I’ve heard it said many times a leader has to always be “on”. From my experience, that is mostly true. You do have to be on your game when leading and inspiring others. But I don’t believe it’s sustainable to be on at your highest level consistently without taking a very intentional break occasionally.
Leadership is mentally exhausting. And mental exhaustion leads to physical exhaustion (funny how our minds can convince our bodies that we’re waxed). Both kinds of exhaustion keep us from performing at our peak.
Just like an athlete fuels up after a demanding performance, a leader needs to refuel the mind to be ready for the next “game”. Because it will be the mind that needs to be at peak performance to deliver the results needed for success in leadership. If our minds are not focused and fueled up, we won’t have the mental toughness needed to get through the demanding seasons and challenges of leading people, teams and organizations. We’ll feel more like quitting than grinding it out.
Side note: not only is it wise to unplug and refresh, its part of our stewardship to those we lead. Great leaders help everyone we lead see a path to greater success, and if we’re not at the top of our game, we’re actually letting them down by not giving them our best. So do yourself and your team a favor and take a break.
What do I mean by “break”?
I just had a long conversation with someone I know professionally who is going through a very difficult time in his life. At one point in this struggle, a mentor of his advised him to get away from his daily routine so he could think clearly. He took his dog and a little bit of work, and went to stay with a friend for a week. Now, if we stop right here, this could go one of two directions. It could turn into a week of escaping responsibilities and getting nothing done, or it could be just what is needed to refocus. The difference…his daily routine during this “retreat”.
He started the morning with a physical workout. Running, walking, swimming, anything to get the body warmed up for the day. He ate a solid breakfast then spent the rest of each morning writing down goals for the next month, quarter and year and journaling what it would take from him to accomplish each of them (time, resources, information, support from family/friends, etc).
After a light lunch he spent each afternoon touching base with the office and getting work done. What I find fascinating is even in taking his mornings off the grid to reflect and focus, he accomplished more each afternoon than he would traditionally in a full day.
It turns out that when we don’t intentionally refresh/focus, when we are just going through the motions, we waste a significant amount of energy on unproductive stuff like that little iDevice in our hands, email/social media, or other distractions that aren’t really all that important.
Each evening, he spent time in the company of friends who listened to his thoughts, plans and goals, and who agreed to help him remain accountable to them after he left. He said “by the end of the week I was completely refreshed and re-energized, I was a productivity machine”.
No matter how long you’ve been a leader, you can always learn something from the stories of others. So today, I learn along side you.
Getting away and breaking the routine helps you…
-Clear your mind
-Focus on your goals
-Make decisions with clarity
-Have greater productivity
-Be more present with those around you once you get back at it
But don’t get hung up on the fact that my friend took a week to get away. Even if you can’t find an entire week, don’t let that stop you from doing something. In researching the idea of an “off-site” I find that many career/executive coaches recommend this at least once a year. But just as you would in leading a team in an off-site, the key is removing the distractions, otherwise the entire experience becomes a frustration instead of a refresher.
So, get off the grid for long enough to clear your mind and focus on the goals in front of you…
Take a long drive,
get away for a day, whatever,
but do it unplugged!
Spend the time intentionally, away from your daily routine, and come back refreshed and ready to get back in the grind. Everyone around you will be better for it.