Are You Putting Yourself First? (The One Thing That We Rarely Do as CEOs and Founders)

Are You Putting Yourself First? (The One Thing That We Rarely Do as CEOs and Founders)

By Scott Sambucci | June 4, 2019

You push and you push to make your startup grow. But are you thinking about the effects you’re having on yourself and your people?

Every startup founder deals with the same issue.

You get the business off the ground and you start pushing. The push becomes a constant thing that ingrains itself into your culture.

You’re trying to secure clients and provide your services. You’re looking for ways to scale and you end up putting more and more hours into the business.

Eventually, you burn out and your energy levels drop because you’ve given too much of yourself to your work. Worse yet, your people start burning out too.

I think it’s important that all startup founders and CEOs stop every so often and ask themselves one question:

Am I putting myself first?

It seems like a simple question, but there’s a lot that hides behind it. In this article, I’m going to dig into it and help you to understand why it’s such an important question to ask.

The Mistake That We Make

The big mistake that so many make is that they get stuck in the “push forward” mindset. There’s always more work for you to do. So, you start working late. And when that’s not enough, you end up working during the weekend too.

That’s likely not what you envisioned when you founded your company.

I think the problem for many of us is that we don’t stop, sit down, and really think about what we’re doing. A lot of founders get so gung-ho that they lose sight of why they started the business. The work takes over to the point where it becomes the only thing that you focus on.

There are two crucial things for you to think about.

The first is that you need to think about what you want to do. Why did you found your company in the first place? What should being a CEO enable you to do in your personal life that you couldn’t before?

Secondly, ask yourself if you’re making the time to do the things you want to do. Are you spending as much time with your family as you want? Do you get to enjoy your hobbies every week?

If you’re answering “no” to those questions, you’ve identified an imbalance in your life. Your business has started to take over to the point where you’re not doing the things you want to do with your life.

Who Do You Want to Become?

At SalesQualia, we hold quarterly intensives with our clients. During these sessions, we have clients undertake a specific task.

After talking about strategy and the techniques, we have them sit down and think about what they want to become.

The client then writes those aspirations down, which turns them into something more tangible.

We have them ask key questions about who they want to become. What does that person look like? What are that person’s goals over the next three or six months?

Most importantly, we encourage clients to look beyond their business goals. The aim is to figure out who they want to be as a person. That means examining themselves beyond the “company founder” aspect of their personalities.

In many cases, the CEOs that we run this exercise with find that they’re too wrapped up in their work. The business becomes their identity to the point where they lose sight of who they wanted to become.

With this exercise, they gain clarity. It helps people to recognize if they’ve strayed a little bit too far from the path they wanted to follow.

Ask yourself the following question:

Are you doing the things that will help you become the person that you want to be?

If you aren’t then you may need to make some changes.

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How This Impacts Your Team

Some CEOs may balk at the idea of putting themselves first. That’s a natural instinct, especially once you’ve started to build a team underneath you. They’re relying on you to provide them with guidance and to keep pushing the startup forward.

That’s what motivates you to work the long hours and extra weekends. It’s all for the benefit of the team and the company. Many believe that by making these sacrifices, they’re making life easier for their people.

However, that is rarely the case. In reality, you’re creating an example that your team will begin to follow.

If you’re working all hours of the day, your people may feel obligated to do the same. Suddenly, you have your entire team turning up to work on the weekend. And they’re not doing it out of passion. They’re doing it because that’s the example you’ve set for them. You’ve unwittingly created an expectation that your people feel like they have to meet.

Often, they end up putting the business ahead of their personal lives in the same way that you do.

This can create a negative culture within your enterprise. Your people may even begin to resent you for what they feel is an unspoken obligation that you’ve placed on them.

Interestingly, you can also look at your team to see the symptoms that suggest you need to start putting yourself first. Specifically, you’re looking for signs of burnout within the team. These might include the following:

  • Talented individuals have started to make simple mistakes.
  • Unplanned absences start to build up, which is a sign of employees wanting to avoid the workplace.
  • Tension in the workplace that intensifies when you’re in the room.
  • Heightened irritability that leads to team members snapping at one another.

These are all signs that your team members aren’t putting themselves first. They often do that because you’ve set the example for them to follow.

Your team isn’t just looking to you as a leader within your startup. Each person’s looking to you to guide them towards becoming who they want to be as well.

You can’t do that if you’ve lost sight of who you want to be. If you’re not putting yourself first, you’re telling your team that they shouldn’t put themselves first either.

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Tips for Putting Yourself First

The idea of putting yourself first can feel slightly uncomfortable for a lot of founders. You’ve focused so intently on the business for so long that you feel like you’re pulling yourself away from it.

However, the aim is to become the person you hoped to be when you founded the startup. That person likely didn’t intend on spending every waking moment in the office.

Furthermore, putting yourself first means you’ll create a more positive workplace culture. You set a better example for your people, which helps you to eliminate negativity and resentment.

Here are a few little things that you can start doing:

  • Create a date night for you and your partner. Make it the same night every week and make it a point to leave the office on time to get to the date. It’s also important to turn your phone off and stop working during the night. Enjoy the date instead of always letting work get in the way.
  • Make some time to enjoy your hobbies and interests. Again, this is where turning the phone off becomes important. If your team can’t reach you while you’re enjoying your hobby, they see that this is desirable behavior. You’re putting yourself first so they should do the same.
  • Reading is one of the best things that you can do with your time. But you may find yourself reading nothing but business-related materials. Move away from business-focused materials and take the time to enjoy a good novel every once in a while. Your reading doesn’t necessarily have to teach you something. You can use it as a tool to escape into a fantasy world and get away from work for a little while.
  • Have an early night. There are few things in the world that a good night’s sleep can’t cure. Clock off work and relax at home. Going to sleep earlier helps you to relieve the stress that may have built up from the workday. It also puts you in a better position to tackle issues the following day.

Establish these behaviors for yourself and you show your team that it’s okay to take time for themselves too.

The Final Word

Are you putting yourself first?

It’s not just a question about enjoying your time off. Putting yourself first helps you to establish how your people should act. By doing it, you create the sort of culture that makes people want to work with you.

SalesQualia can help you to understand the importance of this concept. As well as helping you to build your culture, we can help you to create powerful sales processes and generate more leads.

Do you want to build a great culture and get more sales? Get started by downloading your FREE copy of my book 52 Sales Questions Answered.


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