Think for a moment about how many times a day you create something through your interaction with someone else. You greet someone on your way into the office. You lead a team meeting. You have a one-to-one conversation with an employee. You listen to your spouse as she processes the conflict she experienced at work. You participate in an evening board meeting. In each and every interaction, you are making choices about what you create with others.
Most leaders are trained to prepare well for the situations that are perceived as high-stakes: an important meeting with top executives, a media interview, a pitch to a potential client, for example. Well-trained leaders invest time in attending to both the content and the professional presence they want to create in those moments. In the months and days leading up to an event, they review, rehearse, and visualize the outcome of what they are working to create.
Highly effective leaders, though, recognize that the make-it-or-break-it moments are not confined to those high-stakes events. In fact, it is often within the more casual, intimate interactions that relationships are strengthened or compromised. Amazing leaders recognize that, in order to lead and inspire others, people must feel connected at a very personal level. That means that much of the creating that a dynamic leader does in the smaller, day-to-day moments is as important as what is created in the well-rehearsed, public opportunities. One careless remark or a moment of casual disregard can alter a relationship in an instant.
Repairing a relationship requires a tremendous amount of work and is not as much fun or as glamorous as creating. Sometimes, the damage done is too great and repair is not possible. How do effective leaders bring their A game to each of the interactions and opportunities they have in a given day?
Self-care. Self-care. Self-care. Effective leaders train like Olympic athletes. They realize that what they choose to do with their mind and body every day affects the level of success they will have. They become extremely aware of what they personally need to do to keep their own system running optimally and be at their best all the time, not just when the stakes are perceived as high. Effective leaders know that it is more fun to invest in self-care and creating than it is to engage in the clean-up of relationship repair that is required when they don’t. These people have the energy and presence to create with others in multiple interactions throughout the day, and they know that every interaction counts.
Self-reflection is the other key component. After each casual interaction or formal meeting, highly effective leaders take stock of what worked, what could have been better, and they own their part of what was created. When an interaction does not have the intended or desired outcome, they are willing and ready to take a hard look at what they did and what they want to do differently. This self-reflection piece also offers them insight into how well they are doing with the self-care component. If an interaction does not go well, effective leaders first check their own systems and structures to see where a breakdown may have occurred. They make their own internal repairs before they reach out to repair and rebuild with others.
Just as an athlete knows how much water she needs to stay hydrated, leaders know how much self-care and self-reflection they need to be at their best with others. While it takes commitment and intention to ensure that enough ounces of both are consumed, most people agree that it is more fun to keep drinking water throughout the day than it is to recover from dehydration. Effective leaders invest in themselves and their teams so they can have more fun creating and spend less time doing clean-up.