The Great Leadership Switch Off
Are your leaders already gearing up for switching off?
The John Lewis ads are on the TV. The Coca Cola lorry is on its way chanting ‘Holidays are Coming’ and the Christmas food shopping slots are already booked up or sold out for Marks & Spencer’s. It’s a sure sign that Christmas is nearly here! Is Christmas arriving early this year?
As a leader, we can sometimes get caught up in a complete 360 degree overwhelm. We don’t realise that it’s overwhelming, we confuse the signals, it starts to feel normal. Leaders just keep going, getting more and more focused on the deliverables and deadlines until we get to a point where something snaps.
Ever get to that point where you’re less willing to try something new? Our busy pre-Christmas work lives keep us focused, diligent and persistent. Whilst leaders need those characteristics, the key to leadership effectiveness is being able to intercept, come up for breath and think above the weeds. Ironically, it’s that time when we actually stop for our Christmas break or that long-awaited summer holiday that we start to have those great creative ideas.
Is there a lesson to be learnt here to boost leadership effectiveness?
I hear a lot of people say to me, I had such great ideas when I was on holiday or when I took that long drive away for the weekend. It’s because they’ve given themselves some space to stop, pause and be in a new space that frees them up to think about something else. Thinking about something completely different can be such a regenerative health tonic for the brain. When you just pick up a ‘Chick Lit’ book or escape away into Harry Potter or a biography, you give your brain a chance to switch off from that ‘to do’ list and recharge. Building these escape ‘rituals’ into our life, reading a book, switching off at the end of the day etc, is essential to remain effective. It’s a way of protecting ourselves from the constant stress of survival mode that we are in most of the day. Leaders need this space to build mental agility muscles.
Rituals v Routines
Rituals are not the same as routines. Routines still come with structure. If we are relying on using routines, we’re not actually activating the side of our brain that takes us away from survival mode. Routines actually fuel survival mode, and whilst they are a helpful tip for mundane activities, rituals take us into a place where we explore what’s possible, it’s more free-flowing along your brain to think in its full power. When you have a ritual, your mindset is open, and it feels different. You feel good!
For example, when you’re on holiday you might take yourself off to curl up and read Harry Potter – you’re creating a ritual space that’s just for you. You go off into this imaginary world, you see where it takes you and you really enjoy the exploration. The key is to replicate this in our working life every day to protect ourselves from this constant battle with survival mode leaving us to finish our day feeling frazzled and flat.
Creating your own rituals can be as simple as how you want to start your day, having a moment in the morning where you are possibly just sitting in your kitchen, enjoying watching the sunrise and just being at peace for a moment. I have a ritual that’s more towards the latter part of the day because I really need to do something different to come down from the day and shake off the day. I switch off at a certain time, go to my acupuncture and put on a different scent in that room. This simple ritual really helps me to change gears. It sends a signal to my brain that things are now changing, I’m unwinding and I’m putting myself into a calmer place. The bonus is that I end up contemplating and percolating what’s going on in my mind, acknowledging but not forcing – ideas but just in a very different way.
‘How can I create places for my brain to float?’
Creating rituals isn’t about forcing yourself to meditate every morning at 5 am. It’s not particularly practical for a lot of people at a certain point in their career because we get to the stage in our life when we have a lot on with family and possibly international clients in different time zones. It’s about having fluidity and saying to yourself,
‘This is really important. It’s something that will boost my effectiveness, I’ll achieve more and I’m going to create space for this’.
When working with executives the goal is to create micro-moments and the mental fitness to pause at the moment. To get to a stage in our brainpower to stay ahead of the game. It’s important to be able to switch our brains off, a mental shut down and float. This is about creating ways of working that protect our energy, stress and wellbeing. Think about these micro-moments as a recharge space.
Too many leaders are holding out for the holidays, needing that time away from work to de-stress. It’s not sustainable at a senior level of leadership. Holidays themselves can be busy when the family are involved. Therefore, trying something new that’s just for you could be a step worth taking as we think about what we want for ourselves and our leadership stretch for 2022.
By creating these rituals in our daily working lives and not just waiting for the Christmas break or summer holidays we can boost our mental fitness and increase our energy levels, leadership agility and our capacity to tackle big decisions.
For more tips and support to develop your mental fitness and agility see my forthcoming programme 3 step reset.
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