This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
Seven years ago, I was fortunate to be promoted into the role of executive vice-president of Human Resources at Telus. I was 34 years old with an exciting future.
As a developing executive, I was known for my passion, drive and problem-solving abilities. What my colleagues did not know about me were my health issues, including persistent headaches that kicked in during the afternoon. For a long time, I managed to cope effectively with my health challenges, but when my symptoms worsened, I decided to undergo a series of medical tests. I discovered I had pre-diabetes – a clear warning that something was wrong with my health.
Fortunately, I was able to gain control of my health through diet, exercise and discipline. To this day, I count and limit my intake of carbs at every meal in order to regulate my blood sugar levels. I also make sure to eat plenty of protein, fruits and vegetables. My doctor calls it a pre-diabetic diet, but my nutritionist says it's simply a sensible eating plan – ideal for anyone who wants to optimize their health and maintain a consistent energy level.
I also make more time for exercise; whether it's stretching daily, going for an early morning run or hiking with my family. Coupled with closely monitoring my sugar and insulin levels via my electronic personal health record, these lifestyle changes have made a world of difference for me and are integral components of my leadership stamina.
What is leadership stamina and why does it matter?
Today, as the executive responsible for our healthcare technology and human resources divisions, I now appreciate that leadership stamina embodies the physical, mental and social well-being that is key to truly successful leaders. It is so important that it is one of the six elements that my friend and mentor, Darren Entwistle, president and CEO of Telus from 2000 and now executive chair since May 2014, speaks to when he is teaching up-and-coming leaders about building their leadership grit.
In other words, you need to take good care of yourself to achieve sustainable personal and professional success. Even the most determined leaders underperform or worse yet, burn out, when they don't pay close enough attention to their health and well-being.
Having the discipline to manage my health responsibly and proactively has been a game-changer. Importantly, it also helped elevate the tone for my leadership style, benefiting the team members I support and the ambitious goals we always strive to realize together.
Being a caring leader is an important part of becoming a great leader
Given my background in HR, people often ask me what it takes to be a successful leader. While strategic thinking, engendering employee and customer engagement and driving teams to realize innovative business outcomes are fundamental, an often underrated and important complement to these attributes is a caring attitude.
Whether it's taking the time to help a co-worker with a personal or professional issue, writing a thoughtful note of appreciation to a colleague for a job well done or inspiring someone to realize their potential, these important everyday leadership actions can go a long way to boosting your team members' grit, performance and job satisfaction.
Chester Elton, author of The Carrot Principle, says it best: "What we find to be fairly common sense in our personal lives – saying thank you and appreciating people – somehow gets lost in the course of normal business."
The same can be said for looking out for the overall health of our teams at work. It should be second nature to watch out for our colleagues and their families, show that we care meaningfully about their well-being and offer help when it's needed.
I often encourage our team members to take advantage of our innovative programs that contribute to physical and mental wellness. Our Work Styles program, for example, enables the majority of our employees to work from home multiple times a week. Additionally, our Team Telus Cares program inspires our team members to volunteer in their communities and give back to the causes that matter most to them. In this win-win formula, giving back improves the well-being of our team while also benefiting our communities where we live, work and serve; communities from which we will recruit future generations of leaders.
Your path to leadership stamina
By embracing a caring attitude and reflecting that in your everyday leadership actions, you will help build a healthier, more engaged team that can deliver a better customer experience and realize better business results.
Whether it's volunteering for a local cause, training for a triathlon, going on walks, escaping with a good book or learning something new, there are a multitude of ways to achieve holistic well-being and by extension, leadership stamina. The key is to find your unique path, stay the course and lead the way for your team at work and loved ones at home with caring and passion.
Josh Blair is Telus' (@TELUS) chief corporate officer and recipient of the Top 10 HR Breakaway Leaders award from the Global HR Leadership Summit.