There is a time-tested military leadership best practice that is known by the mantra; “Officers eat last.” It is reflected in what Simon Sinek described as a “circle of safety” that exists in high performing organizations so that all members will feel safe and secure and able to focus on battling external challenges and “seizing big opportunities” as a team, rather than worrying about internal conflicts and threats. That safety net is established by supportive leaders; those who put their people first and who will make personal sacrifices for the good of their teams.
However, what all good leaders also know is that you will be no help to your team if you don’t look after yourself. Leaders do need to eat!
Here are a few things to think about and talk about with your teams:
During times of uncertainty your teams may be experiencing all kinds of unusual thoughts and emotions. For example:
- Worry about the health and safety of themselves, their family, or friends
- Feeling a lack of control over their lives
- Feelings of isolation being away from friends and families for extended periods
- Feelings of guilt for those who are not on site
- Concerns about their ability to perform their job well, given the changing focus, different ways of working, technology challenges, etc.
- Concerns about their future, and job security
There are some things you can do:
1. Be present, engaged, and inclusive
Have regular team meetings and 1 : 1 check-ins with all team members to stay connected.
Focus on their personal well-being and concerns – don’t wait for them to speak up – ask them directly – this may require some encouragement.
Share whatever information you can – regularly – even if you think you have nothing important.
Include all team members in discussions about current challenges – this will keep them personally engaged, focused, and feeling valued.
2. Support your team as much as possible.
Demonstrate sincere concern.
Do whatever you can to support them whether their concerns are work related or personal.
3. Look after yourself!
This is critical – look after your people first, but do not ignore yourself.
Don't become over-fatigued. You will become less effective – that will not help anyone.
Take some time for yourself every day; that means good food, exercise, and rest!
Lead by example! What you as a leader do speaks louder than what you say. Be a role model for self-care during these stressful times. For important tips on self-care, see Give Yourself a Break: Self-Care in the Time of Pandemic.
This blog was authored by John Johnston, Ph.D. John brings deep experience from his 30-year military career culminating in his position as Lieutenant-Colonel. He has more than 2 decades of experience advising senior staff on selection and assessment, employee well-being, leadership, and performance improvement. As a seasoned executive-level advisor and consultant with expertise in organizational behavior, John has consulted to industries including heavy construction, mining, service, tourism, Army, Navy, and Air Force.