April coined the term “Trust Relations” to describe a new approach to public relations, then founded the virtual firm Trust Relations.
New Year’s resolutions are often viewed as cliché. But don’t write them off as a sentimental tradition for half-hearted self-improvement—there is still value in reevaluating where you invest your time, energy and what really matters to you. Why? Because congruent leaders who “walk the talk” are the most impactful leaders.
Your company culture ultimately starts—and stops—at the top. As a leader, you set the tone for the entire company. You impart your vision, beliefs, values, habits and attitude onto your team—and your team reflects those characteristics back to you tenfold. As a leader, the more you authentically embody what matters to you, the more impact you and your company will have.
So, this year I invite you to examine where you can come into greater congruence with what you value personally and professionally—and watch your teams (and clients) follow suit. Here are my top three tips for becoming a more congruent leader:
Define Your Values And Defend Them With Boundaries
If you clearly define your values, you can more clearly set boundaries to uphold them. Congruent leaders function from a set of fixed values and beliefs, which guide confident and consistent decision-making. As a result, they are more trusted because they are more predictable. They make difficult decisions more swiftly. They structure their life and actions around working toward the same goal with laser focus and command unparalleled power and influence as a result.
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The first step to being a coherent leader is to clearly define what’s important to you. The next step is to act like it. A big part of upholding and defending your values is setting good boundaries to protect them. This also entails clearly outlining your expectations based on your mission and values so the team understands the why as well as the what. This sets your team up for success since they will know when they have met (or not met) your expectations.
Resolve Toxic Workplace Habits From The Top Down
The Society of Human Resources Management estimates that 1 in every 5 employees has left a job because of a toxic workplace culture—and replacing those employees is expensive. It can cost employers up to twice the annual salary associated with each position they must replace.
Again, workplace culture starts at the top. A rageful, micro-managing leader creates a culture of anxiety and backstabbing, while a supportive, mentorship-focused leader fosters a culture of growth and learning.
A good starting point for uncovering your own toxic habits is to consider the moments at work that have brought out the worst in you. While these moments aren’t fun to revisit, they don’t make you a monster—even the best and kindest bosses have bad days. I’ve found those who irritate me often offer the most insight into where I can grow. Consider the last interaction you had with a colleague that really irked you. Why did it bother you so much?
If it got under your skin when a client failed to send their company announcement to you on time, could it be you’re insecure about forgetting important deadlines or looking overwhelmed, disorganized and scattered? When it makes your blood boil that a junior team member made a typographical error in an email, could you be worried about being perceived as incompetent or sloppy yourself?
Use those moments to identify and correct the incongruent habits or attitudes that don’t serve you, your values or your team.
Take Care Of Yourself—You’re The Company’s Biggest Asset
Yeah, yeah. We know. As leaders, we need to take care of ourselves—and somehow find the time to do it. The struggle is real. Believe me.
But taking time for yourself can go a long way toward reducing your own stress levels, boosting your creativity and, ultimately, improving your work performance. Recreation is how we can re-create ourselves, improve our congruence and become who we want to be.
By doing small things that reinforce what we value, we make those values stronger in us and create a positive feedback loop. Weaving even a few small habits into your day paves the way for significant change. We all have unique needs, but here are a few thought starters:
• Set aside five minutes each day to do something centering. This could mean meditating, breathing deeply, stretching or doing some centering exercises. It could mean sitting in the sun, hugging a tree, petting your furry friend, journaling or drinking a cup of tea while looking out the window. This doesn’t have to interrupt your workday either. It can be when you first wake up or just before bed. Just do it consistently so it becomes a habit.
• Schedule regular check-ins with yourself. When you’re constantly putting out fires and leading back-to-back calls, it can be hard to notice you’re overworked and overwhelmed. To combat this, schedule time in your week to check in with yourself and assess your mental state. Pro tip: If you can make a list of the things you tend to do when you’re starting to burn out (e.g., snap at people, forget to ask how colleagues are, swear more, switch up people’s names, forget details, lose things, etc.), it can help tip you off when you’re on the verge of burnout.
• Make time for things that bring you joy. Whether it’s reading a good book, dusting off an old hobby, spending quality time with family or volunteering, dedicate time each week to something you enjoy. Consider taking a class in something that inspires you outside of work (e.g., cooking, music, a foreign language, acting, painting, writing, etc.) and respect that commitment to yourself, just as you would your client meetings.
Don’t forget to include yourself in your 2023 planning. By making a few small changes to your routines, you can become a more congruent leader, which will make you more impactful—and happier. By eliminating your own toxic habits or those that aren’t serving your values, you can set the tone for an even more positive and powerful company culture this year.
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Author: April White, Forbes Councils Member