Being a leader is tough. There are days when everything seems so dang hard and nothing seems to fall in your favor. With every email or encounter, the stress and anxiety builds and you may be left fantasizing about hanging it all up and running off to live in a tiny cabin on a mountaintop where few will venture to find you. Oh, maybe that’s just me. (check out my recent blog post about the benefits of spending time in nature)
If you are sitting at the top of the org chart, the burden is even heavier knowing that so many people depend on you and your leadership to provide a sustainable work environment.
It’s these times when it’s time to step away and get a little perspective. I know, it may seem counter-intuitive, but that’s exactly what you need.
You see, when you are overwhelmed and stressed out, you don’t show up as your best self. As a leader, you have a low margin of how often you can show up in your not-best self: Too much and it will tank your business. Your revenue, your reputation and your team suffer every time you are at affect to the effects of stress, overwhelm and anxiety.
How you show up in your being matters. If it’s hard for others to be around you, your teams and what they produce will suffer. If you give people energy from being around you, your team and what they produce will excel. It’s that simple.
We all have a default way that we "be"—perhaps it’s agitated, being short, or being curt with your people. Perhaps it’s being all "doom and gloom" and seeing things through a defeated lens. Perhaps it’s being snarky, sarcastic, or extra critical. When we are not being our best, we lose our ability to listen to our people and clear their obstacles so they can be amazing at their job which in turn, makes you look great.
It’s the stressful times that have critical impact in your organization.
This is why taking time away is critical for your personal success as well as the success of your business: Not only is it critical to do so, it’s your responsibility.
Every employee, from the Owner/Founder/President/CEO all the way to the most entry level position, has a responsibility to take time away from work. That means actual time away from work—unplugged. No answering emails, texts, Slack, or anything else. Fully, 100% detached from the business. I encourage some of this time to be out in nature.
Why is it your responsibility? Because, you need to do what will enable you to be your best.
When you never stop working because you are always plugged in and available, you loose your edge. You lose your ability to be great at what you do.
It’s your responsibility to be the greatest possible version of yourself.
When you take time away, you get a much needed fresh perspective; you can remember what is truly important, instead of getting wrapped up in being right. When you spend time in nature, you remember what peace feels like and can bring more of it to your workplace.
Yes, I know this is counter to how businesses are currently operating in a constantly available, always plugged in world.
Here’s the deal with how things are going now—we are burning people out. We are taking everything they have to give and are asking for more. We have created a culture of burnout and it’s so unnecessary.
We are burning people out to such a degree that in May 2019, the World Health Organization included burnout as part of it’s International Classification of Diseases:
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy."
Unmanaged workplace stress leads to toxicity which as recently been listed as the 5th leading cause of death in the US.
It is unconscionable that workplace stress has gotten to such heights and that we’ve accepted it as normal and there’s nothing to be done about it.
I’m calling us out. We can do better. We don’t have to accept a constant state of stress, overwhelm and anxiety. We don’t need to live our lives exhausted, in a constant state of fear and adrenaline.
While everyone plays a part in creating and nurturing a healthy, thriving culture, the bulk of the responsibility falls on the leadership team.
So when you have those hard days, step away and take a walk — preferably where you can be around nature and trees. Give yourself and your team the gift of new perspective that comes from walking in nature. Breathe in the fresh air, let the stress drop from your shoulders and remember what inner peace feels like.
And when those days keep stacking up and days become weeks that turn into months, then it’s time for a vacation and a serious conversation about what kind of culture the business wants to cultivate.
It won’t change overnight: Shifting culture takes intentional effort to change behaviors that foster a healthy, thriving culture.
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In service to your greatness,