How NOT Working Makes You A Better Leader
Leaders care about one thing: Impact.
And secondly to that, creating a legacy. A legacy that also creates impact.
With that deep desire, businesses are born from passion to lead change, close gaps and fulfill potential.
That passion then turns into a determination that is unwavering, perseverance that creates tunnel vision locked on the bigger goals.
The problem is, this dedication to greater impact throws leaders into working beyond their highest quality capacity.
Leaders believe that a bigger impact is the result of hard work, which means to continue making an impact, they continue adding more work.
But what if the answer to the impact you desire isn’t found in burying yourself, making sure you are being perceived as always on the field, or becoming the hardest worker in the room?
Sacrificing to Lead
I won’t lie and tell you that there aren’t sacrifices required to create a greater impact.
I personally have had to sacrifice late nights and a lot of TV I’d like to watch in order to get to bed early and be able to adhere to a schedule that prioritizes my mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
The key here is to discern between what sacrifices we are willing to make, and for too many leaders the sacrifice becomes themselves and/or their relationships.
Committing to working more, adding more to your plate and not paying attention to what you are taking off your plate as you try to fit it all in doesn’t work.
In fact, believing that if you work harder, work more and put your personal fulfillment on the back burner is actually taking away from your ability to lead - and in turn, the impact you can make.
When you purposely overload, overwhelm and overwork many things happen;
It’s a buzzword, I know. But have you ever considered maybe it’s a well-known topic because it’s actually true?
In fact, nine European countries (Denmark, Estonia, France, Hungary, Latvia, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia and Sweden) considered burnout as being a recognised medical disorder in 2017.
One of the many symptoms of burnout is concentration problems and forgetfulness, a lack of focus which is the exact opposite of what you need when you are creating impact.
Yelling at your kids, snapping at your spouse, having no patience to deal with life’s (temporary) setbacks that inevitably will come, sound familiar?
When you are living in a state of reactivity, not only is it weighing on you emotionally and mentally, you add in the stress of carrying guilt for how you are reacting to life and your relationships.
Being unable to respond instead of react means you aren’t leading effectively because you are unable to see the bigger picture. Making snap decisions based off of high emotions will end in regret, feeling like you are constantly putting out fires takes a toll on your well-being and prevents you from the productive communications that create change and growth.
Being reactive can also run into how you are making decisions and knowing that every decision ripples into the possibility for bigger impact, the choices you make matter. Making good decisions requires information gathering, identifying goals, analyzing options, critical thinking and risk assessment.
All of which are not possible if you are cognitively not functioning well because you are buried in your day to day. A bad decision can be turned around, a string of bad decisions can kill your business.
Low Quality Work
How do we build successful businesses? We solve problems. We do good work. We help people. And that makes more people buy from our company, and want to continue buying.
Your best work comes from being surrounded by a team to collaborate and innovate with and being able to lead that team to provide the best quality work requires setting a standard across the board. Whether you are the face of your business or not, you can’t rely solely on your team to pick up your slack and your leadership is a key role in their ability to succeed.
In order to do your best work as a whole, you have to be able to function at your highest capacity.
These are just some of the things that are a result of sacrificing yourself for impact, and you can see that none of them are going to get you where you want to go.
Stepping Out to Step Up
You know what does work to create a bigger impact with your work? Turning off.
At lunch with a client in New York one day we were discussing the heavy mental load that comes with running a business, she mentioned to me “I felt like I could never turn off.”
As entrepreneurs, founders and leaders - we are also creators. Whether or not you realize it, you are a creative human and your creativity is where you source your success.
It seems impossible when you care so deeply about your work to turn off and not think about it, but the trick is when you turn off from thinking about it - your subconscious mind is still creating.
You give yourself the opportunity to absorb the world around you and take in new perspectives which has a direct impact on your innovation and ideas.
Every expansion requires next steps, you can only build those next steps if you have the space to be able to formulate what those steps will be - which doesn't happen if you are spending your time thinking about current fires and sustaining your current workload.
You create a bigger impact when you have space to be a human and honor your human needs. This is actually the key to your next level of success, not more hours on your calendar.
When you step out into the world to spend time in your community, engage in conversations with no agenda, and have the space to breathe - you are able to regulate your emotions, preventing the results of self-sacrifice I shared above.
When you work less you improve your leadership in countless ways, but here’s a few of them;
You are more creative. If you have more creative ideas, you can create more change in the world.
You are an innovator. If you want to continue growing, you have to always be introducing something new or improving on what you currently offer.
You have better team/employee retention. Not overworking as a leader sets the example for your company, if running yourself into the ground to create impact is the tone you’ve set - people will leave.
You create a better work culture. Decreasing turnover as you continue to grow matters more and more, you want to build a business that people want to work for. People want to work for places that don’t require sacrificing their mental or physical well-being.
You have productive communications. Instead of the reactive back and forth, you lead and participate in discussions, meetings and team communications with more intentionality and focus.
You effectively solve problems. Imagine getting problems solved or coming up with solutions in a shorter period of time or less conversations, when you think clearly you can lead clearly.
So, are you ready to stop overworking yet?
How to Work Less Hours
If there is one thing you take from this - let it be this: You are in control of how you spend your time.
Logically, we know this - but I know my clients have forgotten and let their responsibilities, meetings and pressure to succeed quicker take over.
Here’s the secret, you work less hours by working less hours. And ACTUALLY working less hours. I know in order to do that though, you need a more clear plan.
So, take these three steps to decrease your working hours:
1. Hold Your Boundaries
Another B buzzword for you today, everyone knows the importance of having boundaries. Unfortunately people have the greatest intentions to set them, or they do set them, but they don’t hold them. The second something comes in outside of that they are removing their boundaries like they never existed.
Boundaries aren’t going to hold themselves. Identify when you are going to work and when you aren’t, communicate this with your team, and then actually follow through with what you say you’re going to do/not do.
2. Decrease Urgency
One of the biggest reasons that we don’t hold our boundaries is that we are afraid of missing out or falling behind. So, everything always feels urgent. Even when it isn’t. This habit of creating a false sense of urgency is a great marketing tactic for sales, it’s a shitty tactic for your brain and well-being.
Responding to emails the same day isn’t a necessity or booking an extra meeting into your week that could go on the following week isn’t going to change anything. Cramming as much as possible into all of your days because everything feels urgent is setting you back. Space things out, extend your turn around and response times, fight the urgency urge.
There are very few actual emergencies in business.
3. Create Accountability
If you don’t have work on your calendar, you’ll likely wonder what to do with your hands. So, in an effort to make sure you don’t work just because you can (even though you’ve just removed work from your calendar) you add things to your calendar that are NON work-related.
Coffee with a friend, a new exercise class, checking out a local library with your kiddos, or of course personal care appointments you’ve been avoiding.
Give yourself a reason to show up for something (or someone) else so you don’t slip back into filling the white space with your email inbox.
With less working hours on your calendar you can move your personal fulfillment back to front and center, where it should be. And the best part about this? You can see it makes you a better leader who is able to create an even bigger impact.
Now, go clear out and space out all the things on your calendar so you can get back to having a life outside your business.
If you need a scheduled “turn off” to step out of your business so you can step up in your impact - check out The PowHER Retreat.