Be Well, For Yourself and Your Business

Nicola Taggart, Life & Leadership Success Strategist
Apr 28, 2021

With many businesses still navigating remote work, how can leaders help each individual employee be the very best version of themselves? On this episode of PIVOT, life and leadership coach Nicola Taggart explains what it takes to achieve total well-being at work in times of chaos and crisis.

“Wellness” has become somewhat of a buzzword in small business circles. Pre-pandemic, the term typically referred to activities and experiences that companies offered employees. But with many businesses still navigating remote work, how can leaders help each individual employee be the very best version of themselves?

On this episode of PIVOT, life and leadership coach Nicola Ries Taggart explains what it takes to achieve well-being at work in times of chaos and crisis. You’ll hear how to approach your well-being holistically and better manage your mindset, energy, relationships, and environment in order to be more centered in ourselves and how we show up at work.

On this episode, you’ll hear:

  • [03:23-06:12] The challenge of achieving well-being during a pandemic
  • [06:27-10:40] How to build personal well-being while looking out for our teams’ wellbeing
  • [11:13-12:54] How to manage your mindset
  • [12:54-14:54] How to manage your energy
  • [14:54-16:37] How to manage your environment
  • [16:37-19:34] How to manage your relationships
  • [20:05-21:03] What it means to renegotiate communication agreements
  • [21:05-22:18] Why now is the time for courageous conversations
  • [22:41-26:28] How incremental changes can build better personal wellbeing 
  • [27:35-30:06] What Nicola is most optimistic about for small businesses this year

After you listen: 

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POPS Star Bio

As a life and leadership coach for over 15 years, Nicola Taggart is an expert on building well-being within small business workforces. A small business owner herself, Nicola is the author and creator of the Calm the Chaos journal and cards to help people create practices for a more peaceful life.

Transcript

Nicola: What’s challenging for companies right now is what is needed for each person to feel better is a very personal individual thing.

Didi: POPs. It’s the People Ops Podcast from Zenefits, the only show dedicated to small businesses, sharing stories, pivotal people, moments. I’m your host Didi D’Errico. When you align your thoughts, words, and actions, magic happens. That is one of many prompts created by Nicola Taggart in her Calm the Chaos journal and set of cards. As a life and leadership coach for over 15 years, Nicola has great and current perspective to add to the conversation we’ve been having on this show, how to build, or in many cases, rebuild the wellbeing of America, small business workers.

She’ll share some personal practices that we can consider to better care for ourselves and care for one another. Nicola is an accomplished author, small business owner, and coach. Let’s hear how she got started. 

Nicola: I realized that I loved reading and talking about all things related to relationships and communication, skill development, and really this idea of showing up in a leadership role and being a leader in our own life. So over the 15 years of having my own business, I’ve done a lot of individual coaching with executives and emerging leaders. I have created the Calm the Chaos journal and the Calm the Chaos card deck, which I will admit both of those were created for myself first.

So I am constantly putting into practice or attempting to put into practice these techniques that I talk to people about all the time. 

Didi: Before we get to those techniques you heard Nicola mentioned, let’s dial it back one year. Pre- pandemic, many businesses were thinking of employee care in a myriad of ways, but under one umbrella term, wellness.

Nicola: What I saw at that point was that the focus was more on the word “wellness.” Wellbeing, I didn’t see “being” used a whole lot. Wellness typically tended to be activities and experiences that companies were providing employees. A year ago all of those were wiped out. Right. I mean, companies literally shut down in terms of their facilities in a day, in some cases.

And those activities that were planned, more kind of from an HR standpoint, were gone, were lost. So 

Didi: wellness was seen as more benefits and perks for employees. Let’s pick the conversation up where she and I are talking about wellness versus wellbeing and how that distinction can make all the difference.

