‘Tis the season of love, with Valentine’s Day fuelling frenzies of frantic flower-buying across the nation. Let’s put aside your feelings about romance-on-steroids, as I’m sure many of you loathe the 14th as much as I do. Instead, let’s talk about your unwavering and infinite love of being a leader.
Oh, what’s that? You’re not exactly loving it right now? You’re not alone.
Being a social entrepreneur or CEO is a path that few have the tenacity to tread. Because as well as feeling fantastic, it can also be seriously tough.
Here are 6 ways to regain your love of leadership when the chips are down.
Reconnect with your mission
“It's inevitable that there will be ups and downs,” says Sophie Unwin, founder of Remade Network, an international network of social enterprises developing the reuse-and-repair economy. (Disclaimer: I sit on her advisory panel.)
Ecopreneur Olaitan Olakanmi (@holyton) agrees:
Whenever I wake up feeling tired to carry on, I remember that I might wake up one day to a planet that is no more, and I'm motivated to pull through and carry on.
Try talking to your beneficiaries or service users, recapping on your impact to date, or returning to the person/statistic/book that first inspired you. It’s important to reconnect with the work you do.
Turn to your network
Sophie also turns to other people to help her brainstorm:
What can at first seem like a lack of motivation may actually just be a problem that hasn't yet found a solution.
At the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE), we believe a support network is essential – it’s why we bring people together in cohorts to learn. You could also try Meetup.com to find a group for entrepreneurs.
Power through procrastination
I find procrastination is a sure-fire sign my enthusiasm has waned. So how to overcome a daily drain on energy?
When you can't get motivated to do the thing you 'should' be doing, do something else!
advises Alix Lewer of the Include Choir, an inclusive communication service and choir for people with or without speaking or understanding disabilities (@includeorg).
Don't beat yourself up. It'll work out for the best.
Find ways to gain recognition
“Most of the time running a social enterprise brings its own satisfaction,” says Jo Salter, SSE fellow and founder of ethical clothing brand Where Does It Come From?
However there are many, many challenging times, and that is when we social entrepreneurs need a boost! Being recognised for our efforts really helps keep motivation levels high.
Jo decided to celebrate other ethical businesses by co-founding the Be The Change Awards.
We know how important it is to be heard and recognised.
Look at awards for your sector and in your region. You might not win, but even completing the application gives you a framework for taking stocking of your achievements.
Reflect on your achievements regularly
Book in an hour every month, or a morning each quarter, to reflect.
There’s a tendency to leave progress reviews to the year-end. A more regular check-in helps you celebrate when you’ve hit smaller targets and KPIs, and understand on what’s taking up too much time and energy. You then have a better chance of understanding what you need to delegate or delete to stay motivated.
Look after number one
At SSE, we spend at least a half-day on developing wellbeing and resilience on our longer-programmes at SSE. Because you can’t lead social change if you’re not looking after yourself.
Small touches in your day-to-day working environment can make a big difference. The team at SSE Scotland say:
We recommend cups of tea, cake and a positive and happy working environment!
Sophie Unwin says time for self-care is essential. She likes to walk among trees when she’s feeling depleted. “That's not just energising and grounding in itself,” she explains. It also reminds her why she’s on this rollercoaster of a journey.
I do this work because I love this beautiful planet that we share. We've only got one so we need to take care of it.
Leaders and readers, you know what you need to do: Invest time in looking after yourself, so you have the strength to build the better world you so believe in.
Sophie Hobson is Head of Communications at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, which helps 1,000 people a year develop the skills, strengths and networks they need to tackle society’s biggest problems. @sophiehobson, @SchSocEnt