It used to be that good old R&R (Rest and Relaxation) was enough to recharge your batteries and get you back into the swing of things. Not anymore.
It now takes a good bit of Reflection to make sure that your R&R time is used wisely because
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it — Ferris Bueller
Leaders are especially prone to not taking advantage of the three R’s because it’s hard to turn off being a leader. This is the classic leadership trap of “my organization will fall apart if I’m not there.”
In reality, it will only fall apart if you are not seeing your organizations challenges with fresh eyes — not because you take time off. That’s why it’s a leadership imperative to get rest and relaxation while you reflect on what’s important for you and your organization.
The Burdens of Leadership
Being a leader is a tough job. The burdens associated with setting a direction, motivating your supporters, keeping an eye on the competition all while keeping the organization afloat makes it a job full of stress and anxiety.
Stress is a killer — both of people and productivity. According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), stress costs American industry more that $300 billion annually. It’s also responsible for 75 to 90% of all doctor visits in the U.S.
Leaders are more susceptible to stress because they are the focal point of the organization and when the anxiety of organizational life gets too high, the leader feels it even more.
This burden can turn normally solid leaders into stressed out, ineffective ones if they don’t make rest, relaxation and reflection an integral part of their leadership style.
Rejuvenate Mind and Body
Our bodies need rest. In fact, studies show that along with stress, sleep depravation causes concentration problems, challenges with memory and job performance. In our fast paced world where the demands of daily life seem to be accelerating, most leaders neglect rest so they can keep up. This may help in the short term but over time, wearing your body out will just make you more prone to making mistakes and illness.
An additional benefit of rest and relaxation is that it plays a vital role in solving problems. Rest and relaxation allows our subconscious minds to work though problems that our conscious minds are struggling with. This has tremendous leadership and personal benefits because complex problems can sometimes be hard to dissect and deal with by our conscious minds. This subconscious mind work usually manifests itself in the “ah ha” moment in the shower, while mediating or exercising when our subconscious mind finally figures it out.
Stepping Away is a Good Thing
Rest and relaxation are an important part of an effective leaders style and approach. By taking the time to step away from the daily grind of your leadership responsibilities, you enable several personal and organizational benefits. These include:
Allowing others to grow as leaders: If the leader is always around, then others can’t truly develop. Developing leaders requires them to lead.
Finding weaknesses in your organization: Anytime you leave, weaknesses will show themselves. This gives you an opportunity to make your organization more resilient.
Reaffirming your organizational commitment: Sometimes, leaders can burn out because they get in a rut or can’t distance themselves from the organization they lead. By stepping away, you can gain new perspectives and reaffirm your commitment.
Demonstrating trust in your supporters: Nothing shows trust in others like leaving them in charge. It’s the ultimate vote of confidence and will be rewarded with their trust and dedication.
Growth Comes From Reflection
The last R, Reflection, is equally important to Rest and Relaxation because it’s how we internalize our insights, successes and challenges.
Reflection should ideally be done when you are in a state of reset and relaxation so that your mind is not distracted.
Preferably, your reflection should be done in a quiet place with minimum disturbances so that you can focus. With reflection, you can dig deeper into why certain events happened and how you reacted to them.
Reflection does take practice since it can lead to anxiety about missed opportunities or mistakes. The key to productive reflection contains these elements:
Focus on a certain event or behavior: Don’t try and solve every problem you have — it will be too overwhelming. Rather, focus on a specific event or behavior.
Being nonjudgmental: Reserve any judgement, good or bad, until you have had time to go through the entire event or behavior.
Consider all points of view: Put yourself in others shoes. Strive to understand the view from where they stand. This is particularly important for events or decisions that influence lots of different people.
Accept the conclusions and move on: Once you have reflected and come to conclusions, accept them and move on. Don’t second guess or reevaluate. Just let it go. This is important because you want to be ready for the next challenge and not be stuck in the past.
It should be stressed that reflection should be productive and not a means to beat yourself up. Reflection is a way to allow yourself to work through good and bad situations in a nonjudgmental manner. If you find yourself being overly negative or down, then only focus on your successes and ease your way into more challenging problems.
One more thing about reflection — it’s really hard to practice. Even the best people sometimes find it hard to reflect on a situation and move on from it (I’m a big offender of this). Don’t get discouraged when this happens. Just work through it the best you can — it gets easier over time.
Your Organization Will Thank You
Every leader needs the three R’s to be effective. Even one of the most important leaders in the world, the President of the United States, has Camp David where they can rest, relax and reflect on the situations they face.
Without such distance, a leader will get too deep into problems and issues to see the path to take. Details will become muddled, facts distorted and decisions flawed because the leaders perspective has been lost. The only way to gain perspective is to take a step out of the chaos. Taking that leap will make you a better leader.