We can all agree that in order to build a healthy organization sustainably, the founders, the leaders, and the team need to be in good condition. I’m not referring to a well-trained fitness body. I’m talking about taking good care of your mental and physical health: eating healthy, doing some sports, making sure your batteries are fully recharged after working very hard by doing things that you really enjoy, having a regular sleeping routine, …
Still, we often forget to care for our body and mind when being super busy and focused on the business. We feel it would be better not to take a break, as:
- we have to finish this essential feature customers have been asking for,
- the investors expect us to reach a sales increase of x percent,
- we still need to complete that tender documentation or sales quote we eagerly want to win, …
There are always a thousand reasons not to take a break and keep going. We love to remain busy by being busy and forget that we actually must take a break to do better, be more productive and think clearer.
Being a founder of two companies, I also thought my energy level was limitless, and I just kept going. There was no time to take a break, as I needed to do a thousand more important things, and I believed I owed it to my co-founders and team to not flinch. I was convinced I was a strong woman, and as they say: “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”. I just didn’t see I was harming my mental and physical health, and nothing good would be coming of it.
This was until August 2021, my body and mind started to protest:
- High blood pressure.
- Panic attacks.
- No motivation and energy to start the day.
- Gaining a lot of weight because of emotional eating and much more.
Things that helped me restore my energy level before were taking a few days off, working fewer hours, having a holiday, and going to the occasional wellness centre … It just didn’t do the trick any longer. Something was clearly off, and I urgently needed to fix it.
Like in business, if you rely solely on short-term solutions that only fix the symptoms and not the causes, you are set up to fail. It is not sustainable. More fires will have to be put out and trigger your fight-or-flight-or-freeze response, leading to only more stress and less mental room to think about the long-term, holistic and future-proof solutions. If you are in this kind of situation with your business or personally, dare to take a pause and search for help.
So in my case, I visited some specialists as I was scared I had a burn-out. The good news: I did not have burn-out yet. But I needed to change things urgently. Yikes! The first step I took was taking a long time off to focus on:
- Restoring my energy level
- Changing my habits
- Exercising more
- Eating healthier
- Work on logical fallacies that were the root cause of some of my destructive behaviours and motivations
Although it was hard at first to not be focusing on my business and to put my health as priority number one, I now consider it an opportunity to do better in the future. Just like in business, you sometimes need to stand still, look at how you are doing, and work on yourself. In the end, this helps you to be even more productive and do better business.
During my time off, I’ve also been thinking about what gets me excited to get out of my bed in the morning. This is coaching, advising, and getting my hands dirty to help other founders, leaders, and teams build and maintain a healthy organization by introducing a sustainable and holistic marketing, product management, and software development approach. While also giving a lot of attention to psychological safety, inclusion, the right work-life balance, a healthy mind and body, team dynamics, … Coincidentally, this is what Dietrich (my husband) and I founded our company, Bjièn, for a year ago. I guess unconsciously, I was already feeling I needed a shift.
This is also why I’ve decided to take a step back as CMO and managing director at Tengu. I feel lucky my co-founders, the entire board and the team understood the urgency of my health condition and my decision to limit my involvement to a shareholder as of January 2022. It was a hard call to make, but I now really enjoy focusing entirely on Bjièn and helping other founders, leaders and teams of tech startups/scale-ups to scale sustainably.
I’m sharing this story because I believe it’s essential to also talk about the less shiny and successful moments as an entrepreneur and founder. If you would like to have a talk about it, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. And, above all, remember: good health is most important in life and required for a healthy business.
Daphné learned how to create a safe work environment for and lead a team of neurodivergent people, after she was diagnosed with ADHD and ASD. She started Bjièn with Dietrich to help other leaders and teams embrace neurodiversity and make their workplace neuroinclusive. — More about Daphné