Be the Best Boss you ever had

How good a boss are you to yourself?  As a self-employed solopreneur, how well are you taking care of your well-being?  And as an employee, is your well-being at the forefront of your mind as you work?  How well do you look after yourself?  Does self-care feature high on your priority list?

Do you consider what your needs are?  Or do you focus more on getting the job done without regard to your personal cost?  Are you treating yourself as you would treat others?  Or are you giving yourself a hard time?  If you were your boss, how well would you feel you treated yourself?

Recently, I asked a group of self-employed entrepreneurs at a workshop, how good a boss they were to themselves.  We explored how they could be the best boss they ever had.  The questions above were at the core of the workshop content.

Well-being and work

So often, people enter self-employment because they have had a bad experience as an employee: working conditions, professional relationships, long hours at work and commuting, toxicity, lack of training and personal development, life-work balance, clear vision and communication, poor leadership and management, stress, anxiety, overwhelm, health considerations, autonomy, a sense that the work you are doing is not worthwhile and so on.

Well-being sits at the heart of these work issues.  Whether an employee or self-employed, your on-going enjoyment at work, productivity, creativity, physical and emotional health, fulfilment, sense of contribution, career advancement, business growth, freedom, resilience and more determine your well-being.

Being in control

So much of your well-being is determined by your boss and your broader working environment (space, colleagues, hours, travel etc.) when you are an employee.  As a self-employed solopreneur, you have full control of your well-being.  You can control when and where you work, when to take breaks and holidays, who your colleagues and clients are, how you work, your vision for your business future, how your business fits in with your personal life and so much more.

Yet, when you work for someone else, you might be surprised by the amount of control you DO have.  You can choose employers that will support you in your quest for greater physical and emotional health, that align to your values and so bring greater fulfilment, give flexible time and location commitments so that you can create a more compelling life-work balance, offer training that supports self-growth and resilience and so forth.  I appreciate that if you are working for an employer that offers no or little support in these areas it might be a challenge to change culture or find new employers.  But don’t you owe it to yourself and your family and friends to find work that gives you fulfilment, meaning, purpose and holistic well-being?

Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971): God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Whether employed or working for yourself, if you do not take a stand and take control, you find yourself controlled by bosses, work colleagues or clients.  You might become chained to your computer, estranged to family and friends, miss your hobbies and other passions, work with clients and colleagues you don’t enjoy, work too long hours, neglect your health and wonder what the hell went wrong!!!  Where did the fun go?  Why all this stress?  It doesn’t have to be this way.

Be the best boss you ever had

For many years I was the worst boss I ever had.  I didn’t take breaks, I missed family holidays, I worked long hours, I managed money poorly, I didn’t pay myself enough, I lacked a long-term vision for my business.  I didn’t feel free.  The boundaries between work and personal life were so blurred, I missed the best of both worlds.  I ignored all the advice and the signs and so I ended up tired, uninspired and broke.  I left full-time employment because all it gave me was a regular salary and I wanted more.  Yet doing something you love isn’t enough.  You have to take care of mind, body, heart and soul so that you CAN enjoy your work and continue to be inspired by your passion.

It took me a while to climb out of the mess, but the first step in all of that was self-care: managing my stress and well-being.  That included:

  • financial discipline
  • a clear vision for my business
  • boundaries between work and family life
  • rest, breaks and holidays
  • mentoring (for advice, feedback and guidance)
  • training and development
  • regular movement and exercise
  • time management (not just at work but for my personal life as well)
  • meditation practice
  • having an active life outside of work
  • Self-honesty and gratitude
  • Autonomy
  • Healthy diet

It’s a personal journey that anyone can take, whether self-employed or working for someone else.  Either way, first and foremost, you are taking control of your life, being the boss or captain of your ship and writing the chapters of your life story.

