An Important Thing to do for Your Staff: Ask “What do I Owe Myself?”

Our CEO writes a monthly Coach's Corner column for Human Resources Executive Magazine. This month, he explored an unexpected question he realized he needed to start asking: “What do I owe myself?” His thoughts on the topic are excerpted below:

As 2020 is drawing to a close, I anticipate that many of us share in the feeling of being burned out. Covid-19 has added extra weight to the burdens we already carry and my fellow HR professionals have had to steward the needs of others even more this year than usual. However, I would like to propose that going forward, we give ourselves some space by posing the question, “What do I owe myself?”

I would guess that most of us have not asked this before and that even fewer of us have taken the time to answer it, and fewer still have actioned our answers. In the HR profession, thinking about our own needs before others’ may feel wrong or unnatural. We’ve been trained that to wield power and influence, we must rely on a combination of referent (read: getting along with co-workers) and connection power. We want our colleagues to like us and our executives to open up to us in order to get things done. However, constantly de-prioritizing our needs for the sake of others’ can actually wreak havoc and harm on our own ability to both have an impact and to be satisfied. There is a reason flight attendants tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others! We need to breathe before we can help others do the same. Yes, even HR professionals need to give themselves time to breathe.

As I challenge myself to take care of my own needs in addition to the needs of others, here are a few simple and practical steps I’ve taken:

  1. Saying “no” or “not now” to new opportunities when I’m already over capacity

  2. Setting realistic deadlines for myself

  3. Starting my day by taking care of the most important things to me, before I serve others

  4. Establishing better boundaries

  5. Asking for help and delegating more

  6. Reducing scope and complexity

  7. Speaking up for myself—often to myself—whenever something is out of joint

  8. Showing myself grace and compassion whenever I inevitably turn out to be less than perfect

Lastly, and most importantly, I’ve been stopping myself frequently to reflect, pull up, and apply my scarce time, energy and mindshare to the things that are most important to me; the things that I owe myself.

Read Ben’s full column here, or watch this short video of his personal reflection:


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