Being on top of your game is essential at work. However, you need to feed your focus in order to deliver your best.
I once worked with a workplace leader who was, by all accounts, very talented. She made strong decisions, had a clear vision for success, and she took a practical and realistic approach to her work.
Let’s call her “Sue”. Sue was also a mum, a wife, and a friend.
Sue won promotion, leading a considerable change project. However, shortly after taking up the role, the wheels started to fall off.
What prompted this failure to gain traction?
Suddenly, Sue had to deal with a difficult manager, a huge workload and a workplace culture where there was very little room for error.
The cumulative effect was enormous. Sadly, I watched a very capable woman turn into a shadow of her former self.
At one point, she revealed all she had time to eat during the day was an apple. At that point, alarm bells were ringing. You can’t survive on an apple. You can’t think on an apple. Having one apple does not a smart business decision make.
Why you need to review your food
Unfortunately, many corporate leaders fall into the same trap, consuming very little food or grabbing high-fat, low nutrition snacks and meals.
With Sue, the interplay between health and work was incredibly obvious. With poor nutrition, there were so many negative consequences at work.
Without regular, quality food (which is converted into energy), the body adopts a starvation strategy. Obviously, this had serious implications for Sue, and those around her.
Let me explain more. Are you familiar with the Minnesota Starvation Experiment? (I know this sounds dire, but stay with me.)
In the mid-1940s, the University of Minnesota conducted an experiment to understand the impact of prolonged starvation amid concerns over war-induced conditions in Europe.
A pre-study brochure asked: “Will you starve that they be better fed?” It was a call for human guinea pigs to help find ways to treat mass starvation.
The study followed 36 young, physically and psychologically healthy men (conscientious objectors) as they ate. For the first three months, they were fed normally and then their rations were slashed. As was happening in war-hit Europe, there was no meat.
During the six-month food restriction period, they still had to exercise.
Most lost about 25 per cent of their weight.
The outcomes were alarming. The young men experienced serious physical, psychological and social changes. Even when they went back to eating normally, many of the men struggled to regain their health.
As a result of the semi-starvation diet, the men faced:
- Emotional changes – depression, anxiety, irritability and anger.
- Social and cognitive issues – withdrawal, exhaustion, non-participation, inability to stay alert and unable to concentrate.
- Physical changes – disturbed sleep patterns, dizziness and headaches.
- Stronger cravings – need for salt and spice and tea and coffee. Indeed, the demand was so great, their caffeine intake was capped.
So what does this mean for you in business?
If you fail to fuel your body properly, you won’t have the energy, stamina and ability to meet the demands of everyday life, including your commitments at work.
From a corporate perspective, it’s incredibly difficult to run a business or lead a high-performance team effectively if you’re cranky, tired and hungry, or pumped up with caffeine to compensate.
Quite frankly, good eating is the building block for good business practice.
When I think back to Sue’s situation, it underlines the vital role of “wellness”. If we are going to develop engaged and competent leaders, we must address wellness as part of the leadership development paradigm, and organisational strategy as a whole.
Put simply, wellness is the foundation for business sustainability.
It’s very difficult to do anything if you don’t have your health, right?