Year-end and self care in the same sentence? You've got to be kidding me, I hear you saying through the wifi waves! But yes, tomorrow is International Self Care Day (ISD) which is held on July 24th each year to provide a focus and opportunity to raise the profile of healthy lifestyle self-care programmes around the world.
As someone who has previously over indulged in year-end 'self-care' of Vegemite on turkish toast (I'm showing my age - if you're young and cool, that's smashed avo to you), more coffees than you can count on one hand and become a frequent flyer at Dan Murphys, only to come out of the year-end fog and go into a period of undoing all of that damage, I felt it was an important message to share.
Year-end for leaders in finance is a really challenging time. It is our grand final, for want of a better analogy. It's the culmination of all the work we have done each month: when things go wrong, stakeholders say "you had one job" it's that entwined into our corporate identities. Its success is measured by speed, quality and of course, the numbers. Because of the rigour around the numbers, the deadlines required by the regulators and add to that the unprecedented resource constraints and working conditions brought about by COVID-19, it truly is a pressure cooker scenario.
Pressure cookers are brilliant. I bought one a couple of years ago, and for me its success is that it can cook things that would otherwise take 8 hours, in 15 minutes. (A bit like year-end, really.) But its method relies on the ability to release pressure at the right time.
As such, I put to you that your ability - and your team's ability - to get through this year-end successfully, relies on your ability to release pressure at the right time.
What can you do to release pressure without impacting our key measures of speed, quality and the numbers?
Getting year-end wrong is highly visible: don't risk silly mistakes
Sharpen the Saw
Sometimes you need to slow down to go faster. Dr Stephen Covey got it right with his habit #7, Sharpen the Saw. This habit recognises that you are your greatest asset and you need to take care of it: specifically to presence and enhance it.
Think about yourself as an intangible asset and for the purposes of this exercise we'll value you at $1m as at 1st January 2020. Think about what has transpired between then and now, and project out to the end of the reporting season (Aug 2020). What would your intangible asset be worth as at 31 August 2020? Would there be indicators of impairment?
As you know, when an asset is impaired, you reduce its value to indicate you'll get a lower return from it. So in the case of a leader in finance battling through their crunch time, that most likely will be a lower return in speed and productivity, AND quality and accuracy. [7 Habits of Highly Effective People ] Which in term will impact the numbers in some way, shape or form, whether it be overruns for the audit, inefficiencies due to errors and subsequent rework or recruitment fees when you lose your key finance staff post year-end.
Self-Care is for Life
This is one of the themes of International Self Care Day. Self-care is for life, which is why we deprioritise it when we're faced with something urgent. We say, 'it's okay, we'll do it tomorrow.' Then tomorrow never comes.
My goal, through the work I do, is to provide leaders in finance the mindset, skills and tools to help them live a life of true success. I recognise that we have one life to live, and until they perfect cloning technology, living a split life isn't fulfilling nor sustainable. We need to manage ourselves so we can fully devote our energy and effort to the tasks at hand in order to be the best we possibly can.
Executive presence is not achieved through a constant hard slog. It takes energy to have the impact you want and influence people to develop and grow. Your prefrontal cortex needs to be engaged and firing to think laterally and solve complex problems. You can spot an overworked and underslept person a mile away, and they are not the person that gets that next opportunity.
Self-Care by all, for all...
...is other one of the ISD themes developed this year. I'd like to ask you: what can you do for your finance staff, or for the business units you support, to give them the opportunity to invest in a little self-care tomorrow? It doesn't need to be big, but a little goes a long way. Here are some ideas to get you started:
• Suggest they log off for 30 minutes at lunch tomorrow (as in, their status shows off-line)
• Offer them a late start
• Perhaps do your team catch-up over a drink at the end of the day
You might even simply ask them what self-care means for them and how you can help contribute.
"When you understand the why, the how and when will emerge. When you take care of the who, the how and when can be exceptional."
Year-end is tough. If we choose to be the finance leader of the future, it is our responsibility to ensure we have done what we need to be at our best. For all.
Take care of yourself and your team: you're in it for the long haul. Together.
Love to hear your thoughts...