Daily check-in

We are all a complex combination of mind, body, heart and soul.  It takes perseverance and self-awareness to keep these 4 elements in balance throughout life.  A daily check-in to ask each part of you what is present for you right now can bring this to your awareness.  For example, my mind at the moment is saying that I have a lot to do today and I need to be focused and efficient; my body feels tired and tense and wants rest; the heart feels full from all the work I am doing that is aligned to my values and; my soul craves the hills and open space of the Lake District.  It takes 30 seconds, maybe a minute.  Try it now.  I’ll wait…………

There is nothing you must do about it.  Don’t make it right or wrong.  But if you feel compelled to make change, does it improve your well-being?  And can you keep improving your well-being and maintain or even improve your quality of life (materially, financially, emotionally, spiritually etc.)?

If you want to take control of their well-being at work, “Be the Best Boss you ever had” workshops are designed for self-employed people and employees.  The impact personally and professionally can be profound as you learn practices you can do throughout your day to improve well-being, reduce stress and build resilience.  If you’re interested in local public workshops why not get in touch?  Perhaps you would like to host such an event at your place of work?  The next public event will be in Cambridge, on July 18th, 2019.  You can find more details here.

Over to you

Are you the best boss you ever had?  Or the worst?  How do you look after your well-being throughout the day?  What will you do differently as a result of reading this blog post?  I’d love to hear what you’re doing to take care of yourself and be the best boss you ever had.

Pass it on

If you found this blog useful and know someone who would benefit from reading it, please share it with them.  Or share the social media posts and comment, raising awareness of this essential topic.  Work is a major part of our daily lives.  Happiness and well-being at work are essential for overall life fulfilment….and if you can’t find contentment at work, having practices in place to maximise fulfilment outside of work can make the difference to your life-work balance.

Asking for help- the truth and alternative perspectives

Asking for help can one of the hardest things that someone can do.  For many it implies weakness, incompetence, an inability to cope, not being good enough, that you are incapable or inefficient.  Asking for help is often linked to vulnerability and being beholden to others or in their debt.  When we ask for help, we are at a place when we believe we cannot do it without the support from others.  This can be a place of shame, guilt, horror and deep discomfort for many of us.

Asking for help can give you freedom

In the last blog, I wrote about the pain and discomfort we are willing to endure as we go through life.  Asking for help can be one of those discomforts.  It does not have to be.

What I would like to do in this blog is offer some alternative perspectives on asking for help.  To alleviate some of the worry and anxiety people may have when it comes to saying, “I cannot do this alone, will you help me?”

Asking for help and trust

From my experience of listening to people and my own life journey, wanting to do something alone, expecting to be able to do it without assistance, comes from a fearful place.  I know it sounds paradoxical, but I think it’s true.  It sounds like it is a defiant “yes”, that I can do this without assistance.  Really, it is a defiant “no”, that I do not trust others and I do it alone because I lack that trust.

Being let down by others or being looked to as the one to lead others in something can lead you to a place of fear.  As children, you may have experienced all kinds of situations where parents, siblings and teachers did not lead as perhaps they should have.  My parents did not lead by example in strong emotional intelligence.  As a consequence, I grew up believing I was in relationships alone.  I did not know how to lean into another person and ask for the support I needed.  Other examples might include absent or preoccupied parents who were not often there for their children.  Or teachers who created a culture of fear in the classroom and so pupils were led to believe they should not ask for help.

When trust has been violated

The result is that you spend energy thinking you HAVE to do it alone and that you cannot rely on others to make it happen. It can lead to an independence that pushes people away.  You can become isolated, withdrawn and possessive about your patch.  You see this in work situations when senior people micro-manage their juniors.  In families this might manifest in over-domineering parenting.  Or it may show up in being stuck in any number of life situations where you cannot find a way out.  You could remain stuck there for years and not ask for help.

It may point towards a fundamental lack of trust in others.  And no wonder, given the experience people have in their formative years and how it shapes them.  If your independence and desire to do things on your own is not holding you back, then perhaps this does not apply to you.  However, if you are noticing that you are not getting the results you want by going alone, perhaps it is time to question whether help and support from others might be a way forward.  Here are some things to get you started:

Do you want to get closer to your goal or not?

