Taking care of yourself whilst taking care of the business

How not to forget your own personal development whilst planning everyone else’s

HR professionals have a lot on their plate, from recruiting the right people to retaining them into the business. This involves creating, implementing and maintaining an employee experience that will drive engagement, while motivating and unlocking everyone’s full potential.

Pretty full-on job right? At Let’s Talk Talent, we think so too. And unfortunately, looking after the people within your business often means not having much time left to look after yourself. We know, we’ve been there. HR professionals often neglect their own personal needs in order to focus on others. A great trait to have as an HR professional for sure, but now is a good time to take a step back and make sure you take care of yourself too.

Throughout the pandemic, the lines between our personal and professional lives have become blurry, and we are expected to perform well at work and at home. Between juggling home-schooling, firefighting at work, the social anxiety brought on by the lockdown and the added tiredness resulting from being ‘on’ all the time, confidence in your performance levels may have dipped. Which couldn’t be more normal. We’ve all been asked to be resilient and many of us have had to tap into emergency reserves. And whilst it’s all well and good to stretch the elastic a bit to get through this difficult time, we all need to ensure that we can snap back into shape once we get back to normal. Whatever normal will look like.

Understanding yourself and focusing on your needs may sound like an optional item on an already full agenda, but it is key to understanding and, in turn, helping others. Just like looking after your own development will help you become more attuned to staff who wish to grow and progress their careers.

So whilst it may be easier to think that there are other priorities right now and that others may need more urgent and immediate attention, putting your personal and professional needs at the forefront of your efforts and getting your confidence back up could actually make you a more productive HR leader.

Here are our five top tips on how to look after yourself, your health and your career at a time when everyone else is asking for support. And don’t miss our list of free resources at the bottom of the page!

Tip 1: Ask for support

We all feel a bit stuck sometimes and working in isolation means development opportunities could be few and far between. The current remote working context offers limited opportunities for new contacts or conversations with either colleagues, other businesses or the wider HR community, who would have otherwise been able to provide guidance and advice. So in a world where virtual is the new norm, it’s up to you to reach out to others for support and ask for help. The good news is that there are thousands of resources available at your fingertip.   

Online forums, networks and social media groups are a great way to share experiences, discover new tools or even hear about industry best practices from innovative businesses and HR leaders globally. Some, such as the Facebook HR Ninjas, provide a safe environment to ask questions, gain support and chat informally to a broader spectrum of HR professionals and businesses.

Tip 2: Take time for yourself

Prioritising yourself may sound easy. But time planned for personal learning and development will often get pushed aside as other emergencies arise and carving out moments to focus on your wellbeing can seem like a selfish enterprise when others need you. However, making time for yourself is essential to develop new skills, remain motivated and effectively support others on their career journey.

Review your routine and set regular times during the week for your own development. Block those out in your calendar, treat them as any other meeting and make them part of your weekly habits. Take some time out by going for walks, getting fresh air, or simply doing something you love for a few minutes. Breaks are proven to help you process and retain information, and can help you be more productive, as well as more creative. But don’t just wait for the opportunity to present itself. Schedule those in or you could risk focusing on everyone else but yourself and eventually run out of steam before the finish line.  

And remember, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and talk about how you’re feeling or ask for help if you need it. HR leaders often feel they should be invincible, but it’s important to have realistic expectations of what you can accomplish and calibrate those based on context. Doing so will set the right example, an essential step to generate a climate of psychological safety within your organisation that will lead to others feeling comfortable to open up when they are not feeling ok either.

Tip 3: Focus on building resilience

Resilience is often asked of us during more difficult times. But can it just be demanded of people by their organisations? Is being resilient a skill that should be part of everyone’s arsenal? Are some of us just born with it?

The truth is that resilience isn’t an innate skill. It is a characteristic encouraged and developed through fostering the right environment. And HR departments play an essential role in generating the components that lead to resilience, such as control, identity and community:

  • Control: Feeling in charge helps us keep going in times of crisis. Ensure employees have clarity over their roles, defined objectives and the means to take charge and achieve them.
  • Identity:  Our sense of self can be based off our social groups, which means that your people need to see themselves reflected in the business in order to feel more comfortable. HR can help by defining, and rewarding the behaviours and attitudes valued by the company and by creating a strong sense of belonging and an inclusive internal culture.
  • Community:  Being connected and part of something bigger than ourselves gives us a sense of purpose. Encourage social interactions and ensure everyone feels like they can bring their whole selves to work.

Generating the kind of culture that will lead to resilience can benefit the business and contribute to its continued performance throughout more turbulent times. And to be in a position to support the implementation of that culture, you need to also focus on your own resilience skills. When the elastic gets stretched too thin, make sure you don’t snap so that you can carry on supporting the business whilst being your best self.

Tip 4: Seek out development opportunities

Helping your organisation’s talent pool move up to the next stage of their career and unlock their full potential is part of every HR department’s mandate. Therefore, it goes without saying that firsthand experience of the process should be a prerequisite for all HR professionals. Actively seeking out opportunities to expand your skillset is essential for you to learn how to give the same support back.

Setting up coaching for yourself is a great way to benefit from a learning experience customised entirely on the skills, attitudes and behaviours you particularly wish to focus on. Have a look at our Coach on Demand service, or use an online community to find a mentor (like The HR Ninjas) who can guide you through those trickier situations.

There are also other online resources available for those keen to continue learning and keep up with the latest trends and ideas in the field. Podcasts are great ways to find inspiration and introduce some diversity of thought into your HR strategy. Books could seem a bit more time-consuming and end up on the ‘whenever I have time’ pile, so joining a book club such as the Let’s Talk Talent Book Club could help you remain accountable and dedicate time to your personal learning and development.  

Tip 5: Have someone to keep you accountable

Whilst the above advice seems fairly obvious and easy to integrate into any routine, maintaining a conscious and continued focus on your own career and health over a longer period of time can fall flat. Especially during more trying times when energy levels are slightly depleted.

Choosing someone such as a coach or a mentor to keep you accountable and keep tabs on your progress could be the difference between a development plan that ends up in a dusty desk drawer, or actively working on keeping your motivation levels up and unlocking your full potential.

If your role allows you to work closely with senior management or your company’s CEO, this could provide you with a great opportunity for support and guidance. Ask your coach to check in regularly, build ongoing review meetings and set objectives for self-learning and development so you can report back and course-correct if needed.

Conclusion

Focusing on yourself may seem like a nice-to-have in a job where putting the business and its people first can leave very little energy for other endeavours. Cultural bias also teaches us from a very young age to look after those who need help, but seldom teaches us to put ourselves first. Whilst this is admirable, it also is counterproductive as understanding yourself, focusing on your own growth and maximising your strengths can only make you into a better person, a better mentor and a better HR professional. Mostly, be kind to yourself. You’ve got this. Be confident in your abilities and make sure you give yourself the tools to feel great and stay motivated because, as we like to say at Let’s Talk Talent, the best is yet to come!

If you’re ready to start focusing on your career and would like some support, we’ve got your back. Give us a call to set up some coaching sessions with our Coach on Demand service, or register for our free resilience webinar to find out how to make yourself, and your business, more adaptable in times of crisis.

Additional resources for HR leader self-care that we recommend:

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