Being a leader is not as glamorous as it seems on screen. As they try to catch up on fulfilling their tasks and responsibilities, many leaders find themselves putting self-care to the end of their priorities. But this shouldn’t be the case. After all, how can you expect to give your best when you are not feeling your best? Lynne Peyton, the Principal of the Lynne Peyton Consultancy Group, is someone who has dealt with the topic of self-care leadership. In this episode, she joins Jeffrey Edwards to talk about why it is important for leaders to develop a self-care strategy. He shares some of the areas leaders need to be mindful of to become physically and emotionally resilient. Show up to your team as your best self by learning how to take care of yourself. As they say, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
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Self-Care Strategies For Leaders With Lynne Peyton
Welcome to this episode. It’s wonderful to be with you. If this is your first time reading, thank you. Check out some of the previous episodes. We also have a Facebook group there as well. I’m looking forward to having you being part of our community of learners and leaders for today and for tomorrow’s companies and organizations.
As we’ve talked about in different episodes, being a leader isn’t always that thrilling. As much as it may look like something glamorous and something exciting that we see on TV and e in movies, it can take a toll over time. Particularly if you’re new to your role or you’re just starting getting started in that position, how much time are you spending serving other people, trying to keep up with the demands that are being asked of you. How much time are you actually making for yourself, your family and your health? I’m also always reminded of a quote from Stephen Covey. He said, “Are you too busy driving to stop for gas?”
Our topic is one that I’m sure you can relate to. I know I can relate too. We have a guest who has dealt with this topic in terms of self-care leadership. In her role, she had worked with managers, executives across Ireland and the world. Her expertise and experiences are very welcome. I’m sure you will learn a lot as much as I do every time I get the chance to meet with our guest, Lynne Peyton. Lynne is the Principal of the Lynne Peyton Consultancy Group. She’s been supporting some senior managers and children in the children’s services and mental health services for over the years and in Ireland as well. She is an Executive Coach, International Speaker and Author. She has left her mark across the globe. Welcome, Lynne, to the show. How are you doing?
Jeffrey, it’s good to see you. It’s good to be working with you again. Can I say the feeling is mutual? I’m always inspired when I get a chance to work with you. Thank you for having me on the show.Self-care strategies are critical to ensuring the leaders do a good job. To do that, they have to be physically and emotionally resilient. Click To Tweet
It’s amazing knowing the work that you’ve done in the past, particularly when you’re working in the area of child services. You’re seeing a lot of the areas in terms of stress and mental health as well as physical health issues on the frontlines. You see it on two levels from a client perspective but also looking from the people who are delivering the service as well. You’ve developed a self-care strategy. I’m curious to know, how do you describe that strategy in the context of the work that you do?
I’m passionate about helping people who work with children and families to get better results for those children and families. In order to do that, people have to show up in a great state themselves. Self-care strategies are critical to ensuring the leaders I work with do a good job. To do that, they have to be both physically and emotionally resilient.
One of the things we talk about is how do they do that. For me, self-care strategies are a bit of a toolkit but what it does is it helps them to focus and to be more conscious of the need to look after themselves and direct their attention towards that goal. To have some disciplines around ensuring that they keep self-care on the agenda. I love Covey’s quote and the other one that brings to mind is Audre Lorde, the New York Poet Laureate. She was at one stage but she’s best known for being a very outspoken female activist. She said, “Self-care is not self-indulgence. Self-care is about self-preservation.”
The other quote that brings to mind is one by the late great Jim Rohn, who’s one of the best leadership gurus I think of all time because his attitude and leadership were straightforward. He said, “Self-sacrifice is not noble.” That’s particularly pertinent with the group of clients I have because they’re working all the time. It’s a tough gig delivering services in a child protection environment and in mental health services. That became so apparent during the pandemic where you have to physically be sure you were protected when you went down to meet with children and families.The people that work the longest hours are not necessarily the most effective people. Click To Tweet
Leaders in those services have to provide what Tony Robbins would say is the number one thing that people look to leaders for and that certainty. If you’re not physically and emotionally resilient yourself, you can’t provide that certainty to the people who work with you that things are going to be okay and we are going to get through whatever the challenge is. As leaders, we have to know we’re going to get through. We can only do that if we’ve taken great care of ourselves. Leaders have to, as they say in the airplane, put on our own masks first and then we have to role model the behavior that we want to see in others.
How do you translate that knowledge to practice? What do you see are some of the issues within the child protection services that you work with that the leaders struggle with?
Translating it into practice, the best thing I read on this and I quote it all the time, was the Irish Psychological Society. It was their chairperson. He said, “You need to take care of the basics first.” The basics are sleep, food, exercise and social contact. Can I strip that down a little bit for you and give you some of my thoughts around that?
Please do because I’ve checked them all off my list and I think I’m deficient in every area. Please, go ahead. I’m waiting to learn and take notes.
Here’s the thing. If you, as a leader, are sleep-deprived, overweight, eating junk food, not taking any exercise and held up in a room running your life from your spare bedroom. How do you then show up with all the leadership qualities that inspire others? Let’s do it one at a time. Sleep. We’ve got to make sure that we get enough sleep for us. Here’s the other thing about self-care strategies. It’s individual.
I can get by on six hours a night but my husband needs nine. We have to know what works for us. First of all, make sure you’ve got good sleep discipline and good sleep hygiene. Know what you need. To have a good night’s sleep, make sure you’re turning off all the usual stuff. Turn off the laptop and the phone. Don’t be reading emails within the last hour before you go to bed. Have proper boundaries. Keep the bedroom as a safe space that’s dedicated to rest. That’s been tough for some people during the pandemic where they don’t have space. What I recommend is you have an area that is a work area but you shut it off. You have to do something to shut off the work and keep that good sleep hygiene.
The second thing is food. I’ve learned a lot about this because right at the start of the pandemic, my husband got diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. We reverse that by learning about sugar. Sugar is in everything. Who knew? Probably more intelligent people than me knew that but I had to educate myself about sugar so that our diet became a healthy diet. What I realized is when you cut out the sugar, all the sluggishness goes and you feel better yourself. Be conscious of what you’re eating and you don’t have to go overkill with it. Make sure you do eat. That’s a big thing with busy people is that they don’t take time to have a break during the day and to get something to eat because low blood sugar levels don’t work either. Be conscious of what you eat and be conscious of taking time to eat.
The third thing then is exercise. Preferably might say do something, move your body. Whatever works for you. It doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym every day. You can do a yoga class online but walk with a friend. It’s about discipline. Do it every day. I know some of the teams I’m working with, in the WhatsApp group, where everybody on the team has to take 5,000 steps every day. It’s a team exercise. They’re supporting each other but the goal is to get enough exercise and get out in the fresh air. It’s important that we get outside.Our role as leaders is to empower other people, not to nurture them to death. Click To Tweet
The final one that the psychological society said was important was social contact. For me, that could go to the top of the list. We have to relate to people all the time, outside work. Know who are the friends and family members who lift you up and spend time with. You and I both know from years of experience that we need to spend time with people who raise us up. We connect with each other. We also need to reduce the amount of time we spend with people who suck the energy out of us. We have to do our best to contribute to those people but don’t go to that place where they’re stuck. Make sure you have social contact and fun.
Social contact should have an element of fun. For me, there’s another one and that’s about gratitude. Practice gratitude. I would add those four at the end of every day, take a moment, five minutes and reflect on what you’re grateful for in the day. Who smiled at you? Who said a kind word? The other thing is contribution. How did you make a difference? I think all leaders, hopefully, are in those positions because they recognize that we need to do more for other people than we’ll ever do for ourselves. Where did we contribute? Where did we make a difference? I put gratitude and contribution in that list of self-care as well.
It’s such a comprehensive list of activities and yet they’re simple activities that can be put together and followed on a daily basis. The challenge that I think you inferred in everything that you’ve said is it comes down to making the commitment. Making the decision to make the commitment. It seems like it’s a two-step process that, “I will do this. I’m going to commit to taking care of myself.” What is it that you’ve encountered with people you’ve worked with, getting them to make that commitment or that decision to commit to themselves?
I’m with you. I would say exactly the same thing. It’s a three-step process. It’s decide, commit and act. We decide with our heads. Sometimes people decide that they’re going to practice self-care but they don’t go any further for two reasons. One, if that came from their head. We need the heart involved as well here. Often, that is because it helps somebody else. If I decide and commit to a self-care strategy, who benefits? My family, all the people I work with and my team benefit. It’s that responsibility.Busy isn’t always getting us results. Click To Tweet
The commitment is now coming from the sense of responsibility that I owe it other people, as well as myself, to have a great self-care strategy because other people benefit. It’s like we say in the early years, “Children don’t do what you say. They see what you do.” Staff and family are exactly the same. We have to let other people see that we’re walking the talk. I think that’s decide, commit and then act.
You have to keep it simple. It’s simple daily disciplines to make sure that we follow through. What I find working with folks on the grind is I give them accountability buddies. I’ll pair them up and I’m going, “I need you guys to check in with each other. What day of the week are you going to check-in? It only needs 2 or 3 minutes but I need you to hold each other accountable for your self-care strategy.” We then do simple templates. Check-in. What did they do about this? How are they doing with them? That makes a fun element to it as well. Also, it breaks down the isolation.
I’ve worked in agencies where people don’t even talk to people during the corridor when they were all in the one office. How much harder has it been when we’re all working back-to-back and you’re not in the office the same day or somebody is at home and somebody else is working? Who knows? Everything’s dislocated at the moment that accountability buddies are an important part of both the self-care strategy under so many other aspects of leadership.
It’s interesting and a follow-up to that question. You were referring to how children learn. Having worked with children, particularly with youth, I often say to people I’ve worked with, it’s like, “They’re not listening to what you’re saying. It’s more about they’re watching what you’re doing. That’s what they’re picking up their cues.” I’m curious when you translate that from the staff and the leader is practicing self-care, how have you seen in terms of some of the ripple effects of that within their team?
What people start to notice is that the people that work the longest hours are not necessarily the most effective people. You’ll hear people paying tribute, “Angus is well-organized. Buddy’s done at 6:00 or 5:00.” Other people know, “So-and-so always starts early and they’re so disciplined.” They’re starting to see the smart working strategies and starting to learn from those.
I had a leader saying to me that she had to say to someone, “I am not telling you as your team leader but I have a duty of care to you. You’re burning the candle here far too long. When you’re done, you’re done. You need to go home.” There will always be something else to do in this line of work but know when you’ve done enough and taking the break and knowing that the breaks are as important as the workpieces. I love it when I hear people telling me their success stories around things like self-care. I think I shared it with you.
One of the other things I do is get people to tell me if I write an article or a blog, I say to them, “Tell me what’s working for you.” It’s amazing how much interaction I get and how many people have shared the self-care strategies they’ve used with their team. I got another one by email. She was saying she keeps it on the agenda for every team meeting so that it’s a consistent focus of their attention. They celebrate each other’s wins with regard to self-care. That’s good leadership.
Lynne, I think they’re starting to understand the importance of creating that space. We talked about creating spaces and you’ve referred to it to create that boundary. It’s setting time for ourselves and taking care of ourselves. It’s amazing. Someone shared with me how quickly we are to postpone the commitments we make to ourselves in the space of helping other people. If we’re not committing to ourselves, to our own livelihood, into our health, benefit and care then we’re going to lose the capacity to serve other people in the way we want to.
We need to book time with ourselves. We need to write that into our schedules so that it’s there and then have the discipline of not writing over it because that’s what some people do. They put that space then. Maybe it’s only the space for an admin day so that they feel they’ve caught up. That’s part of emotional resilience, not feeling you’re behind. They put in an admin day so they can get on top of all the things that are not getting away with them. Then somebody knocks on the door and they immediately get distracted by whatever. It’s not even a crisis but by whatever’s going on. It’s around some of those disciplines by closing your door, about understanding our role as leaders is to empower other people, not to nurture them to death. It’s about setting them free to be independent, to work things out for themselves.
That’s an amazing part of self-care as well because then you condition that grit behavior and they feel great and then you get more of what you focus on. We condition the good strategies, the good behaviors and part of that is, if you book a spa day. Take a spa day. The other thing is making it clear that you suffer if you don’t keep those dates with yourself. If you suffer then your resilience goes down. You’re more likely to maybe snap at your children. Other people have their consequences of not having good self-care disciplines. I agree. Keep those dates with yourself.
A question that comes to mind. I’m thinking of the young often. You’ve seen it with the new leaders who are into their position and want to prove themselves. They will run full out. They’re doing the 100-meter sprint. They’re trying to do it in two seconds versus trying to do it in ten seconds. What can you tell that person who may be reading to help them play the long games instead of trying to win the short?
It’s like, “Slow down. You move too fast.” You got to make the moment last. It’s about taking time for reflection. Also, sometimes people equate busyness with being successful. Busy isn’t always getting us results. Mark gets results. Delegating effectively gets us results. I’m not being the person that seemed to do everything for everybody else. The person that helps create the context where other people can do great things.
With the young leaders, I try from the very beginning to get them to focus on their role as empowering others. They know my least favorite word is support. When they say, “I want to support my team,” usually, what they mean is do for. I’m constantly saying, “Don’t use support unless you can define it in a way I’m going to like.” I’m supporting them to be more independent, be better problem solvers, work things out for themselves and to practice good self-care. That’s how I want you to support, not by doing for.
I hope that resonates with the person who’s reading this. Leadership is not about you. I think that’s where we can get stuck. Every success, failure, outcome, the consequence is all based on me, my effort and my output. What you said, it’s about building the context, building the capacity and the ecosystem that allows for growth, maturity and expansion over time.
It’s about helping people to be more resourceful because so often, we complain that something didn’t go well because of the lack of resources. A lot of time, it’s a lack of resourcefulness. That’s Tony Robbins’ favorite sayings, “It’s a lack of resourcefulness.” We want to grow resourceful leaders of the future. In order to do that, we have to show up in a great state and taking care of ourselves is an essential way of getting to the great state.
Lynne, as always, you’re amazing. I love you. I love the work you do. You are a mentor to me and a model that I follow professionally and personally as well. I’m curious as to what’s the next big thing for Lynne Peyton and Lynne Peyton Consultancy nowadays?
I think it’s about looking at what I’m doing and the question is always, “How can I make it even better? What else can I do to have an even greater impact?” One of the things I did was an evaluation session. I brought the senior manager on board and I had each person say what they got from working in a leadership project that I was running with them. I got the senior manager to say, “Have you seen them show up differently as leaders?” That was a great opportunity for them to get some good feedback from the boss.
To answer your question, it’s the importance of continuity. For all of my contracts, I’m trying to build in continuity because leadership is not an event. It’s a journey. That’s why you and I talk all the time and equally, I think of you as a strong mentor. I was talking to one of our mutual mentor colleagues, Birgitta. It is about knowing that we’re always going to grow if we are in the right environment and if we have the right facilitation. I negotiated that we can do ongoing follow-up sessions with any group that I work with, even on a quarterly basis to check-in. They have a forum for sharing any new challenges that have come up then, we can develop. The other thing we talked about was development sessions on the common themes and maybe having people from different areas join us for those sessions.
I look forward to following up with you on the progress and results from that. Lynne, it’s been wonderful having you here on the show and to connect with you in this way. I always enjoy our conversations. Thank you and all the best in your current and future endeavors. We look forward to touching base down the road as well.
Thank you, Jeffrey. Please, stay in touch.
That brings us to the end of this episode. I thank Lynne for being a part of our show. Also, as always, I’m thanking you for allowing us to be a part of your day. If you’re new to this show, subscribe, share with your friends. Give us a five-star rating and let us know what are the topics that interest you to help you on your leadership journey. Until next time. Remember, be good and lead well.
About Lynne Peyton
Lynne Peyton, Principal of Lynne Peyton Consultancy supports senior managers in children’s services and mental health services to get better outcomes, both in statutory and not-for-profit sectors, for almost 20 years.
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