We need to really rethink how we work in how we go about work and how we go about living to some extent. I think that frame really sets up a different level of urgency for us to think about this 

Nicola: as well. And I would say that one of the things that I think is unique for smaller businesses and definitely companies that feel like they’re still in that startup phase is that the way in which those companies worked before the pandemic – you know, if you think about it, that energy is oftentimes a sort of an energy of chaos and crisis. That is how those businesses get off the ground. That is how they’re built. I see that a lot with companies that as they’re getting bigger and they’re, you know, they have more and more employees, you know, there’s this tipping point that happens, where as you start to bring in new talent and you start to grow and your people start to demand almost sort of a different way to work, but the way in which a lot of these companies are created is through this energy that sort of like, all hands on deck, we’ll do whatever it takes. Priorities are changing, right. Constantly fire drills, constantly. So those companies were operating that way and that really was the culture, even if it was unintentional, and then COVID hit.

So, for a lot of people, the way that they were working didn’t necessarily change in terms of that intensity of that energy and yet their world around them completely changed. Right? So the things that they did, their transition points to and from work, the activities that they had with their kids, even the things that we would do during the day to maybe relieve some stress and some of that intensity with our colleagues – going to the gym or going for a walk outside – just got wiped away. So one of the things that I want to encourage, and I’m saying this always to people that if you were working in that way before, what I’ll hear from a lot of individuals is I feel like I’m working way more hours than I was before, and I was working a lot hours before, but I’m not feeling as productive. Why is that? And it’s like, well, why that is, is because when you start to dissect the day and have people really assess, like, okay, what does my day typically look like right now and over the last year, from the moment I wake up until the moment I shut my eyes to go to bed.

What we’re seeing is that people are spending a lot more hours sitting at their computer without taking any of those little breaks that were in our lives already. So the expectations from the company standpoint have stayed the same, but our lives have sort of crumbled around us. If you’re trying to do all of that while your kids are sitting next to you, homeschooling, which a lot of people have been, or you are somebody who lives alone and so you’ve felt extremely isolated over it, there’s an added layer to this that’s very personal for each person. I think that is what’s challenging for companies right now is what is needed for each person to feel better is a very personal individual 

Didi: thing. Moving to unconventional thinking for the new world of works.

It was a great setup to talk about small businesses and kind of the ethos that they carried with them into a new world of work, and it isn’t necessarily working anymore. So how do we start to build better personal wellbeing while we’re helping look out for our team’s 

Nicola: wellbeing? Yeah. So I actually sort of view it as you think about a puzzle, a four-piece puzzle.

There’s four pieces of this that kind of click together but we always have to start from the individual one because if we, as leaders, are not doing the individual work, then you cannot model that and manage that throughout your company. But the four pieces are your company, right? Like looking at and assessing as a company, what is our culture? What are our values around this? What’s working and not working? And what do we need to shift as leaders? As a leadership entity, how are we modeling and managing this, the team, you know, as a team? So every team has their own culture, right. So what are habits that are helping and hindering our overall team productivity and positivity and wellbeing? Then the fourth piece, and I’m not going to say the last, because it is the heart of it, is the individual. No matter what your company or the person that manages you does, at the end of the day, we each have a responsibility to manage ourselves and be the leader of our own life in this area. And yes, it’s much easier to do these things when you are in a company and a culture that supports it. But I do believe change can also happen with the individual. And so even from a leadership standpoint, it can’t change, the culture can’t change until we as individuals stop and say, Okay, what is my belief around wellbeing? We talked about that in the workshop around shifting this mindset. That is a big mindset shift to move to.

But the idea is that if we actually view wellbeing, calming the chaos so that we can be more centered in the choices that we make and the way that we show up, and we look at that as a success tool, a success strategy that actually then gives us permission as an individual to look at my own life.

That’s what I would encourage people to do right now. It doesn’t have to take very long, right. It’s really literally sitting down and saying, okay, over the course of my day, what have my habits become for a lot of people, there’s a lot of unintentional habits that have been created over the last year because they jumped into this, working from home thinking it was going to be relatively temporary.

They thought homeschooling was going to be relatively temporary. They thought not being able to socialize with their friends as they like. So we jumped into it sort of in this crisis mode and that it was going to be short-lived and then, as we know, you have enough days of the same habits, all of a sudden the same behaviors, it becomes a habit.

