Do you ever get in your own way? Keep going when you know you need to step back and breathe? Maybe you DO-- but you just don’t know it. As leaders, we tend to launch ourselves into overdrive only to crash and burn…
For the past year, most of us have been working in overdrive. and remembering to check in with ourselves has become increasingly more difficult. We often waste precious energy on continuing to forge ahead until our bodies or our brains shout out in protest. Take me, for example. Today I finally had no choice but to lay low with a fever and strep (and yet here I sit writing this…). The message is clear—when the speed at which we careen through life becomes too much, we have to make a conscious decision to slow down and check in with ourselves. It doesn't mean we turn off completely and go on vacation (as nice as that sounds), rather it means we don’t cavalierly dismiss the telltale signs that we’re headed toward a downward spiral. It means we listen to ourselves (and others, by the way) when the pressure is starting to surround us.
HOW we take care of ourselves is very individualized. For one leader, it could mean taking time out in the morning to go for a 10-mile run. For another leader it could mean paying more attention to eating complete and healthy meals rather than grabbing fast food on the run. For yet another leader, it could mean sitting down with the team to share what’s happening and discuss ways to reduce the pressure. And maybe for someone else it could be getting at least 7 hours of sleep at night. By setting the intention to make even minor changes, we will be more cognizant of our energy levels on a daily basis and more able to incrementally replenish them before we run out of steam completely.
The more we are able to recognize and address those initial, subtle symptoms, the better able we will be to take things in stride, share the load, and increase transparency with the team.
Speaking of the team, how many of you have been guilty at one time or another of overworking your stars? And even though you know you it’s important, you can’t seem to make time to develop others’ talents so that you can depend on more than a handful. In the beginning, many employees like to be relied upon. They enjoy their status as “stars”. But that wears off as they can begin to feel used and abused. Even if they like, trust and respect their boss, a seed of resentment germinates and if untended, it can result in burnout.
So, if you’ve got leadership or management responsibilities, take note. Tune into yourself first. Because if you get good at recognizing the signs in yourself, you’re more likely to be able to recognize them in others. You might even turn it into a collective “team” campaign in which team members watch out for each other, ensuring that no one person carries the load alone for too long—including you.