Leadership – Do you matter enough to ‘unplug?

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:21 pm

Do you matter enough to ‘unplug?
Good leaders must take time to recharge
KAREN VERNAL
For SBT
The following questions are presented especially for leaders. These are questions for the men and women that we count on to shape our future and show us the way to live our lives with meaning and success. If you consider yourself a leader, these are questions for you.
When was the last time that you spent time alone? Time without the bombarding interruptions of e-mail, cell phone, fax, TV? When was the last time that you took a family vacation and really left your work behind to be with your family? When was the last time that you took a quiet walk, rode a bike, sat on a beach, took a deep breath?
A number of years ago, we were promised by futurists that by the year 2000 our work day would be shorter, that we would have more leisure time, and that there would be adequate time with family and friends. We would celebrate the freedom that we would experience through the growing dimensions of technology.
Instead, we are working longer hours and experiencing far greater demands on our time than we have ever experienced before. It is not unusual to hear an executive say that he or she typically works 12- to 14-hour days. Sometimes it is said as though it is some kind of a badge declaring “I work hard for this company.”
Just this past week an executive told me that he is working 16-hour days and still feels as though he is behind the eight ball, never finished, always catching up. His eyes teared as he talked about the hours he is missing with his three small children.
Our lives have become programed like the technology we serve, and perhaps it is technology that ironically has something to teach us about what we must do to maintain a healthy, meaningful, successful life. Like us, when the computer is on overload, it crashes. In order for it to resume its work, we need to “re-boot” the computer. We need to shut it down before re-starting. We need to wait a few minutes so that the computer can catch its breath. There are times when “re-booting” isn’t enough. I have learned from our computer doctor that sometimes the computer needs to be totally “unplugged”. It needs to rest and then it can be re-plugged for continued effective work.
Leaders are expected to make difficult, innovative, strategic decisions and to do effective work every day. You are charged with the responsibility of guiding, inspiring, and leading your organizations into a successful future. You are expected to hold out the “light” and carry the vision past the darkness of economic decline or an organizational crisis, and lead the organization into a brighter future. And yet the ingredients that are necessary for effective leadership are often neglected. Solitude, reflection and self-care are critical ingredients which enable a leader to engage in the necessary creativity and problem-solving demanded by today’s world. It is a commitment to “re-booting” and being “unplugged” for the sake of restoring energy and power.
What does being “unplugged” mean in real time? One extraordinary leader I know gives himself the gift of time twice a year to retreat to the mountains. He writes, he reads, he hikes, he listens, and then each morning during the rest of the year he spends 15 minutes in quiet reflection, just breathing. His personal commitment is a testimony to his organization that he will stay in shape and avoid a “crash” as he deepens his spirit and his skills.
There are noticeable signs when a leader invests in time to “unplug” and “re-boot”. The signs include:

  • Optimism and energy
  • Focus and achievement
  • Presence – “being” where you are. Showing up-mind, body, spirit
  • Creativity and responsiveness
    There are also noticeable signs when a leader fails to “re-boot” and “unplug”. The signs are a preamble to the “crash” and may include:
  • Irritability and impatience
  • Lack of focus
  • Nervous, manic energy
  • Fractured relationships
  • Fatigue and depression
    It is not an easy decision for a leader to decide to commit to the kind of time that will result in his or her personal and professional best. It will not be easy for you. If this is a new experience for you, I suggest that you begin with “re-booting”. A strategy that works well is to invest 15 or 20 minutes every morning without distractions, and concentrate on your breathing. Don’t be surprised if your initial response is resistance. Avoid thinking, planning, creating lists in your head. Rather, focus on being. Practice will make a difference. Consider something that you would like to focus your energy on for the day. It may be listening, suspending judgment, appreciation. Whatever your focus, check in with yourself during the day-“re-boot” periodically. This change alone will take you closer to yourself and to your full leadership potential. You will gain the rare ability to be where you are.
    We are counting on you to lead the way.
    Karen Vernal is president of Vernal Management Consultants in Milwaukee. She can be reached at 414-271-5148 of via e-mail at vernal@execpc.com; www.vernalmgmt.com.
    Aug. 17, 2001 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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