Ah, management: that sweet gig where you disseminate upper management’s coherent strategies, delegate work to your ample staff, ponder the big picture and get home in time for dinner…
…said no manager, ever.
The great majority of my executive coaching clients report feeling taxed to the max. They put in 10 – 12 hours at the office, handle the home front in the evening, and then hit the computer for a few more hours to tame the email backlog that accumulated during the day’s non-stop meetings.
Burning the candle at both ends often starts as a one-time thing. Then it stretches into a week, and then into a “season.” Leaders often tell me (and their families) that they’ll get back to healthier routines as soon as things settle down. Yet often, the reality unfolds quite differently: leaders become trapped in an addictive cycle of responsiveness and self-neglect. As the cycle continues, the environment only calls for more, and the responding “self” drains down and down.
If you’ve been or worked for a leader who ignored his/her well-being, you know the costs: mental and physical depletion, strained relationships at work or home, unhealthy team dynamics, errors, lapses in judgment, etc. Neglecting ourselves doesn’t just affect us; it affects our teams, our organizations and our intimate relationships.
We can lead well only when we are well. We know this. We agree with it. And still, so many of us don’t live it. And we have some pretty legit-sounding reasons why:
- “It’s self-indulgent.”
- “It’s expected here. Everyone here puts in these kinds of hours.”
- “It’s just a really busy time.”
- “I’m handling the stress just fine. In fact, I thrive on it.”
As valid as those reasons may sound or be, they can easily become unconscious, unquestioned beliefs that sabotage our personal sustainability and effectiveness.
When we start to see our resourcefulness flag, we often just power through the symptoms. But in doing so, we miss vital performance feedback from our body. Our exhaustion, irritability, etc. is our body’s “sustainability” performance appraisal. It’s telling us that we’re “exceeding expectations” – and not in a good way. Renewal is the remedial action.
Personal renewal is the single most neglected competency of leadership. It is as critical to long-term effectiveness as strategy or execution. Yet, unlike other leadership competencies for which we are trained, assessed and rewarded, the responsibility for the “renewal” competency is ours alone.
“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have… Any time we can listen to the self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.” ~ Parker Palmer
What about you?
Do you relate to personal renewal as a necessity, as a luxury, or as irrelevant? Where do those beliefs come from?
What are the early signs that you’ve been neglecting the “personal renewal” competency? How does that show up in your outlook, body, relationships, and overall performance?
What are the late-stage signs that you’re in a danger zone of self-neglect?
What is the story you tell yourself to justify overlooking your own renewal?
What are the two or three most important habits that support your well-being as a person and a leader?
What would it take for you to commit to one of those habits in a sustained way?
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