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A Personal Balancing Act

The Academy Team for The Bottom Line

balancing actIn amongst all of the hype around the summer of 2012 in the UK – Diamond Jubilee in June, Olympics in July and August, Wimbledon in June etc etc – business still needs to be done. In other articles we’ve looked at how the CEO can accommodate the needs of his/her staff throughout the London Olympics and how cover of key positions can be maintained during the events of the summer and the summer holiday.

The question is, in and amongst all this activity, will you, the CEO be taking a break?

Will you be taking a holiday? Getting away from it all? Will you be catching the key events of the summer? Or will you look at the sun through the window of your office and buckle down even harder than ever to cover for others and to keep your business alive and afloat?

Times are tough. We know that to be true because of the much reported double dip recession and the unremitting doom that politicians provide us with and the media gleefully reports. Global catastrophe, meltdown, austerity – you know the language of this period by now. Whatever the truth of the economic situation, and it is probably different for each of us, working harder is probably not the best answer to it.

If you are already taking regular breaks, then well done. You understand the underlying message of this article and, we suspect, you are in a minority and it is to the majority that this article is primarily addressed.

When you buckle down and grind out more work, what effect is that having – on you, on the business and on your employees?

Working longer and harder without breaks is, for most of us, not the most effective way to approach work. We need energy to tackle the most important tasks and that is not always there when we need it unless we pay attention to keeping it topped up. Taking a break will ensure that you come back refreshed and able to clear that job much more quickly – and effectively. If you ask too much of your body, it will first slow down and, if you ignore that, it will make you take a break, often in a spectacular way – and then, if you have no-one shadowing you – the business may also suffer from your enforced absence.

As for your team – consider the effect of working in the company of someone who is so obsessive about working harder that they begin to lose their human side. The effect you have on your team is not just from your official communication. Who you talk to (or don’t), how you talk and how you carry yourself are all subject to scrutiny and to judgements from your staff.

Employees at all levels are very sensitive to the mood of the boss. They watch and learn. Amongst the symptoms of stress are irritability, anger, volatility and depression. A boss who is tired and displaying some or all of those negative emotions is not good for morale.

So some thoughts for your consideration –

  • Schedule your leisure time into your diary – and take it when scheduled
  • Ensure that there are team members who can shadow you.
  • Take regular breaks in the working day.
  • Move away from that computer many of us spend hours in front of and take some minor exercise.
  • Walk around the office and talk, with no agenda, to the people you encounter. The conversations can be on any subject, not just business. Use conversations to take the temperature of the business and to share key messages with employees.
  • Don’t schedule back to back to back meetings – allow breaks and run meetings to time.
  • Get outside if the weather is fine. Find ways to do business alfresco. One to one meetings whilst walking work very well and the outcomes are often much better than sitting in a stuffy room.
  • Be very aware of the signals you are giving off unconsciously. Have someone you trust give you feedback from time to time.
  • Check for the signs of stress developing into something unhealthy.

In a recent article (link) in this newsletter, Right Management reported that few new CEOs had been given the opportunity to exercise the specific skill sets needed for the role. “There is strong evidence that suggests that different leadership roles require different sets of competencies, and experience in functional roles in itself does not prepare one particularly well for succession to CEO.” Use shadowing as an opportunity to develop those skills – set out in the article – which will be needed as part of succession planning.

Stress does not affect only CEOs, of course, and you have a duty of care to ensure that your employees have symptoms recognised and assistance offered.

There is so much on offer this summer to take the stress out of life (and so much that potentially could increase it). Time to find a way to balance and enjoy the one life you have.

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