blocking this is key.

Remember, setting boundaries is a continuous process that requires self-awareness, communication, and commitment. By setting clear boundaries, you can improve your well-being and productivity as a leader. – and still, be empathetic and compassionate with your team.

Editor Note: I experimented with ChatGPT to initially draft this blog post and then polished it to make it my own. I was delighted to find that many of the concepts I’ll be talking about in my new book, coming Fall 2024, are referenced in this list. While I am always skeptical of AI technologies, I highly recommend you play with ChatGPT for your own content, research, or brainstorming!

Photo credit: Danie Franco on Unsplash