Did you eat already? Just checking because this might make you a bit hungry.
Picture your favorite sandwich prepared with premium ingredients and nestled between fresh baked bread. It’s literally a “dream” sandwich. Now, what if we take this sandwich and swap out one of the pieces of bread and just make it open-faced? Still a great lunch, right? Let’s try it another way. You’ll still get to keep everything on the inside. Just swap out that bottom slice of bread for a crisp, broad leaf of romaine. Maybe even make it a wrap! Could you go for that? I thought so. Because the good stuff is really still there. Okay, you can go on and eat your imaginary sandwich now.
We just did a food swap, like the kind from “Eat This/Not That” . Eat This/Not That has been showing millions of people all over the world how to achieve their health and wellness goals through making a series of simple food swaps. The challenge is all about how small changes can lead to big wins. It’s not about going cold turkey (unless you like turkey), but it’s more connected to being mindful about how today’s choices – good, bad, or indifferent- can impact your health over time, despite what you were taught growing up.
When we consider the way we’ve ”grown up” as leaders, based on what we’ve been taught and how we’ve been mentored, there may be certain traditional ways of thinking and doing things that show up in our leadership today. I’ll call this the “two pieces of bread mindset.” It’s not bad per se, but there are other choices that are probably more aligned to leadership in a new world that we can and should be making instead.
Being open to a few mindset swaps (similar to the food swaps you made above) can help you break out of the mold of a how-its-always-been-done leadership style. And in this post(ish)-pandemic era, that just won’t work anyway.
Here are 3 mindset swaps to practice this week…at lunch if you want to.
Swap “Don’t Ask Personal Things” for “Be Human and Get to Know Your People.” On Grant’s first day back in the office following his bereavement leave, his director scheduled an early morning meeting with him. Although he was actually looking forward to getting updated on projects, Grant was also still dealing with the impact of his loss.
The meeting came and went. His director asked him about a particular report. He even asked him about taking on a new client. But he never asked him how he was doing. Not then nor at any other time. Grant would bring this up three months later in his exit interview.
The idea that you shouldn’t “get personal” is an outdated, yet common approach that some leaders still hold to as it relates to engaging with employees. For the most part, it’s not what they’ve been taught or have even seen modeled, especially not in corporate America. So, the idea of checking in with a colleague about how they are feeling is not only contrary to their corporate leadership training and development, it’s also challenging for some to let down their boundaries and push past the discomfort of putting being personable into practice.
The mindset swap here would be to recognize that what needs to be learned is how to interact holistically with people – being concerned for the WHOLE person, not just for what they do.
Just because you were taught in “Manager 101” training to avoid asking people about their personal life, that doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be done now.
Inclusive leaders are eager to learn and choose differently. If being a stoic leader is a burrito and being a personable leader is a burrito bowl…get that bowl. Guac on the side for me, please.
Cut Out “Always-Available” and Choose “Boundaries that Protect Against Burnout.” Have you noticed the normalization of always-available? It seems to have flourished during this hybrid work era. Yes, an always-on workplace culture existed pre-pandemic. But when the literal boundaries between work and home became blurred lines, it leveled up the pressure for some employees to further prioritize work over personal needs (like sleep, family time, and self-care). And where there are no boundaries, there will eventually be burnout.
I’m reminded of a coaching success story that I heard recently. A leader, new to their role, wanted to put boundary setting to the test. They communicated to the rest of their leadership team that they would not be available for meetings before 9am, allowing for some morning family time. The team seemed supportive. And I say “seemed” because even after that boundary was stated around morning meetings, later in that same week there was a meeting invite for an 8am leadership team meeting. So, now what?
Well, our breakout boundary setting star declined saying, “Please record the meeting and I will watch later in the day. I am not available before 9am.” Guess what happened? First it was “Can you do it this one time?” And shortly after that… an updated meeting invite for a mid-morning meeting time. Boom!
Consider boundary setting as the secret sauce for protecting what matters most to you and preventing you from slipping down the path of burnout.
Swap “Talking the Talk but not Walking the Walk” when it comes to well-being and instead “Be a Champion for Your Own Well-being.”
“ I have to put my pride aside. I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being.” – Simone Biles
When Simone Biles made the decision to not to participate in a portion of the 2021 Olympic Games, she taught a tremendous leadership lesson to the world. She led a masterclass in how to advocate for your own mental well-being bravely and respectfully. Not an easy thing to do – especially in front of a global audience.
Here’s the thing, just as we were rooting for Simone from behind our screens, we also can show that high level of support for when someone close to us needs to step back and take a break. We get that it’s crucial, and we want them to not only perform well in whatever they do – but we want them to BE well, too.
But what about us in the workplace? As leaders, are we championing our own mental well-being and encouraging others to do the same? Studies show that workers want their leadership to talk about mental health even though 60% of employees say they haven’t felt comfortable speaking about mental health at work. Perhaps they need an example?
Well-being goes beyond personal responsibility. It is not enough for companies to say through brochures and webinars that people should prioritize well-being. Leaders, and even the workplace culture itself, must meet them half-way – demonstrating what it looks like to choose well-being over being a workaholic. And I don’t think being a workaholic is something that anyone should ever brag about anymore. We know that it’s about as fulfilling as those imaginary sandwiches we made earlier.
Which mindset swap are you willing to make this week? Whether it’s learning to be more personable with employees, protecting your time and energy through boundary setting, or championing your own well-being, simple swaps can lead to major transformation over the course of your leadership career…just like swapping the carbs for the lettuce on our sandwich can lead to major transformation of your waistline. I’m not saying it is easy, and sometimes it may take time to get used to the new taste, but the payoff is worth the swap. Enjoy!