The last arena needing a culture of care is that of the leader. As President Truman is famously noted for his desk placard ‘The buck stops here’ so we as leaders have the same responsibility. No matter what happens, as owners/administrators/directors/managers/leads, we all bear the responsibilities of leadership. Business decisions, care decisions, maintenance decisions and decisions, decisions , decisions with their attending results fall to us. If something goes wrong we need to fix it as ultimately it is our responsibility. We get tired, frustrated, nervous and anxious, sometimes screaming in our minds (or out loud) “Can’t people just do their jobs!” Leadership in many aspects can be lonely and isolating. You get worn out and eventually burnout, and things that used to bring joy are now a drudgery. Burnout again is defined by three components:
emotional exhaustion-the fatigue that comes from caring too much for too long;
depersonalization-the depletion of empathy, caring, and compassion; and
decreased sense of accomplishment-an unconquerable sense of futility; feeling that nothing you do makes any difference.
Emotional exhaustion happens when we are stuck in our emotions day after day without sight of relief; things are not going to get better is the pervading thought. You are emotionally exhausted and stuck in the rut of blame if you are continually saying “If they would just..” “If only they would…” ‘I wish someone would…” We stay stuck in an emotion that defeats us and removes the ability to make the necessary changes and puts them onto someone else. We do not deal with our stress in productive proactive ways. We may handle the stressor, the thing causing the stress, but we may not actually be dealing with the stress, the physical impact the stressor is having on our minds and bodies.
How do you know you are not dealing with the stress even if you have already dealt with the stressor?
1-You notice yourself doing the same things over and over or engaging in self-destructive behavior. These are signs that stress have overwhelmed your brain’s ability to cope rationally with the stressors.
2- Chandeliering- reactions that are out of proportion with the here and now, but are not out of proportion with the pain you are holding inside, so it erupts.
3-You are hiding from dealing with things in your life: you are past your threshold for handling the stressors.
4-Your body feels out our whack. Chronic pain, fatigue, illness can be exacerbated by chronic activation of the stress response.
The good news is that stress is not really the problem. Stress is not bad for you. Being stuck is bad for you. The problem is that we often don’t employ the strategies that help us to move through adversity and risk back to safety and calm and in and out again and again. In reality we need to make the space in arrives for true relaxing and rejuvenating activities that feed back into our spirits. The solution to this is simple: it is Self Care. Just like our residents, just like our teams we need to have our needs met too. Remember: you cannot give what you do not have.
We all know that as leaders we are the lid to our organization, or the team we are leading.
This is good news because it means you can set the pace for the change needed to lead your team. It begins with boundaries.
By setting boundaries you are actually creating a circle of safety where you, your team and others understand the expectations of your availability and ability to help them. Boundaries help to eliminate the “Hey (insert your name here)” at every moment you happen to pop your head up from your computer. When you have set times to open your door and people know it (posting your schedule at your door) then their feelings of anxiety and thoughts of your unavailability are decreased at minimum and eliminated at best. One key to this is when you are scheduled with your team/clients/etc. be fully engaged in what you are doing (be where your feet are). By giving them your undivided attention you also help them to feel safe, become more receptive to your suggestions/advice/answers and eventually be more confident in their abilities to answer questions they previously came to you for.
In order to do what we just discussed you must schedule your priorities and not let things override them. If you’ve read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People you’ve read the quote from Goethe which says: “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of the things which matter least.” How you decide that is individual but you must do it. Scheduling your priorities will be the key to having balance in your life which will produce effectiveness. In order to do so though we must understand that all activities can be classified by importance and urgency.
By graphing these two elements and their opposites (Not Important and Not Urgent) we create a matrix which is commonly called The Four Quadrants, popularized by the above mentioned Stephen Covey. These quadrants give us a tool to manage the most important; namely ourselves. Self management is crucial in order for you to be successful as a leader. My definition of self management is ones ability to manage their own impulses and desires and to stay on task.
Quadrant I and III are the in your face items of your day and we are conditioned to deal with things that are right up in our face. Notice how you get text ALERTS! An alert is an alarm: take care of me now!!!!!! And so we do. Sometimes the best thing for a fire is to let it burn until you can get back to it with an actual solution rather than a bucket of water.
Quadrant II is about prevention and planning, proactive intentional activities that build relationships, creates and recognizes new opportunities to grow and develop and has built in times for recreation and relaxation. It is the critical stuff that must be done so our lives can go smoothly; or at least smoother than it has been. This is where you balance between saying No and saying Yes. You have weighed the choice against what really is important in Quadrant II. Consistently performing Quadrant II activities is how you will be able to anticipate the fires that come up and either reduce the urgency of them or eliminate them and thereby become more effective and reduce the stress in your life.
What are the benefits of prioritizing and setting the boundaries of Quadrant II? By living the principles of proactive prevention you are able to respond to things instead of react to them. What’s the difference? Reaction is instantaneous and instinctive. It takes no thought and comes from natural impulse. Someone cuts me off in traffic (or rather drives slow in the left lane!) I yell at them. Our nature takes over. Response on the other hand takes thought and analysis. You stop and think about things before you give an answer. It is self management of your emotions and attitude. You are in control when you are in response mode.
Living in Quadrant II gives you the opportunity for greater vision or perspective in your life meaning you can see things more rationally, you will gain balance and not be reactive to situations that arise, you will develop discipline and control as well as have few crises to handle. Consistently performing Quadrant II activities is how you will be able to anticipate the fires that come up and either reduce the urgency of them or eliminate them and thereby become more effective and reduce the stress in your life.
In doing so, you will begin the process of creating a culture that cares for your residents, your team and yourself giving you the freedom and support so you won’t be running alone. Results of creating this type of culture will be a team that supports as they fell supported, engaged residents that give back to their community and your team and yourself and a renewed energy and desire which will create even more ways to deepen and strengthen your passion for a Culture of Care.