For too long, we as executives have done whatever it takes to convince our colleagues that we are the ultimate professionals—confident, unwavering, and perfect. In the business world, we can be anything that we want to be, just as long as we are not ordinary, flawed human beings. In reality, no one is perfect, and nothing speaks to a person’s character like vulnerability.
Talk about mental health and self-care. Show your staff that it’s OK to not always be OK.
Statistically speaking, if there are five or more people on your staff, at least one of them has at some point struggled with mental illness. Perhaps you have no idea who it is—or perhaps that person is you.
I’ve worked in REALTOR® associations for seven years, and I like to think the work I’ve done so far has positioned me as an industry leader. But I did it all while struggling with anxiety and depression. I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but every struggle has made me stronger.
Nowadays, I focus on not only making things easier for myself but also helping others who are traveling a similar path, and I ask all AEs to consider that an association culture of self-care and well-being starts with you. Create and nurture an office environment that’s built on respect for each individual’s journey and needs. Show your staff that it’s OK to not always be OK.
Talk about mental health and self-care. I rave to my colleagues about the tools I use such as the Insight Timer meditation app and Fidgetland discreet fidget toys. I tell them about the books that have changed my life, such as The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins and You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. My colleagues know I have a regular counseling appointment. I’m not shouting it from the rooftops, but I’m also not hiding it, because I’m not ashamed—not anymore.
Introduce small staff initiatives that are rooted in self-care. An office walking challenge, for example, encourages staff members to walk around the building for at least 10 minutes each day. Host quarterly or biannual staff potlucks, where everyone makes a favorite dish and brings it to share.
In addition to promoting self-care, association executives should create and nurture a cohesive team environment. Have weekly staff meetings where everyone talks about their ongoing projects. Not only will this provide the opportunity for staff to support each other, but it will also allow you to monitor their work to ensure no one is overloaded.
I launched an ongoing activity called “Duckies for Good Deeds.” I ordered about 50 rubber ducks from Amazon and distributed them to the staff with notecards. Whenever one of their colleagues does something—big or small—that deserves recognition, staffers can leave a rubber duck and a note on that person’s desk to say thank you. We have only one rule to enhance the element of surprise: You can’t get caught leaving a rubber duckie.
Also consider budgeting for at least one staff training day annually that includes team-building exercises, an internal review of the association’s strategic plan, and activities that allow staff to learn new things about each other. Staff members should respect each other, and respect grows from understanding. As much as it is appropriate, allow them to see each other as human beings with the same core goal: to live a happy, fulfilling life.
If you create an environment in which all staff members are truly seen, heard, and respected, your association will reap the rewards with increased efficiency and less turnover. So, be a caring AE—just be sure to start with yourself and your staff.