Leadership Lessons: To take care of others we must first take care of ourselves
Written by Chris Farrell, Liscio CEO & CPA
After more than 25 years of direct personal experience, I’m (finally) convinced that the key to success is not to be found by sitting endless hours at my desk, leaping to respond to every message that hits my smartphone, and feeling guilty taking time off. So what changed? Life is an excellent teacher if we’re willing to listen. In my case, the combination of COVID and the birth of our son, revealed that the work/life imbalance that I’d been practicing no longer served me. And I now have great conviction that the future of work will maximize both the business and the health of the team. Leadership Lessons: To take care of others we must first take care of ourselves
I started my career as an auditor at Arthur Andersen. I loved the job. I threw myself into it with abandon. I worked boatloads of overtime and lived by the mantra that when our clients rang the bell, we answered it — days, nights, weekends. The commitment to service and the overtime cadence became a metronome for my life. And as the world became more and more digital, my smartphone made sure that work was close at hand at every gathering, event, and vacation.
The intrusion into every corner of my life was complete with the arrival of COVID. Work and home became inseparable. Family and work were in direct competition for attention all the time — and work typically won. I know I wasn’t alone in this. So many of my friends and colleagues were feeling as imbalanced as I and we were all relying on our ability to “grind through it” just as we’ve always done.
If you’re reading this, I imagine you share at least some of this sentiment and the mental stress that goes along with it.
At Liscio, my role as CEO demands that I take care of my people. If all my staff is burned out, we have no company. And if I am burned out, I can’t take care of anyone. With this in mind, we’re now taking the first steps toward solving the long-standing problem of work/life balance.
The key isn’t another vague platitude such as “work smarter, not harder.” No one really understands what that means in a practical sense (although it sounds good on paper). The key is to understand the science and psychology behind unlocking our potential and committing to applying it to our well-being. On the journey, we hope to find and share the keys to positivity, longevity, remote camaraderie, and more. We instinctively know WHY we are on the journey, and we are actively working on the HOW we reach our goals.
Here are the top-5 experiments that we’re running right now:
- Maximum use of project management tools.
- Minimal use of chat apps.
- Dedicated blocks of uninterrupted productivity time.
- Movement throughout the day.
- No internal comms after business hours.
Maximum use of project management tools.
The health of the business is essential to pulling off everything else, so let’s start there. All of our goals and must-do’s end up in our project management system with dates and owners. We rely on MIRO project boards to provide transparency, alignment, and accountability. This clarity allows us to stay focused on hitting our goals while minimizing meeting time. In fact, we were able to cancel our entire daily 30-minute alignment meeting — representing 10 hours of time saved at every desk per month — with no loss in productivity. Boom!
Minimal use of chat apps
The next step was to minimize the use of Microsoft Teams. It is an absolute productivity killer when used inappropriately. Group chats not only pull everyone away from their work but they also increase anxiety as we collectively felt the need to read and respond quickly. And it’s really hard to stay focused on a project, a client conversation, or family time when the chat is constantly beeping. By muting group chats and focusing on only using direct chats for specific, time-bound needs, we were able to immediately dial up productivity while dialing down noise and anxiety. Less urgent requests get sent via email. An easy win.
Dedicated blocks of uninterrupted productivity time.
After paring down meeting time and digital chatter, we are able to dedicate more time to productive work. The important insight here is that we are all knowledge workers. Our time spent working with and for our clients is the most valuable time we have. By creating dedicated, uninterrupted blocks of time, we put ourselves in a position to do our best work. In fact, we’re recreating the environment where we tend to get most of our best work done — nights and weekends — but we’re doing it during work hours instead of after.
Movement throughout the day.
As much as I’d like to think that our killer team can be productive for hours on end, the reality is that our bodies and minds weren’t meant to be stationary all day. There are times when I can sit down and write an article in an hour and others when I can barely get started. The difference is how well prepared my body and mind are to work. This is where movement comes in. We are built to move. Many of us have figured out ways to stand more often but we’re missing the fact that we’re still at our desks. Movement gets us away from our screen and gives our bodies and minds time to refresh so we can come back and be really productive. We’re now working on ways to deeply encourage each other to move throughout the day, every day. Give it a try — I think you’ll find that efficiency trumps brute force.
No internal comms after business hours.
I’ve sent more emails after business hours than I care to admit. In the process, I’ve likely interrupted more evenings and quality family time than I ever intended. Balance and time off are essential for longevity and mental health. By taking care of ourselves and each other, we’re suddenly in a position to be awesome at everything we do. And frankly, isn’t it more important to clients and staff that we display our best selves rather than our maxed-out selves? So if the email can wait until morning, it should wait. I make liberal use of scheduled emails – that way if I want to write a few emails while the thoughts are fresh in my mind, I can. But I don’t have them arrive in my team’s inboxes until the am. That way I don’t derail their evenings.
As you can imagine, these changes have been positively received by the Liscio employee team. We are collectively striving to create a company culture that not only allows each employee to bring their whole self to work, but also allows them to have a life outside of work. And while at work, each employee gets space to actually do their work in a productive and fulfilling manner.
As the pace and intensity of our always-online world continues to reach deeper and deeper into our lives, we’re striving to harness the power of each innovation. We see a future where technology continues to create a surplus not only for our business lives but also for our personal lives. At Liscio, we’re committed to doing the best work of our lives so you can do the best work of yours.
We hope these tips are helpful and look forward to continuing the conversation with you as we continue the journey.
To learn more about how Liscio enables accounting and bookkeeping firms of all sizes to significantly improve the experience they offer their clients while enabling staff to do the best work of their lives in a relaxed, productive, and collaborative environment, book a free personalized demo here.