If you do and doing it alone isn’t working, you are going to need to enlist the help of others.  Be it education, expertise, support, advice or delegation, getting help from others strengthens you. The right people will get you there faster and will help you get further than you could alone.  Remember the African proverb “Travel fast, go alone.  Travel far, go together.”  It takes time and experience to build trust.  Don’t be in a rush and do your best to get it right. Asking for help means you are building relationships, getting people to do the jobs they are good at so that you can do the jobs you’re good at.  Working as a team evokes trust, gives other people responsibility and allows you to enjoy the journey. In other words, asking for help makes you strong.

Believe it or not, some people are better at certain jobs than you.

It’s hard to relinquish that control.  Find someone who you can trust to do the job well- even better than you can.  Test them.  Find out whether you can trust them.  Build the trust over time.

Perhaps people enjoy doing a job you hate.

Asking for help on tasks you really hate doing can be hard too.  If you know someone who loves the job you hate, why not do both of you a favour?  It gives them pleasure and gives you one less thing to have to do.

Others are willing and able to do some of the tasks you do not have time to do.

You cannot do it all.  Though you have done a grand job trying.  Rather than flog yourself to fit one more thing in, delegate.  Build the trust over time to your own satisfaction.

Are you asking the right person?

Is the person qualified for the job?  Or over-qualified?  Does the task interest them? Have they got the time? Do they want to help?  All these questions will affect how well the person does the job you ask them to do.  Discover what lights people up.  When you ask them to do things that turn them on, they are far more likely to do an outstanding job.  Picking the right person builds your trust in humanity.

People are just itching to excel

Give them the opportunity to shine.  For your own process, start small and build your trust.  Build their competence and confidence.

People are not mind readers

If you are drowning and wishing someone would help, remember, people are not mind readers.  They may not realise you need help.  Or they may be waiting for you to ask, for fear of interfering.  When you do ask, be specific, so that people understand what they are committing to.  Rather than a general “Can you help me out sometime?”, ask specifically with particular details “Would you do this photocopying for me today?” or “Will you take the kids to school for me tomorrow morning?”.  The more specific you are, the more the person knows what they are committing to.  Therefore, they are more likely to give a genuine full “yes”, counter offer or give you a sincere “no”.

The meanings of “no”

You have drummed up the courage to ask for help and they say “no”!!!! “No” does not mean they do not care.  Nor do you need to see it as rejection or a sign that you are not good enough in some way.  People say “no” for many reasons.  They may feel unqualified for the job.  Or maybe they are busy at that time.  It is easy to ask the wrong person when you are in a desperate situation.  Find the right people to support you, build that trust and develop an open and honest relationship…… and even then, they might say “no”.

Give help to others

People are receptive to giving help when you have helped them out in the past.  Some people are just willing to help.  I get that.  But if you find yourself in a situation when you need/ want help, know that people love being able to reciprocate and do a good job.  Use your good will to build trust in others.

When people offer help, assume that they mean it

Take them up on the offer.  Your fear of trust may get in the way.  Yet, it is their gift to you to help. It is their pleasure.  If they didn’t mean it, they’ll find an excuse not to do what you ask.  If they are genuine about their offer, they will do it willingly, lovingly and joyfully.

The universe is built on relationship and connection

Not isolation and separation.  You are alive by the grace of the air you breathe and the systems that recycle the air around the planet.  You rely on food and water to survive.  Your existence is entwined with that of everyone on the planet and the Earth itself.  You already trust that, or you wouldn’t be alive.  Build from there.  This deep place of connection.  The foundation of your relationship with all things.  It is human not to be perfect and so we let each other down sometimes.  Let that compassion guide you in trusting others.

Over to you

Trust takes time to build and some of these points might help you build trust over time.  What is your relationship to trust?  How are you about asking for help? Do you trust other people to do the work you’ve asked them to do well enough?  How is your relationship to trust different after applying some of these points?  I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences.  And if trust continues to be a sticking point for you, perhaps life coaching might help you to shift your relationship with asking for help.

Pass it on

If you know anyone who finds it hard to ask for help, why not send them the link and talk to them about it?  And please share the social media posts and post comments.  It’s great to get conversation and engagement around these important topics.  Thank you.