How fintech leaders can build their mental fitness for 2023

By Kate Hesk
Kate Hesk, CPO and co-founder, Cognomie, discusses how CEOs and fintech leaders can manage their mental stresses to prepare for the year ahead

It’s unlikely that as a fintech founder, you’re adverse to challenges, setbacks, or obstacles. The current state of play, however, will test even the most robust of leaders. The sector’s more shaken up than a snow globe. We’re seeing competitors and colleagues scale back on growth forecasts and teams in equal parts.

As we zoom towards the year's end, too, burnout and overwhelm tend to emerge as very real threats for so many of us.  As leaders we have a responsibility to our teams, our investors, and our families to take care of our mental – and emotional - well-being. Candidly speaking, the last thing our communities need is another burnt-out founder.

By introducing a few simple self-coaching practices in these coming days, you can build the Mental Fitness needed to help you navigate these last few weeks of 2022 and make the most of the seasonal downtime. So that you can go into 2023 thriving as a leader.

Cognomie’s co-founder and CPO, Kate Hesk, shares how:  

Start by understanding stress

First, we really need to understand stress. Specifically, how it manifests - it’s about having an awareness of how it presents for you. Stress is often bound up with the experience of imbalance, challenged boundaries, or uncertainty, so common in the current environment. And, because stress spirals, we tend to find ourselves reacting. We lose self-awareness, and self-agency and vitally, forget our role in the specific dynamic.

That’s why building preventative mental fitness strategies is key to long-term well-being.  How can you notice, respond, and react confidently to stress rather than let it trigger you?  

When you press the pause button on a machine, it stops. But when you press the pause button on human beings, they start — start to reflect, rethink assumptions, and reimagine a better path.

Mental Fitness is about making sure you’re carving out gentle pauses throughout the day – to check in with yourself, recalibrate, and re-align. A quick walk around the block, a few deep breaths at your desk, and making yourself a lovely cup of coffee.

Breaking the day up with mindful pauses helps you move from one intentional action to another, rather than zooming through the day on autopilot. And accumulating stress as you go.

Nurturing balance points in your own workday

A key symptom of stress is the lost sense of balance – that equilibrium that is essential to feel and performing well.

Do remember, balance isn’t a static state. Rather, it’s achieved through the capacity to actively re-balance. The precarious work patterns in tech - all-nighters, sprints, investment rounds, product launches - can leave us dealing with intense levels of pressure and teetering towards imbalance – a huge trigger for stress and burnout.

One option is to make sure you have consistent support in these times. So, a dedicated coach, for example,  could be essential in helping leaders regain confidence, calm, and connection.

Setting clear boundaries is another key step toward mental fitness. As leaders, leaky boundaries can be a significant contributor to stress – as well as having the potential to throw whole days off-course. You know those moments; an investor drops in from out-of-town, a customer issue crops up unexpectedly, or a team member needs a chat.

Being clear on your boundaries is an essential survival tool: give yourself permission to say no when you need to.

Know that boundaries aren’t selfish. You don’t have to take that “pick your brains” coffee. Or do the podcast on your day off. Use conscious communication to be clear on your own boundaries and say no with kindness. Let this free up time for things that matter most to you.

Modeling this behaviour for your team will also work wonders for their personal growth.

Know your non-negotiables

Sometimes it feels that the term “self-care” gets overused. Especially at this time of year, when a frantic dash to Waterstones for last-minute gifts counts as “me time.”

Simply taking time out for yourself is a brilliant way to maintain Mental Fitness. So that you can go into 2023 with clarity and intention.

This comes down to knowing yourself. What are the daily practices that keep you replenished and resilient? The things you can’t afford to let fall by the wayside as external pressures mount.

They’re often straightforward things you can weave into your routine – your morning run into the office, drinking two litres of water, reading an inspirational passage before you start your workday.

Connect with your non-negotiables and commit to honouring these throughout the day. Perhaps create a mini checklist on Google docs of your 3-5 non-negotiables. Set yourself the challenge of a five-day streak. See how you feel at the end of it.

These tips aren’t about creating a whole new to-do list – I know you have more than enough of those. I’d love you to think of these as micro-moments of self-care: practical, fast, self-coaching practices we can all access daily. And if you feel you need support, investing in a coach could be the best 2023 investment you make. As well as that essential gift: giving yourself this permission to thrive.


About the author: Kate Hesk, CPO and co-founder, Cognomie, a corporate coaching agency that specialises in mental health. Cognomie also publishes the Global Mental Fitness Index, which shows mental fitness levels of organisations across sectors and geographies.

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