So the first part is doing your own assessment and saying, gosh, is this working? How is this leaving me feeling? Does this help me feel energized? We look at energy management really from four areas and that’s physical energy, mental, emotional, and spiritual. I don’t mean that from a religious standpoint, I just mean like, do I feel motivated to get up in the day?

Do I feel inspired, you know, connected to the work I’m doing? It’s hard to feel that way when you’re just feeling run down and overwhelmed. So yeah, really the first part is assessing for yourself, and then I encourage you to talk to the leaders within your organization and doing a leadership assessment in terms of, you know, where’s the conversation and where’s the modeling from a leadership standpoint. I can remember one of my first jobs as a manager in which I told somebody, you know, working for me that she needed to go home, that she was staying at work to eight – and this was back when you had to be actually in an office to work.

I remember her looking at me and I said, why should I, you, you don’t go home? And it was like the first time that I realized that a leader is modeling the behavior and the culture that we want to create. So that may take some time, you know, from a leadership standpoint, to kind of get everybody on board with that, but that’s what is important because then you can move that then through conversations with your team and sort of doing the same simple process – what’s working, what’s not working, what habits are helping us, what are getting in our way.

Let’s unpack 

Didi: a little bit deeper. You had talked to me before about four different ways kind of looking holistically, I think, at your own wellbeing. And if you could offer up what those four things are, define each one and maybe give an example – the rubric, perhaps – 

Nicola: for people to think about. Yeah, we want to keep this relatively simple because the way people are feeling, if we make this too complicated and the tasks too hard, it’s not going to happen. I really look at the personal responsibility of managing my own wellbeing in these four key areas. So one is managing your mindset. What is going on between your ears and the impact of this is huge because what we think and the beliefs that we hold dictate the way we feel, the actions that we take, the conversations that we have, and the way that we show up, you know, for other people.

So really this is taking stock about what are the beliefs of what you can do is take some time right now for yourself to sit down – and again, this is a challenge that we’re having over this last year is that people don’t have much white space in their lives right now because they’re working so much and then they’ve got their kids home and then, you know, there’s just so much going on – but actually creating some white space to sit down and ask yourself, Given my current situation, what is my definition of success or what do I want that to be? I always encourage it to come from a place of like, how do you want to feel. If you think about this last year and how you’re feeling, and then you think forward, like, okay, well in a year and we want to look back at this next year and say, well, this is how I felt, then that needs to be your new definition of success, and that will help you align the actions that you take from there. So the mindset is paying attention to what’s going on in your head, the messages that you’re telling yourself, what you’re believing, and then maybe doing some work to see, like, is there a mindset shift that needs to happen around how you are defining success?

If it’s built on the number of hours you’re working or how much you’re cranking out, or, you know, any of the things that maybe we built it on before, that may be a reason you’re not feeling so successful because a lot of those are out the window right now. The second one in terms of managing your own wellbeing is managing your energy.

And again, this has been very challenging over this last year. What’s interesting is what people will say to me is, gosh, you know, I used to say if only I didn’t have to go to the office every day and I didn’t have the hour plus commute and I had more control over my schedule, I would be exercising more.

I would be taking my kid out for a bike ride more. They had all these lists of things. And then as I’m working with individual leaders, you know, from a coaching standpoint, they’re saying, I now have the ability to create that time in my schedule and I’m not doing any of them, like, and why is that?

Again, I think part of it is because of the way we jumped into working this way. So we weren’t, we didn’t put together a plan. So what I’m asking you to do now, you know, is take a step back and say, okay, what is going to be my plan for managing my energy? And again, managing your energy is managing your physical energy, your mental energy, your emotional energy and your spiritual energy.

And there are some things you can do that touch on all of those. But part of it is, the first thing that you have to be willing to do is check in with yourself about how am I feeling right now? And if the word that comes up is, I’m feeling kind of sad, then what action you take would be something that supports that.

