The most valuable assets in any organization are people. Without people, an organization will cease to exist. The people in an organization need leadership. Without strong leaders, an organization will quickly flounder and go off course. So, it stands to reason that leaders have a very important role to play in an organization and we need to ensure that we are always at the top of our game. We need to protect ourselves as leaders. Greg Mckeown calls this “Protecting the Asset” in his book Essentialism.
Most of us know of a business leader who has flamed out dramatically at work or had a serious health related issue or has had a significant relationship failure. In many cases, this is caused by an unbalanced focus on one area of life to the neglect of all the other areas. Guaranteed in all these cases, the leader was not properly “protecting the asset.”
Quite a few years ago I worked for a leader who was making some big changes in their life. They were; getting divorced, moving thousands of miles from their estranged family, changing jobs, changing industries, dealing with a dynamic marketplace, handling an aggressive sales partner and facing some significant personal health issues. Not surprisingly, this leader flamed out quickly and was removed from the organization within 18 months of their start date. As is the case with most flameouts, this flameout and all the resulting personal, professional and business pain could have been avoided if this executive would have spent some time “protecting the asset.”
You can “protect the asset” by taking care of your body, mind and spirit. As leaders we often forget that we are not invincible. We do need time by ourselves where we can recharge and take care of essentials without being influenced by what is going on around us. The list below identifies some simple steps you can take to protect yourself against fatigue and burnout.
- Body – we have nothing without our health. Without good health it is hard to enjoy our family, friends and the fruits of our labor. We take our health for granted when we are healthy and then it’s all we can think about when we are not healthy! That’s so backwards! We should always focus on maintaining good health so that we don’t have self-imposed health related events. There are literally thousands of books written on this subject but I think it is quite simple. It is critical for each of us to:
- Exercise properly – exercise at least once a day, six days a week. This can be 20 to 30 minutes of cardio or weight training or both. I am a bit of a fitness nut so I lift weights for 1 hour-3 times a week and I do cardio for about 1 hour-3 times a week. It is amazing how much stress disappears and how much better I feel after I finish my workout!
- Sleep properly. We all need between 6 and 8 hours of sleep each night to ensure that our bodies are getting the time necessary to properly regenerate and rejuvenate.
- Eat properly. It doesn’t really matter how much you exercise or sleep, if you do not get the proper nutrition your body will suffer and when your body suffers all other aspects of your life are impacted.
- Take time at several points during the year to get recharged – you can still get burned out even when you are exercising, sleeping and eating properly. This is why it is so important to get away from your typical daily routine and take a vacation at least once every six months. Don’t get tied up with work related issues during this time. Do your best to unplug and spend some quality time relaxing.
- Mind – if you are not growing, you are shrinking. If you are shrinking, your leadership ability is diminishing. As leaders, we each need to continue to challenge and stretch our minds everyday. Set aside 20 to 30 minutes a day for learning. Besides formal education or training in your area of expertise, you can “stretch your mind” by:
- Reading a book
- Taking a class in an area of interest outside of your business
- Learning online (many universities offer free classes in a wide variety of subjects)
- Learning a new language
- Starting a blog
- Journaling your thoughts and ideas
- Spirit – although my worldview is Christian, and that comes with a certain set of beliefs, the term “spirit” does not necessarily have a religious connotation. If your worldview is atheist or something other than Christian, that should not discount this point. Everyone has a “spirit” that needs to be nurtured and refreshed. The following activities are spirit or soul refreshers that everyone can benefit from:
- Be grateful – if you are a grateful person, you are generally thankful for what you have and where you are in life. This does not mean that you are not striving to improve and get better, it just means that you are not taking your circumstances for granted. It means that you do not believe you are entitled but rather that you must earn what you get in life. This is a much healthier position than someone who demands a certain level of respect or treatment just because of their role or title. Having an entitled mindset is negative, stressful and soul-sucking! It can be counteracted with the “soul building” grateful mindset.
- Humbleness – being humble also counteracts the entitlement trap. Entitlement is fuelled by pride. It is the belief they you deserve a certain level of treatment because of who you are and not because of the value that you deliver. Being proud of the work you do is important. Unbridled pride is dangerous and soul sucking! You risk exhausting yourself by trying to maintain an unrealistic position or image. Humbleness obliterates pride and entitlement and refreshes your spirit.
- Spend time praying or meditating – According to research, prayer is a great stress buster! Dr. Roberta Lee (in her book The SuperStress Solution) states that “Research shows that people who are more religious or spiritual use their spirituality to cope with life . . . They’re better able to cope with stress, they heal faster from illness, and they experience increased benefits to their health and well-being. On an intellectual level, spirituality connects you to the world, which in turn enables you to stop trying to control things all by yourself. When you feel part of a greater whole, it’s easy to understand that you aren’t responsible for everything that happens in life.”
- Give back – donate your time, money and expertise to worthy causes. Giving to those in need is more beneficial to the giver than the receiver! Obviously the receiver can benefit greatly but the boost you get when you give, refreshes your spirit like nothing else. Giving back keeps you aligned with reality as you are continually reminded of how good you have things. Giving results in a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity!
- Gut check – what are your top values? Are you living a life in alignment with these values? Being out of alignment with your values can be very stressful and depleting. Spend some time and do a serious gut check. Identify the things that you may be doing that are not in alignment with your core values. Put a strategy in place to address these things and get back into alignment.
Don’t forget to protect yourself from the onslaught of the everyday. This is an easy trap to fall into gradually without realizing what’s happening until it is too late and the damage is done. Do a self-assessment today. What actions do you need to take to ensure that you are “protecting the asset?”
“The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves. If we underinvest in ourselves, and by that I mean our minds, our bodies, and our spirits, we damage the very tool we need to make our highest contribution.” Greg Mckeown
Leave a comment below on how you have been impacted by fatigue, burnout or leadership failures.
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