There is this common misconception in leadership books, amongst leadership gurus and in the advice we hear – and that is that when you’re a leader, you aren’t allowed to have a bad day. You can’t be off your game, you can’t be feeling blah and you certainly can’t let anyone in on that.
I call BS on that.
We’re human, whether we run a business, or lead a team within a business, you have days when you’d to be honest, rather just not have to deal with people. Of course most of us don’t have that luxury – we have to show up for our team and get some work done. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to put on an act, pretend that you’re fine when you’re not or not acknowledge that you’re just not having the best day – for whatever reason.
In fact, doing this sets the wrong example for our team. If someone on your team is feeling a little off, or is otherwise distracted, for any reason, as a leader you want to know. Having this knowledge helps you to know what to task them with for the day, what to expect from them, and how you might be best able to channel their efforts for maximum results given how they are feeling.
So why is it any different for you as the leader? Why can’t you acknowledge how you are feeling? In fact, by not acknowledging this are you doing your team a disservice?
Let’s face it, whether we acknowledge it publicly or not, we’ve all been there, we’ve all had those days. Maybe we’re tired, maybe we’ve had an argument with our partner, maybe our kids have been testing us all morning, or maybe we’re just feeling deflated. I know I have been there. I have had days where I’ve made it to the office and knew there were things I needed to get done, but quite frankly wanted to close the office door and not talk to anyone else all day – but that’s not great leadership.
So, instead of staying in bed, sticking our head in the sand or running the risk of really offending our team, what could we do instead to lead effectively when we’re having a bad day? Here are my 5 top tips:
I’ve said this before and I will continue to say it, because I believe so strongly in it. You can not pour from an empty cup. There is a reason they ask you to fasten your own oxygen mask when flying before helping those around you (oh remember those days when we could travel)? We are given that advice because we can’t effectively help others until we are safe, well and able to function. This is no different when it comes to your team. If you don’t take care of yourself you can’t take care of them.
So this is a time to prioritise self care. This might look very differently for everyone individually, so don’t feel hemmed to any one definition here. For some it might be about taking the time to go for a walk before heading into the office. Perhaps it’s taking yourself out for a coffee or breakfast, on your own, before starting work. Maybe it’s about calling a friend, sleeping for an extra hour, going for a run at lunch time or anything else at all that re charges you and makes you fell better.
If you’re having a bad day, carve out time for self care.
I don’t buy into this philosophy of hiding this from your team. In fact I encourage the opposite, own it and communicate with your team what’s going on. If you don’t do this you will have your team panicking, they will think they have done something wrong, they will think there are problems with the business, they will start to feel uncertain about the workplace.
Instead, by owning it you are being authentic, transparent and vulnerable. Your team like to see that from time to time. It can be as simple as letting them know that you haven’t slept and that you’re not feeling great as a result, so you may be quiet today, you may even apologise in advance if you snap at them – and make light of it.
We all have things that always make us feel better. For me it’s music, play the right tracks and I can get out of almost any funk. For others it might be getting outside a few times throughout the day. Perhaps it’s indulging in your favourite sweet treat or lunch snack. Maybe it’s listening to a podcast, meditating, chatting to a friend or family member.
Additionally, it could be choosing to work on things that you love, rather than the things that you feel like you have to do or should be doing that day. Work on a project that you’re excited about, talk to the team about it even if that lifts your mood – but shift the focus onto something you want to do.
Today is not the day to try and tackle a huge project, meet unrealistic deadlines or do all of the things. Today is the day to take the pressure off. One way I do this is by making a list of just 3 things that I need to get done, and accepting that once they are done the day is a success, and anything else that happens is a bonus.
Whilst we all have a million things on the to do list, really and truly what needs to be done today, I guarantee you it’s not everything on your list or even the majority of your list – just do 3 things.
This is the perfect time to give a member, or several members of your team an opportunity to step up, try something new or take on a new challenge. Perhaps today is the day you get your 2IC to be the contact for the rest of the team for the day, so you don’t have to deal with any of that day to day leadership or management stuff today. Perhaps there is something you know needs doing, but you are dreading, and you can give someone else an opportunity to try or practice.
Involve your team in this, and give them an opportunity to shine. It’s a great learning and development opportunity and doubles as an opportunity to take pressure off you for the day.
What we are all usually really bad at is letting guilt and our own expectation on ourselves determine how we act. The message I have for you today is that it’s ok that we have the odd bad day, it’s not the end of the world and we don’t need to feel guilty, but there are ways we can improve the day and get ourselves out of the ‘bad day’ funk.
If you’d like to engage more with me in these discussions about creating amazing teams, whilst also connecting with other like minded business owners, leaders and managers, I’d love for you to join us inside our free Facebook Group: