Leadership – The Importance of Leading Your Mental Health First
I love people. I always have. And I am sure I always will. That being said, once I became a leader of an organization, one of the most difficult things for me to grasp was that my team, made up of colleagues who previously would join me for lunch or socialize after work hours, no longer seemed to want to be with me outside of meetings or the office. I wondered what I had done wrong … until I remembered that my new title brought along more with it than met the eye, and that it can be lonely at the top.
I have grown tremendously throughout my career and, through the process, have come to understand myself better. Moving from a CFO of an organization to a consultant and business owner catapulted my self-development to a new level. I have learned more about my strengths and, even more importantly, my weaknesses. Sure, I enjoy learning more about people. I ask tons of questions, not to be intrusive, but to get to know the other person better. And yes, I am an open book, even “honest to a fault,” so I had to learn to grasp that just because another person is not an open book does not mean they don’t like me.
Through this self-discovery, I am now someone who can better understand not only my own perspectives, but empathetically, those of others. I understand how much “me taking care of me” is required to be the best leader for my own organization. And I appreciate it even more after going through COVID-19.
Leading Ourselves to Better Mental Health
Recently, I listed to a great podcast that brought these points home for me. As I listened, I could completely relate to how the guest, Nick, talked about how hard his parents were on him (as my parents were on me). While it bothered him (and me) greatly in our younger years, there is nothing but acceptance and appreciation now for the person they molded me to be. Nick also talked about the feelings of isolation brought about by COVID-19 and how exhilarating it was to have the first business dinner meeting post-COVID. He was right. I’ve had a few meetings that don’t require a camera and Zoom over the past few months, and always felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders in doing so. After I listened to that podcast, I made sure to book more in-person business meetings, and it has already made a difference in how I feel.
Another area of change for me has to do with my physical health. Pre-COVID, I loved group exercise. When the gyms shut down, it was incredibly difficult for me to learn how to work out on my own and to get and stay motivated. But I didn’t stay in that space. Instead, I found several sources to help me, and now I have many options to deal with stress to ensure I exercise when I travel or even when I cannot make a scheduled exercise class.
You Don’t Have to Do it Alone
I have come across some amazing resources that have helped me maintain my mental health through life’s (and a pandemic’s) transitions. I do not receive affiliate income from any of the links I share here. I am sharing them with you in the hopes I can help make your path to self-discovery less bumpy than my own.
Calm App – This has become one of my go-to apps. And I love sleep stories. By far, my favorite is Wander with Mathew McConnaughy. I also have enjoyed the guided meditations that I can use throughout the day. The music is great with coffee in the morning and they also have a selection of music to play to help you concentrate while you work.
Jill Coleman (Instagram) – I love following Jill Coleman, a business coach for fitness professionals, on Instagram. I also listen to her podcast FITBIZU. She offers great advice about mindset around eating and exercising. Her fitness programs helped me make it through COVID-19 with an actual workout plan. She also offers business advice on her podcast, including how to run a sales call.
Katie Hammill (Instagram) – I follow Katie on Instagram, and work with her to review my weekly meal plans. She taught me that one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle is a meal plan. We have implemented it in my household, helping to maintain calm in our daily lives. We always have a plan for dinner, rather than having a stressful conversation at 6 p.m. about what we are going to do. Another helpful hint to reduce stress around mealtime – make sure you have all the ingredients in the household when you make your meal plan!
Kathy’s Table – Kathy’s Table provides individually proportioned meals that are healthy and gluten free. We include these in our weekly plan at least two nights a week. After two minutes in the microwave, you have a healthy, and delicious, well-balanced meal. And, maybe even better yet, clean-up is fast and easy, which also eliminates daily stress.
Our mental health is impacted by much of our daily lives, especially with all that we have been through in the past fifteen months. And as leaders, we must also recognize our own impact on the mental health of our employees, who are looking to us to lead with more confidence and less stress. We must rid ourselves of the thought process that if we work harder and longer, without any care for ourselves, we will be more effective leaders. In fact, the opposite is true. Without taking care of ourselves, we will eventually burn out, leaving our team without a leader at all.
Leadership requires accountability not only of your subordinates, but of yourself. When you are overwhelmed with so many day-to-day responsibilities you may put self-care on the back burner. If you need a leadership coach to help you with this important aspect, and you are serious about the accountability to do so, click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. We will work out the right coaching plan for you, and I will apply the $100 toward the package.
Cybersecurity – It’s Not Just a “Big Business” Problem
Cybersecurity is a word we’ve all become entirely too familiar with. It seems that we can’t turn on the news without hearing about another story of a company being hacked, its information stolen, and, in certain instances, its data being held for ransom. And despite what some continue to think, this is not just a “big company problem.” It affects small and mid-sized businesses just as much, if not more. In fact, according to the Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses.
There’s a reason for this targeting. Small businesses tend to have more exposure, without the protections in place to help minimize the risks of a cyberattack. Not only are they more prone to attacks, for small business with limited resources, an attack can prove to be fatal. Sadly, 60% of small businesses that experience a cybersecurity attack are out of business within six months. The reason? Too often, they don’t have a viable backup system or plan, so when they lose their data, it’s gone for good.
According to a U.S. Small Business Administration survey, 88% of small business owners believe their business is vulnerable to a cyberattack. With the increase in remote workers without infrastructure for cybersecurity or employee training on increased risks due to the pandemic, this high percentage is not surprising.
Other Costly Statistics in the World of Cybersecurity
The most common way attackers infiltrate your system in through email. We’ve all seen them. They look like legitimate emails at first glance, but then there is something that catches your eye – the email address may be off, it may be asking you to click on a link, or it has an attachment that doesn’t seem right.
Whether it’s through an email or through ads or pop-ups on the web, when you click on that document, link, or ad, the virus that was embedded launches a program on your computer that will start locking files. If you’re connected to a network (which many of us are), the virus then travels to the server and infects files there and on other connected computers. Once it starts, it cannot be reversed, and you may not even be aware it is happening. Often times, the attacker will wait, lurking in the background, to collect as much valuable information as possible.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
Despite the news stories and all the warnings, many small businesses are not prepared for a cyberattack. While we can never eliminate the threat completely, there are actions we can take as part of an overall strategy to minimize the risk:
Ensure your computers and servers have a strong firewall
Keep all hardware and software up to date
Install all updates and patches
Use stronger passwords and change them frequently
Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Do not allow users to download unsupported or free software
Back up all critical data and systems regularly
Have a backup plan in place
Invest in Cybersecurity insurance
Educate your employees
Raising awareness among employees is one of the most important steps you can take. Continuously inform them about what the latest threats are, remind them about updates, and remind them not to open emails if they don’t know who the email is from. Use real-life scenarios and samples of phishing emails to help them understand the threats.
With these tools and systems in place, you not only minimize your risks, but if you are attacked, you will be able to get your company back up and running much faster than if you didn’t.
As they say, the world is changing, and, as always, we need to change right along with it. The key, as with much in business, is being prepared, understanding your own particular vulnerabilities, and taking proactive steps to help ensure your safety and the safety of your business.
Barker Associates has extensive experience in helping companies navigate through all the complexities of running a successful business, including utilizing resources to help keep it safe. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
We talk a lot about leadership and how strong leadership is required for success in any organization. Strong leaders guide the company and the team along the mission-paved path, leading to the alluring vision of what the company will be one day. Strong leaders are confident enough to help grow skills in others without being intimidated. They can also manage various personalities and determine the strongest course of actions. But what happens when there is poor leadership? Is it just a matter of not liking the boss, or are there more dire consequences?
Think back to a time when you worked for a manager who didn’t know how to manage, was irritable, gave no direction, had unrealistic expectations, etc. You probably dreaded going to work every day. Maybe you even quit your job – a job you actually liked – because you just couldn’t stand working for this person one more day. You may have gotten out of a bad situation, but what effect did your leaving have on the company you worked for?
The Real Costs of Poor Leadership
Most people don’t realize how much poor leadership costs an organization. There are the more obvious financial implications caused by poor leaders such as bad decision-making, higher expenses, and lower revenue from an operational standpoint, but what about the cost in terms of the staff? Bad leaders can cost companies millions of dollars a year by negatively impacting employee retention, customer satisfaction, and productivity. The health of the team can quickly deteriorate right alongside the financial statements.
Bad leadership comes in many forms, but having poor communication skills is one of the worst. When leaders don’t know how to communicate effectively, they can’t adequately direct employees. Consequently, employees don’t truly understand the mission and vision of the organization and have difficulty visualizing their own goals. Instead, they become methodical in their accomplishment of tasks, with no innovation or stake in the outcome. This can lead to unmet deadlines, a reduction in productivity, and unhappy customers, all ultimately leading to a toxic environment and high staff turnover.
Staff turnover is more than inconvenient; it is extremely costly to a company. With additional exit interviews, followed by interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and training new employees, constant turnover can directly affect the bottom line. Statistics show that 57% of staff leave a company because of their boss. That’s more than half of the staff. Further, each staff turnaround costs an average of $5,500. So, in an organization of 100 employees, that costs the company $550,000 in staff turnover alone.
At the end of the day, bad leadership causes damage that is difficult to repair. It incurs higher costs for a company and lower profits. But the good news is that being proactive can help eliminate these risks. Be aware of the following signs of poor leadership before an employee you value walks out the door:
disengagement by employees,
lack of cohesiveness among the team,
decrease in productivity, and
You might consider instituting employment surveys and manager reviews to help spot these signs faster. But remember nothing is a substitute for truly listening to your employees. And once you spot a problem, keep in mind that it is only half the battle – you also have to address it. And that may mean firing or reassigning a poor leader for the larger benefit of the whole team.
You can also prevent bad leaders from developing by investing in your future leaders. Provide meaningful opportunities to learn and improve leadership skills to even entry-level employees who show initiative and promise. A small investment at the outset can lead to improved staff retention, which leads to increased productivity, profits, and success. Remember the adage, “employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” Keep your employees around longer by developing managers they actually want to work for.
Barker Associates has extensive experience in leadership issues and their overall effect on the team. We can assist in determining effective solutions that will help your team stay engaged and onboard. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
Weathering the Storm Preparing Your Business for Disaster Recovery
Many of us, myself included, operate businesses in the state of Florida. That being said, hurricane season is as much a part of our annual routines as tax season. From June 1st to November 1st each year, Floridians listen to the warnings, watch the forecasts and projected paths of impending storms, and stock up on non-perishable food, water, and batteries. Personally, we are prepared, but what about professionally?
Disaster preparedness and recovery go far beyond Florida and its susceptibility to devastating winds and torrential rain. There are, of course, an ample supply of natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes, but what about what we saw last year in terms of a global pandemic? That was utter devastation, the scope of which remains difficult to comprehend. There are also accidents, acts of violence, power outages, and equipment failures. In each of these situations, your business must be able to navigate through the hardships and challenges and get to the other side. And the sad truth is that many will not. In fact, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report, 40% of businesses never reopen after a disaster.
It’s time to take stock not just of water and batteries, but of cash, insurance, and disaster recovery plans. It’s time to ensure our businesses are as prepared as our homes. It’s time to safeguard ourselves against becoming a statistic.
It’s About Minimizing Risks
This hurricane season seemed like the perfect opportunity to provide some reminders about what you can do as a business owner to minimize your risks and prepare for the worst, as you hope for the best in any disaster. Here are ten crucial tips:
1. Assess your risks (internal and external) and your critical business functions.
2. Create or update your disaster recovery plan. If you don’t already have one (I hope you do), stop reading now and go create one (then come back and read on!) – it’s that important. This document will outline how your business will recover from a catastrophic event, such as a hurricane. When developed correctly, it should allow your business to recover as quickly as feasible, depending on the source of the disaster. Implementing the procedures set forth within the plan should be your first priority after ensuring your employees are safe. At a minimum, your plan should include:
The identification of a disaster recovery team or individual who will take primary responsibility for implementing the plan.
A crisis communications plan, including a phone tree, so critical information is communicated to employees quickly and efficiently.
A list of critical business tasks that must occur regardless of where the work is taking place (assuming you’ve been evacuated and cannot get back into the office).
3. Ensure you have sufficient cloud storage and back up of important business documents. Access to these documents is essential to continuing operations.
4. Secure a line of credit designated only for emergency use. This can help you continue payroll, purchase new equipment, or even lease temporary office space, if needed.
5. Review your insurance policies to determine what type of coverage you have before it’s too late. For example, once a hurricane is forecasted, you cannot secure certain types of coverage.
6. Ensure you have enough cash on hand to operate if revenue-producing activities must cease for a time.
7. Automate your accounts payable process and the receipt of cash. Having paper checks waiting to get deposited at an office can stop your cash flow unnecessarily. Sending paper checks that require signature is a disaster you don’t need while coping with another disaster.
8. Gather emergency supplies in the office and in another location if access to the office is restricted.
9. Test your disaster recovery plan.
10. Stay safe!
Unfortunately, disasters are a very real part of life. And while there may be some disruptions and loss that are outside our control, minimizing the effects of a disaster on our businesses is well within it. Otherwise, these disruptions can lead to lost revenue, damage to reputation and brand management, and unhappy clients or customers.
Barker Associates has a proven track record of solving problems by developing strategies to minimize the risks and effects associated with disasters, so that businesses can continue to operate through them. We can assist in determining effective solutions that will help you navigate the troubled waters of potential disasters. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.