Maybe that’s schedule an appointment with my therapist, or I’m gonna reach out to a good friend to talk and connect that way. Or I’m going to just cry, let myself feel this way, because it’s been a hard year. You know, if you ask yourself, how am I feeling right now? You’re like, God, I’m just feeling exhausted.

I feel so tired. Then the question becomes, what can you do in this moment to gain some energy in that area. Those can be as simple as I’m going to get up from my desk. I’m going to go walk around the block outside. Some people might embrace the 20 minute little power nap, right? So then the third area that you need to actively be managing to increase your wellbeing is your environment.

And again, this one has changed so much in the last year. People jumped into this work from home thinking it was going to be relatively temporary. I mean, it’s amazing to think how much has shifted in a year in terms of the environments that we work in. This piece is not just your physical environment, although I really do want to encourage you that if you’re going to consider, going to be working from home longer than now, moving forward, is to take some space, to think through, like what’s working about this and what’s not working about this. I was coaching with somebody the other day where she said, well, I’m going to, we’re waiting to redo our garage and then I’m going to have my own office space. And I said, that’s great.

That’s a great goal. But it’s now been a year that you’ve been working this way, and so what is one thing that you could do now that you could easily do to reclaim your space? And she said, Oh, I’ve been putting off getting a standing desk to go put in this room because, and so she did that in the next week and she said, I cannot believe that I waited this long, like the difference that has made to get off of my dining room table into this other room.

So just thinking about your physical space, really environment is about managing the structure and the systems that help you create more calm in your life, feel more clear in your life. That can be boundaries with people in terms of these are the times you can interrupt me and these are the times that you can’t.

These are the times that I’ll respond to things, these are the times that I won’t. Actually looking at that physical space that you’re in. The fourth area is a big one around managing your relationships. So we know that people that are more resilient that, you know, have higher degrees of wellbeing and emotional intelligence.

Have strong connections, positive connections. Then again, you think about how much that has been impacted over the last year from a professional level, from a personal level. So in terms of the managing of their relationships, this sort of goes in line with all the other areas where I’m saying this may be a good time for you to take a step back and check in with where do I need to have some reset conversations with people in my life, personally and professionally, and that means assessing sorta together – what’s working here? What’s not working here? Where do we maybe need to reclarify expectations? Where do we need to maybe reset our communication agreements, right, in terms of how we’re going to respond. I am encouraging people to do that with their family members, doing that with their, you know, their colleagues, the people that they manage and supervise and their clients and their customers. Like really just having an opportunity to say, how do we redesign this relationship, given the situation that we’re in now and given what we’ve learned over the last year? There’s a great opportunity right now for people to be creative in doing this a different way.

I had somebody ask me today, will you come in to our leadership team and reinspire them about their responsibility for engagement, and give them tips on how to keep people engaged remotely? I said, I can absolutely do that, but I really would like to have a conversation because this is all new. I mean, yes, people were managing remotely and working remotely before, but it’s a very different landscape now. People’s walls have been, you know, broken down, whether they’ve wanted them to be or not. I mean, as we sit looking into each other’s houses. So I think that yes, you can get outside input about here’s, you know, tips of exactly what you can do to engage with people, but I really want to encourage – the heart of the work I do is let’s have a conversation because that’s where the creativity comes from. That’s where the connection comes from. Like create these new ways of working within your homes, within your teams, and within your companies, by having some important conversations. I really want to encourage you to start to have these conversations as part of an ongoing part of your personal life and in your professional life.

We have an opportunity to build from here and to build in a place of looking at, caring for ourselves and caring for people is a way that we will succeed both personally and professionally. We have to start with ourselves first, right? That is the four areas of really looking at and just sort of taking stock about how am I doing and what are small things I can do to shift it.

There’s 

Didi: two things about the relationship piece that really struck me. I have a copy of your book sitting on my desk. She has a lot of interesting prompts. One of them is a courageous conversation I need to have. That whole idea about the walls have come down whether he wanted them to, have the opportunity to kind of reset what works for you in this world? In that courageous conversation, I thought was incredibly powerful and thoughtful, right? Because it’s a different way to think about rearchitecting what your reality is. You just said something else here about communication agreements. My title is VP of Communications.

