In my previous line of work there was a notable shift in titles at some point in the industry from “Account Management” to “Client Service” for the same job responsibilities. It’s interesting in hindsight as it took experts like me from a role of brand stewardship – strategic thinkers that understood every in-and-out of the clients’ brand/target/differentiating product benefits that guided a team to find that “whitespace” in the most compelling way to achieve our clients’ business goals – to a noticeable expectation-change of a 24/7 service representative dedicated to address any need, want, and concerns of a paying client. Not all saw it that way, but plenty did. And, as someone who always liked to follow the rules and ensure I was going above and beyond at every turn to please people, I fell down a slippery slope of spending the majority of my time addressing everyone’s needs but my own. Of course, great service is a differentiating factor in most businesses these days. That said, as the humans that run these businesses, if you don’t put your own oxygen mask on first, it’s curtains for us both.
It’s a case for more self-love, and less martyrdom. You can still be a star employee and a solid teammate, if not a better one, if you remember some key tenants of self-prioritization and self-service:
- Boundaries – Respect yourself enough to create clear boundaries of your time and cup-filling priorities that help you show up in a much more positive and present way. For me, I need to create peace in the morning for my first cup of coffee – this is my own meditation time. I also need to schedule and protect time to get my blood flowing in some way – a walk, a run, a cycling class, or yoga – at least a few days a week. This is my sacred space that feeds my mind, body and spirit – without those, you aren’t bringing your best self to the table.
- Space – I am guilty of being a hyper-reactor. Historically, I have been too quick to respond in a number of situations in efforts to get things out of my mind or off my plate in order to move forward quickly to the next issue awaiting my attention. We also had a rule at one of my agencies that you must respond to all client requests and/or needs within 24 hours. While acknowledgment of receipt can be demonstrated in a timely manner, sometimes allowing something to “breathe” had a solid benefit too. The pace of business has driven us to play a game of wack-a mole rather than a more sophisticated game of chess. I’ve learned the hard way more times than I care to admit that not pausing to think things through before I let my thought process come out my mouth, or allowing someone space to fully articulate their challenge before I take it upon myself to react is not the best approach. Space and time has value…and health benefits. Stop. Breathe. Think. Save a drafted response and come back to it later. In a tense email exchange especially, I find that 4 times out of 5 if I come back to something I’ve written a few hours later before I’ve sent it, I definitely feel differently and would like to soften my language. The pause encourages more time to consider other perspectives and intentions, and lets you consider the potential outcomes of what you’re about to say. As I used to say to my team, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be married?” Give yourself some space to think about that. It’s a self-service that will help to create a more positive environment around you.
- Values – I’m proud to say that I was raised with some proper Midwestern values. In addition to a solid work ethic, I genuinely care about other people and want to help ease their pain. It drove trust with my clients and it made me a great team player as well. But, in looking back, there were times that I seriously compromised my other values of health and family to demonstrate that I was a super-employee. I know it was appreciated by the business, but I’m not sure the incremental value to my career overall was achieved in the way the effort debited against my health or availability to my baby at the time. I wish I had held tighter to my value barometer and knew when to say “no”. The more I’ve learned in health coach school about those critical first years of your child’s development and how they will affect the rest of their life mentally and physically, and how critical food and exercise decisions are for your own body’s mental and physical wellbeing here and now – I wish I had done things differently. Like Jacob Marley in Charles Dickens’, “A Christmas Carol”, I should have made greater efforts to be there for myself and my family rather than add one more link to the chains of money and greed that I collected and pursued in excessively high priority. But, the good news is, you can start changing the tide now. Take time to assess your own values and in those give-and-take decisions you inevitably face, give yourself permission to listen to your gut.
- Trust – Having an attitude of acceptance and embracing change helps you achieve your best self. In my mind, my job was to keep everything under control. I liked knowing my landscape, predicting what was coming next, having an efficient plan, and executing flawlessly. And, admittedly, that is what most successful business plans look like. But in larger organizations with competing plans, expectations, needs and timelines, control becomes an exercise in futility. Letting go of control (in at least some ways), has helped me be a happier, less combative person. If things don’t go accordingly to the original plan, I find a healthier perspective in enjoying the journey and seeing what better lesson I’m about to take away from what the universe has presented to me. Perhaps counterintuitive, control is actually an achilles heel. Leaders that know how to accept others’ perspectives along the way and pivot successfully in the face of challenges are stronger, more resilient, and respected leaders. Trust the journey and you’ll be better for it.
I’d love to hear what other acts of self-love and self-service you’ve found to be helpful in your life and career. Feel free to share in the comments below!