Photo credit: iStockphoto.com (Rudzhan Nagiev)
Before she became CEO of TaskRabbit, Stacy Brown-Philpot was a dog-loving leader at Google who sometimes brought Zeus, her little Yorkshire Terrier, to the office.
One day, a manager on her team asked if she could sit with Zeus for a few minutes because she’d just had to tell some people they were being laid off. That’s when Brown-Philpot learned an important lesson about leadership.
“I realized,” she says, “that leadership isn’t just about taking care of business. It’s about taking care of people.”
That put her well ahead of the curve in learning how important it always is for leaders to prioritize employee well-being — not just during or in the aftermath of a pandemic.
When well-being suffers, she says, the consequences for a business are devastating. “We know productivity goes down, employee satisfaction goes down, the risk of injury goes up, health care costs go up, and personal lives are negatively impacted,” she says.
So, what can leaders do? Here are three tips from Brown-Philpot, who currently serves on HP, Nordstrom, Noom, and StockX boards:
1. Lead by example.
“I have a self-care routine,” she says. “I don’t check my email before I brush my teeth. That means I pray and meditate, and play with the dog before responding to anyone. If we don’t lead by example on self-care, our teams will follow us and not practice self-care either.”
2. Understand what employees want.
“As leaders, it is challenging to create one-size-fits-all solutions for what we can do to care for people. We must be adaptable, flexible, and consider what works for that individual.” But there are several things that we know are important to many people. For example:
- Flexibility. “Flexibility is absolutely one of the things people want.”
- Collaboration. “People don’t just want to sit in the office or on Zoom and do the work they are supposed to do. They want greater collaboration.”
- Recognition. “They want more recognition more often.”
- Accountability. “They want leaders and teams they are working for to be accountable not just for getting work done every day but for the well-being of the people who are part of the team.”
- Autonomy. “No one likes being micromanaged. Think of a backseat driver. How annoying is that? As much autonomy you can provide creates greater engagement, loyalty, and creativity. I also believe constraints breed creativity. So, define the constraints and let people make something happen within them. It’s a better way to get creativity, engagement, and hopefully, loyalty that leads to retention.”
3. Hold yourself accountable.
“Ask yourself: ‘Have we hit our goals, and are we happy with the process through which we got there?’ That’s understanding the difference between winning and success. Winning is about hitting the goal. Success is about hitting the goal and being happy with the process. Success has to factor in well-being questions: Did we collaborate? Did we take care of each other?”
Brown-Philpot also periodically asks direct reports three questions: What should I stop doing? What should I start doing? And what should I continue doing? “Sometimes, they don’t have anything to say,” she says. “But it teaches them that I care about self-improvement and am open to feedback, and it teaches them to do the same thing as they become leaders.”