Leaders Neglect One of Their Most Valuable Business Assets: Themselves

Kurt Wilkin

Way back in April (which feels like a lifetime ago) I wrote that “no one is winning the pandemic right now, and that’s OK!” I talked about hitting a wall every week, and how it’s OK to take time to recharge your batteries.

Looking back, that article was a sort of warning sign for what was to come. Since then, like most of you, I’ve continued to push myself. The demands of work, family, and navigating COVID-19 were stacking up. Until very recently, I didn’t recognize the gravity of the situation I was creating.

Instead of taking time to recharge, I was pushing right through the stress. It took a few “wake-up call” moments for me to understand what stress was doing to me and the impact that was having on those around me. In separate instances, three people including my wife, a trusted friend and a member of a CEO forum, pulled me aside to ask if I was OK. It sounds like I was exhibiting some of the classic signs that I was in danger of redlining.

And I’m not the only one. Most of the participants in our weekly CEO Forums have noticed the effects of stress in their personal and professional lives, too. Over the past month or so, anxiety, burnout, and general fatigue have come up in every single session.

It’s painfully obvious that we cannot sprint through this marathon. We need to learn how to pace ourselves—and that starts with self-care. In last Wednesday’s Survival and Thrival LinkedIn Live session, I spoke with fitness expert and entrepreneur Kit Rich, who gave us some phenomenal advice for incorporating self-care into our busy lives.

The Threat of Stress

Leading a business is stressful, even in “normal” times. Right now, we’re experiencing massive upheaval economically, medically, socially, and politically—which makes even the most routine day stressful. Speaking for myself, the uncertainty of 2020 certainly adds to my stress! Much has been written about how ineffective you become as a leader when you’re stressed out, including my own column, How to Deal with Stress, the Silent CEO-Killer.

According to Psychology Today, “Long term stress rewires the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to fear, anxiety, depression, and yes, even more stress.” Therefore, learning how to de-stress is absolutely vital, not only to your business, but to your mental, emotional, and even physical health.

The Promise of Self-Care

Right now, courageous leaders everywhere are encouraging their teams to engage in self-care. But as Kit pointed out in our conversation, “You can’t teach anything you don’t know!” We must learn how to integrate self-care into our own lives. But how?

The first step is to follow the advice of self-care experts like Kit. And none of her suggestions require a home gym, crazy diets, or turning your life upside down. These are simple steps we can take today to lower our stress.

  • Create a routine. We’re used to being governed by our calendars. “All hands” video call at 8:30, sales pitch at 9:15, earnings call at 9:45, interview at 11:00… you get the point. Make this change today: schedule time for yourself to do something fun! Schedule 5 to 20 minutes for a quick walk, try to solve a Rubik’s cube, paint, or whatever you want. Self-care should be a mandatory part of your day. Put it in your schedule, and it is more likely to happen.
  • Unplug. There’s a lot going on in the world and it is important to be aware of what’s going on. What’s not important – and not healthy – is staying glued to the 24-hour news cycle and constant inundation of social media. You’re not helping anyone by tuning in all day every day. Focus your energy on things you can control, and you’ll feel less stressed.
  • Take care of your body. Make small steps now to take care of your body. Whether it’s exercising more frequently or eating a little less sugar, Kit advises her clients to frame their relationship with their body as a long-term marriage. If you don’t pay attention to the little things in the present, it will fall apart over time. In health, as in love, the little things add up over time and keep the relationship healthy and happy.
  • Exercise. You don’t have to become a bodybuilder—it’s all about movement. Kit says, “the best exercise for you is the one you’ll actually do.” If you’ve only got seven minutes, go for a walk or do some lunges. Save the longer workouts for the weekend. It’s all about showing up for yourself with the time you have available.
  • Be mindful of stress. One of the best things we can do with our stress is learn from it. Take a moment to notice the root causes of your stress. Dissect those roots, understand them, and grow from the experience. “Stress challenges you to be better, to rise to the occasion, if we allow ourselves to be mindful,” added Kit.
  • Meditate for FIVE minutes before bed. Most of us are driven by our subconscious fears, our desire to stop bad things from happening, rather than making good things happen. “I don’t want to lose my job,” or “I can’t let my family down,” or “if I don’t finish the report, Mike will be mad.” To help her clients reframe these thoughts, Kit has them engage in a simple meditation exercise each night before bed. Turn out the lights, remove distractions like the phone or the TV, and close your eyes. Internally, say “I am…” and fill in positive things about yourself. Allow yourself to dwell on the positive aspects of yourself, and it will help your focus, drive, and energy.

These simple, but highly effective methods of self-care won’t magically erase all of the stress in your life. But they will help you learn to manage stress, which will in turn help you encourage your team on this journey. Leaders can help their teams in other simple but effective ways, like checking in with them periodically or bringing in experts to discuss some of the finer points of self-care. People thrive in communal situations, and your team is no different. Consider having group workouts or bringing in a health expert to answer questions and give advice. Be supportive of employees’ self-care needs. I’m trying to follow my own advice as I’m buying everyone on my HireBetter team a KICHGO from Kit, so they can workout whenever and wherever they want.


This week is a busy one. I’ve got two very exciting discussions to plug:

  1. My LinkedIn Live Survival and Thrival Session will feature HireBetter’s own Kelli Thomason. This session will be an extended one hour, two-part series. Part One will focus on helping leaders and executives in transition. We’ll provide tips for your next career move, including market updates and tips on resumes, LinkedIn, and interviewing. Part Two will be for companies hiring next-level leaders. We will provide market updates, tips on strategic hiring and interviewing, and even showcase some available leaders looking for their next career move. June 24, 10:30 am. Central on LinkedIn Live.
  2. Intuit’s Ask the Expert: On Thursday, June 25t at 2:30 p.m. Central, I will be live with host Rod Kurtz, who you’ve seen on my LinkedIn Live, and two other great entrepreneurs—the aforementioned Kit Rich and Olga Vidisheva, the talented CEO of Shoptiques.com—to discuss lessons learned during the pandemic and what comes next

In light of this week’s message, I’m changing the definition of my Survival and Thrival mantra: “LET’S GO!” Now, instead of meaning “push yourself even more to keep going,” I’m going to use it when I go out kayaking or play ping pong or basketball with my sons. So everyone, “LET’S GO!”

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