In many ways this post is a follow up to my last post about nurturing your energy. Starting the new year off with a vision for your leadership, your presence, your team, division or organization is essential for creating a more engaged, inspiring and high performing work place. In my work, I find that I have to remind leaders of the need to focus on a vision for anything of real importance they want to accomplish. Connecting to our vision is a lot more difficult when we are drained, uninspired and not taking care of ourselves. Most of us can still put out fires, do tactical, day-to-day management and are competent enough to trudge on. Truly leading and inspiring is a lot more difficult when we are running on empty or not at our best.
Leading with vision requires you pause, stand on the balcony, breath and consider the whole landscape in which you operate your business. Clients have often told me that the most important thing I do with them is require that they take an intentional break to consider the bigger picture and what it is that they are really trying to achieve. I used to think, gosh, that is kind of low hanging fruit. But after 20 years of doing this work, I know it is not. In fact it is the central issue for them. The too many, frequently shifting priorities and demands of the hyper transparent and connected business environment can be anxiety inducing and disruptive to connecting to our executive function – where our most adult, wise and thoughtful decision-making happens. Instead clients are being hijacked by their more emotional, less manageable amygdala (the teenager of our brain) and it is not the highest functioning set of neurons from which to run most businesses.
The amygdala was set up to keep us safe, let us quickly decide (without thinking) whether we should fight, flee or experience pleasure. It really won’t help us with vision, strategy, planning or any other higher order requirement of leadership. Instead, I am convinced that we are all overusing and stressing a neural pathway because we feel under more constant threat. No surprise, we are more likely to do this when we are not at our most rested, energized and happy selves. And I am sure it has a big cost to the teams we lead and the enterprises we run.
Here are my top recommendations for making the space to create your 2017 vision for your leadership, team and organization:
Though leading with vision can create magic, it is not required to get better at it. Time to practice, patience and a dose of compassion is the ticket.
I haven’t written lately. For me the holidays come with a number of obligations to clients, friends and family. There are also some “rituals” that mix with the obligations that have become a part of the structure of my life. I would miss them if I didn’t do them. There are of course more moments during the holiday than normal to kick back a bit and enjoy some down time. Still, when January hits, I find myself a little less energized and motivated. With the dubious gift of less sunlight hours and more cloudy whether, I am also more reflective. This year I have decided to make January about renewing my energy in all sorts of healthy ways.
It got me thinking; we can all turn January into a month to practice new healthy habits that nurture our energy, heart, mind and body for the rest of the year. 30 days to fill up the cup and better support demanding leadership roles and schedules. I so often hear (and say), “I will start taking care of myself, eat better, exercise, etc., when I have this break, or this holiday.” Well, let's make that time now. Sometimes small changes are profound. It may not require the “Paleo Leap” or the “Whole30”.
I will admit, as a change practitioner, I do like the idea of a 30-day shift. That seems like the right amount of time to start practicing some new healthier habits and see and feel the benefit. Many of my clients use January as “diet” month. This sounds very uninspiring to me and also not very joyful. There is something about the word “diet” that reminds me of restricting, limiting or diminishing. That is not what I am really talking about. I want it to be “optimizing your energy” month. Having a vision for how you want to make your life more sustainable and filled with greater ease and joy seems more inspiring to me. Renewing and expanding our energy catalyzes all the things we need for work and life: stamina, endurance, creativity and happiness. What this means for you depends upon your current practices in life. From my work with clients, these are the things that seem like practical options for consideration:
There are so many things out of our control at work – even for executives who have great purview. But our body is 100% our responsibility. Much of the knowledge and strategy work leaders do require that they remain healthy, agile and prepared for disruption or change. This requires a body, and bodies require nurturance, especially if you want to play the long game – and I know you do.
Welcome to Moira's blog. I write a bi-monthly post about the work of building better people strategies, systems, teams and leaders.