I had never really thought about the kind of implied agreements we have of how we talk to each other. As you were just talking, I was thinking about a call I was on earlier today. I was doing a kind of a daily standup with one of my colleagues and I asked her for some input on something. We’re on a zoom call, like we are all day long. She said, Oh yeah, I’ll just, I’ll just add it in here. And so I’m looking at the zoom chat and I don’t see it. And I was like, well, where is it? She’s like, Oh, I just, I just sent it to you. I was like, did you email it to me? Did you Slack it to me? Did you Slack it to me in our group chat?

Or did you Slack it to me? She’s like, No, I individually Slacked you. It’s like, cause he was like, okay, this needle in a haystack of what communications is, and I think those communication agreements of what works for me, where’s the best way to find me or talk to me or connect with me, I think is, is super powerful because we’ve gotten so multi-threaded in how we can talk to each other that sometimes we totally lose the 

Nicola: plot line.

Well, and I, yeah, it’s like that reset, right? And like, are we on the same page? I mean, that prompt around courageous, what conversation do I need to have? I had a coaching colleague that said to me, one point that, I mean, it’s always stuck with me and that’s partly where that prompt comes from is, stress is often conversations not had.

I just was like, Oh my gosh, that is so true. Like how many times I’m coaching people around having a conversation that they’ve had in their head, right? Like they, like in their head, they’re having this conversation and that really the moment that you have a conversation with somebody with the intention of clarifying and connecting and re-establishing expectations and making sure you’re on the same page, the stress automatically decreases. Again,

one thing this year has given us is a lot of good data in terms of what’s working, what’s not working in relation to relationships and communication and team connection and engagement. So this would be a really great opportunity to push the pause button even for a little bit and say, what do we learn from that?

That’s on the individual level, like you had with somebody one-on-one and that’s on the team level. 

Didi: Calm comes when you remember that all you have is this moment. Yes. That’s another card from Nicola that I keep right here on my desk. Let’s take a final moment or two, as we wrap the conversation, to hear an example of how incremental changes can build better personal wellbeing and more powerful moments.

Nicola: So I had an experience with somebody that I was coaching with and somebody who was an executive in a company and when we started talking and, you know, she was just feeling completely overwhelmed, drained, like she was not doing well. This was about six months into the pandemic. So working from home, to elementary age children also working from home, her husband was working from home some days, he was sort of in and out. She just was feeling like I am, I feel like I’m failing on all levels.

I feel disconnected from my husband, from my daughters. You know, they’re not eating breakfast in the morning. Like she just had this long list and basically was feeling like I’m working really hard. I’m not succeeding. I’m overwhelmed. I’m exhausted. I don’t know how much longer I can do this. What we did, and again, super simple, I’m going to encourage you all to practice this. We just took stock of what her morning routine was, we were just starting with that. She described to me that, you know, well, I, I wake up and I try to wake up earlier than the girls so that I can get some work done and I roll out of bed and I, you know, I, I literally go sit on the couch in my pajamas and I start working.

The next thing I know, the girls come in and they get on their computers to do their work, even though the school day hasn’t started. So they’re modeling what she was doing. She said, the next thing she knows now, school has started for the girls, they haven’t eaten, they haven’t gotten dressed, they haven’t brushed their hair. She hasn’t done those things either. And then it’s just like chaos and the kids are melting down and so that was the start of her morning. I don’t know if anybody can relate, but I tell that story, usually people can, so we took a step back and was like, well, what’s your intention?

Like, how would you want to feel starting your day? And she said, I want to feel calm. I want to feel like I have some time to connect with my husband and with my girls. I want to feel like we’re actually sort of consciously starting our workday instead of just rolling into it. So we reshaped it very easily.

