Every small business is operated by a few people, sometimes, often even, only one. You. Even in the largest businesses there are always just a few of the people who have responsibility for the whole business. In business, where you are one of the people, perhaps the only person, whose personal well-being is intimately linked to the well-being of the business, then one strategy you must have is to look after yourself.
For me, that meant that I formed a guiding principle to be emotionally aware, mentally resilient, and physically well. Determining the coherent actions that I needed took some time both to identify, and then to deliver. That is of course another aspect of any strategy, they have a long-term timescale.
I also gave some thought to seeking to understand what I needed to do, how to do those things and why they were important. In that thinking I realised that there was a strong link between those three aspects of the work I was seeking to do and my emotional state. If, for example I was certain of what I needed to do and why it was important, but was inexperienced or lacked the knowledge to do it, I could feel overwhelmed, frustrated, even angry, and that was debilitating. If there were challenges that required me to think carefully, I could find that my resilience was slipping away and if I was tired, I would never be as effective as when I was well rested.
Your health is reflected in your business.
Every day my health defines how my business is performing
As Business Owners of small businesses how well we are, how we turn up emotionally, has a big impact on how the business will perform. Yet how can we control emotions that simply arrive, too often unannounced, without warning. One small ‘trick’ I’ve learned is to be an observer, and to announce that feeling with curiosity. “Hmm, I notice I am feeling frustrated, what caused that I wonder?”
This technique is called “Affect Labelling’, the action of describing the emotions you are feeling with words. I have found, and wider studies confirm, that it has an immediate impact on the emotional state, reducing negative feelings caused by the emotions swiftly. It took me a while to make identifying and labelling emotions a habit. Journaling helped me to do that. When I knew things were a little ‘out of whack’ writing them down helped. Reading what I had written had more impact, reading what I had written out loud had even more. Business after business run by dedicated people determined to do their best have stumbled and under-performed because the owners emotional state affected the business negatively. Often, they focused so much on the business that they forgot to look after themselves and that made them emotionally challenged in a vicious cycle that leads to the wrong destination. You will not let that happen.
Emotional awareness will give you more control of outcomes.
Unless we are self-observant and self-aware and able to both spot and use our emotions in the service of our strategies then they will always have an opportunity to trip us up.
Resilience is the capability of something to return to their original state when we are put under pressure, or bent out of shape, compressed or stretched. That last point is important when it comes to mental resilience because it may be that when our minds are stretched, perhaps with new skills, or knowledge, that the new state should be maintained. That’s the very opposite of resilience. It’s my intention then to define Mental Resilience as something that allows us to recover from forces that put the minds into a place where it is performing less well than it did before. Perhaps that means logical or critical thinking, are diminished, or decision making is poorer. Perhaps it’s where the troubled mind interferes with sleep, or relationships, or ability to perform normal day to day activities.
Is this the same as mental toughness? No, I don’t think it is. Toughness is a more proactive approach to avoiding (or shielding from) the situations that could give rise to negative pressures, it’s that defensive mechanism that those who advocate it use to avoid being knocked down in the first place. Whilst that might make it less likely that someone is affected by the challenges they face, there will still be a time when they do fall, and having the skills for mental resilience, and a strategy to employ those skills will reward them. We need a level of toughness to choose to do some of the more difficult things, but we need resilience for when they don’t work out. Resilience comes from the preparatory work. It’s a bit like taking an umbrella with you on a sunny morning, when you will be out all day, means you will be ready, should it rain. It also acknowledges that there will be rainy days sometimes. Toughness focusses on ignoring the rain if it falls, resilience puts the umbrella up. What do you need to take with you in your business in case it ‘rains’?
Mental resilience creates endurance.
Enduring businesses ride out the challenges – because their leadership is resilient.
As a business owner there’s a reality none of us can escape from. Individual health and business health are linked. When one falters the other likely will too. If your business has a challenge that puts a lot of stress on the owner, it’s likely they will see health impacts, mental or physical, as a result of that stress. If the owner is unwell the business loses leadership focus and there is a likelihood it will suffer as a result too.
This link, I’ve learned over the years is much more closely aligned than most give it credit for. One reason for that is that changes in a business take time to work through into the results. When an owner is distracted by health issues customers don’t leave immediately, but more leave earlier than they would otherwise, fewer referrals are made, and a few months later things are a long way from optimal. Equally when a business owner deals with health issues and focusses on the business it can take months, sometimes even a year or two, for that effort to pay dividends.
For me I recognised how the level of exercise (and the quality of it) and what I ate and drank had an undoubted effect on my business performance too. I improved them all by eating more intentionally, exercising more regularly, managing my weight down and my fitness up. If you want to be commended or criticised on your diet, shape, fitness and looks there are plenty of others out there ready to voice an opinion. My point here is not to tell you what you need to do, but just to give you an opportunity to reflect on what you want. Forget what the world wants you to be, what do you want to be, from a physical wellbeing point of view. It’s easy to let it just happen, and then shrug and say you are what you are, or you can choose. It took illness to make me choose, but you can do that today, without waiting.
Physical well-being is a business superpower.
If you are strong and healthy, then your business can be too.
In 2020 when the global novel coronavirus pandemic struck, I saw two distinct forms of response in the small business community. For some it was a disaster, for others an opportunity. What I also saw was that those businesses that had owners who tended to be calm, confident, in control of their emotions, physically strong, and mentally resilient, were quick out of the blocks. There’s a challenge, always, when external change hits us, and it will have emotional impacts. You can be controlled by those feelings or use their energy to harness the opportunity. I know which I saw that worked, I suspect you know which did too.
When we are in control of our emotions, when we are resilient to the external changes imposed on us, and when we are physically well there is far more likelihood of success.
As we have already discussed Building Better Business really does start by Building a Better You.
Image by: William Buist © 2020