What do the world’s top CEOs have in common? They know that you can’t pour from an empty cup.
While the typical corporate high-flyer once boasted about barely sleeping and veins flowing with coffee, these days, they’re more likely to preach the benefits of meditation and an early night.
If you’re a small-business owner, however, there’s a good chance you think stress is just the price you pay for success. Time to restore the balance – after all, you’re the boss! Take your cues from these enlightened leaders…
Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global
The founder of news juggernaut the Huffington Post learnt a painful lesson about pushing her limits when she collapsed from exhaustion in 2007. It started her on a crusade to change the way the world thinks about sleep, wellbeing and work, resulting in her new venture, Thrive Global.
“When we prioritise our wellbeing, our decision-making, creativity, productivity and performance dramatically improve across the board,” she says. Her sleep ritual involves an elaborate wind-down before a solid seven to eight-hour snooze. Her other tip for business success? Meditation, which she says has taught her to become fully present “even in the most hectic of circumstances”.
Emma Isaacs, owner and CEO of Business Chicks
As a mum of five and leader of a global company, Isaacs has had to learn how to juggle competing demands. Her solution? Next-level focus. “A skill I’ve tried to master is really being present wherever I am,” she writes in her book, Winging It. “When I’m in the office, I try to spend time in the ‘important and not urgent’ quadrant.
When I’m at home, I’m doing the stuff that matters, too – being present with the kids … I fail regularly, but the goal is to always be working when I’m working and parenting when I’m parenting.”
“Make time for exercise”
Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group
Exercise is key for this business guru. “I get up early to exercise because it gives me energy, improves my focus and concentration, and even helps me sleep better at the end of the day,” Branson says.
“I really enjoy kite-surfing – I see it as a good opportunity to get away from all the other stresses of life and business.”
“Learn to let go”
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google
Known as the ‘nice guy’ of Silicon Valley, Pichai says the key to success is not doing it all yourself, but rather empowering others to do their best.
“When you’re running something at the scale of Google you rely on other strong leaders … It’s learning to let go and empowering people at all levels of the organisation. It’s less about trying to be successful [yourself] and making sure you have good people and removing barriers to their being successful.”
“Take a walk”
Melanie Perkins, CEO and co-founder of Canva
Australia’s latest start-up ‘unicorn’ (that is, a business worth $1 billion), online design platform Canva, is the brainchild of 31-year-old go-getter Perkins and her partner, Cliff Obrecht.
Achieving huge success at a young age has meant plenty of hard graft, but Perkins has a simple coping strategy: “I really like going for walks,” she says. “That’s always grounding.” Plus, she adds, it’s a good opportunity to brainstorm with Obrecht: “I find that is kind of relaxing as well.”
“Exercise your mind”
Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft
If you’ve ever dismissed meditation as ‘woo-woo’, Gates can relate – he didn’t “buy into it” either… until a meditation guru gave him some pointers. He now meditates regularly, calling it “exercise for the mind”. “It’s a great tool for improving my focus. It’s also helped me step back and get some ease with whatever thoughts or emotions are present.”
“Bring your whole self to work”
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
Losing her husband unexpectedly in 2015 reinforced this philosophy for Sandberg, who found that opening up about her grief helped both her and her colleagues cope – and connect. “We’re better employees when we stop trying to be two people and bring our whole selves to work,” she wrote.
“That doesn’t mean working around the clock. It means sharing what you’re going through so other people can empathise and help you.” What does a sharing culture look like? In meetings, Sandberg invites staff to ‘check in’ and talk about what’s going on for them personally. “You’d think it would waste time,” she says. “It actually saves time, because it’s so present for people that having an opportunity to talk about it actually helps.”
For more practical advice on how to stay in control of your business, check out Westpac Business Hub.