As an executive coach you get to coach high-performance leaders – leaders who are super hard-working, super smart, and just know exactly what they’re doing. These people are ready to take up challenges, always aim to achieve peak performance at work, and are ready to do anything ‘constructive’ but relax. The way I see leaders at top companies working, I can state that it has long passed the phase when I’d call it hard work. The kind of work hours that leaders give today, the sheer little amount of time that leaders devote to relaxation and their daily sleep– it’s appalling.
When I hear employees being congratulated for staying up 24 hours or more to complete a project, I find it extremely odd. It’s just plain wrong. And it’s not just me saying this. Science says this. Being up for 24 hours is the intellectual equivalent of being drunk! Would these same managers, be still congratulating if the employees had instead gulped a few shots of tequila before getting down to work?
Is getting a work done equivalent to getting it done right? The sleep deprivation, the immense amount of pressure to keep people up until the wee hours of the next morning – does that in any way help the work get efficiently done? Or would that even help the employees learn anything substantial?
In fact, I would recommend you read an impressive study by Nick van Dam- McKinsey’s global chief learning office-on proven link between effective leadership and getting enough sleep and The organizational cost of insufficient sleep
The definition of work ethic has been taking a new form for the last few years, and this new definition is frankly a little scary. Forget well-being, today senior leaders seem like taking the employees to be like machines. And if the same continues, it might prove amazing for short-term results, but in the long run, they’d just be heading for an imminent crash.
Here are 2 of the many ways leaders today can focus on their and their teams’ well-being; and overcome their stress and burnout.
1. Let’s talk About Efficiency
The best thing to do – also the right thing here – is to prioritize. STAR leaders are the ones who ingrain their team with the principle of prioritization, and they do this by setting a great example in front of them. It’s inspiring to see one’s leader do things in a well-organized manner, by setting a priority on every task and effectively get every task done. And yes, you’ve to treat your family time like any other imperative scheduled priority. As Richard Branson once famously stated, “When you’re facing an avalanche of appointments, book time to spend with your family” Yes put the time to be spent with your loved ones in your work diary.
2. How About, We Disconnect a Little?
Going on a vacation and putting out an out-of-office message on is never enough for most workaholic leaders. Vacations are never really meant to be a disconnect from the world for them. Because it’s not even five minutes, and the out-of-office message is followed by a follow-up on a previous work-related mail. And the time meant to read a light novel is quickly replaced by going through all unread emails. Or the quality time reserved to spend with family becomes the time to answer client calls. And the vacation never even starts!
In trying to do as much as possible in as little time they can, leaders forget that it’s again the efficiency of work that takes the biggest hit. The art of prioritizing doesn’t end with organizing various tasks at work but also having your off-times just as organized.
Phones should be switched off, mailbox should be signed out from, and all electronic devices should be turned off and probably hidden! And for heaven’s sake let technology not invade your 3 personal rooms- bedroom, bathroom, and dining room. And yes, once you really-really-really go on a vacation, you will see how recharged you feel coming back to work.
Summary: Today, most knowledge workers are putting in long days at work. Sometimes even skipping their critical sleep to beat deadlines. But how much of that is good work? Sleep- a primal human necessity is required for your cognitive functions and creative solutions. How can you as a leader attain highest performance levels if you are compromising on your sleep? If you aspire to be a STAR leader then you have to know how to disconnect from technology and reconnect with yourself. And two ways of disconnecting from work is by prioritizing your personal life and going on a holiday. After all, working round the clock will never be the answer if efficiency is your end goal. #BeTheStar