She decided that she was gonna get up first thing and spend 15 minutes just for herself, and that was either exercising, reading for enjoyment, sitting and drinking a cup of coffee, but just for herself, take a shower, get dressed, not get on her computer. And then get her girls up in time to sit and have breakfast together, and then they’d have a mini dance party. Then they would all get on their computers and start their day. Do you notice how she just 

Didi: said that, like, it’s a normal thing that every family does with their kids, you know, a dance party. 

Nicola: Who doesn’t? You should. It helps a lot. So that was her commitment. When I checked in with her about three weeks later and asked how it was going, I mean, this is what makes my heart sing, because she just was like, I and my girls have not been happier than we are now through this whole thing. She said it has completely changed the way that we interact together, how focused we are when we get on their computer to do our work and they do their schoolwork. She said, the morning dance party is like their favorite, you know, thing.

It takes like three minutes to do. So that’s just an example. It doesn’t have to be this big dramatic change that takes you out of the office for hours. It really doesn’t. It’s like reclaiming some of your time and saying, what is going to help me show up in a more centered, grounded and calm way.

And I know stress is going to come out throughout my day. So I’m going to have some little ways to kind of pull myself back to being anchored and grounded and finding those little things. Whether it’s the walk around the block or what is yours? 

Didi: Playing the ukulele afterward?

That is so helpful, such a great moment. It goes back to your whole point is redefining success, right? How do you want to feel for this family who felt something rather than just the list of things waiting for them every morning around the kitchen table, it was like, they want to feel like they’re having a mini dance party.

It makes me want to have a mini dance party too, but I really appreciate this counsel. I think it’s thoughtful. It’s memorable and it’s practical, which is so important, as opposed to taking on yet a whole bunch of other things to think about it. If I were to reframe what Nicola just said, assess where you are. Acknowledge, what’s working and what’s not working. Align your habits and behaviors with what you think say and do, and commit to reestablishing the rules of engagement that work for your success. I wanted wrap with one last question for you. Nicola, of what are you most optimistic about this year for small businesses like yours? 

Nicola: I think what I’m feeling the most optimistic about is that a lot of these things that I’m talking with companies about, I was thinking about and talking sort of one-off with people and having a kind of a hard time getting commitment about why this was so important. And so, you know, I think one of the silver linings in terms of the work that I’m doing is that I know that when I’m working with individuals, what they’re really wanting with their biggest desire is that they can show up and feel satisfied and successful in their professional life and they can also have fun and feel fulfilled in their personal life. They have like one is not at the expense of the other, but they really support each other. What was so challenging as individuals is we’re just desperately wanting that, but feeling like the way in which they were asked to work, didn’t support it.

I feel like what I’m optimistic about is that this year is making it in the forefront for a lot of companies, that there are things that you can do as an individual. There are things that you can do as teams and as companies that can make a dramatic impact on how your people feel and seeing that.

The better people are feeling the happier they are, the healthier they are, the more stable they are, the more resilient they are, they will show up and they will be more present and will be more productive and they won’t be more positive and they will help your company grow in a very different way maybe. Even just that powering through. So I think my optimism is that, you know, for my own business, it’s like, it fuels me. I am so happy when I see this connecting and clicking for people. I’m able to talk with people that say, Oh my gosh, I am feeling so much better about the experience I’m having in life and the energy that brings to the work I’m doing and the connection that it brings with the people that I love. That makes me really hopeful, you know, that, that things can change, and that as companies, whether you’re a startup or you’ve been in business for a while and you’ve got a large team, there’s an opportunity here to redefine success from the inside out, and that means the inside out as you individually, and the inside out is like, this is the culture we want to create in our company, and that, as we build that and shape that and shift that, that will impact really the greater world. So that’s my inspirational optimism, I guess, that I have given what’s gone, you know, after this last year. 

Didi: That was Nicola. I’m Didi, and this was Pivot.

If you want more detail on the topic of building the people that are going to help you build your small business, check out zenefits.com/pops-podcast. Also, if you have questions you want us to answer on our show, check out the link in our show notes below and we’ll get it covered.

 

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