As the Irish economy slowly (or quickly depending on the nature of your industry or sector) emerges from recession I have had a number of conversations lately with business owners and CEOs about the challenges they face in managing growth and opportunity.
Naturally enough people are both delighted and relieved to be experiencing movement in a positive direction. However, in the same conversations people have also been talking to me about the pressures of coping with increased economic activity. Workforce retention, demands on time, making sure clients continue to be treated well and the pressure to capitalise on a positive economic outlook all mean that many business owners and senior leaders in companies haven’t had time to draw breath between making it through the recession and re-embarking on a growth footing.
We’ve all sat through the safety presentation on a plane prior to take off and taken in the message that in the unlikely event of an emergency we should attach our own oxygen masks first before tending to others around us. This is sound advice that we can readily understand in the context of an emergency situation but looked at again from the perspective of our everyday lives I wonder how many business owners and managers are currently putting the welfare, health and development of others ahead of themselves?
In conversation with a particular CEO recently I was told that one of their goals for 2016 between managing work and family life was to take a bit more time for themselves. In the previous three years they had ricocheted from one challenge to the next almost non-stop and a recent manifestation of this commitment had been for them to take a day off to attend a seminar on a topic completely removed from their day job. It sounded to me like they had thoroughly enjoyed a day of down time in which they had been able to switch off and unplug from everything. They said that they would like to do some more things like this if they could justify it this year. In this instant I picked up on a classic challenge common to a lot of leaders, managers and people in positions of responsibility – the feelings of guilt that often come with being selfish. When I say selfish I’m really referring to things like putting yourself first for a change, doing something that might only have significance and meaning for you or simply giving consideration to what might be of help or benefit to you without feeling bad about it.
Why is it that CEOs, managers and business owners find it so hard to justify taking time out? It may have something to do with the fact that taking time out without a specific purpose in mind can be seen as self-indulgent, a waste of time or simply swinging the lead. Worse still, how can a responsible, caring and conscientious boss take a break when they see others around them working so hard?
Yet when we do stop we give ourselves the opportunity to dial down the noise, pace and pressure and to get perspective on our actions, plans and the challenges that are on our desk. We also if we’re willing, get the chance to ask ourselves bigger questions about why we do what we do, our current behaviours and habits and whether they are serving us well. Another benefit of really switching off is to allow ourselves the space to recharge and reenergise which can have a huge ripple effect on those around us.
It can be something as simple as the example described above or it might be something more focused on helping us gain clarity on our thoughts, strategies and emotions. Whatever it might be, if we can overcome the feelings of guilt then I think we can all find value in stopping every once in a while and giving ourselves space for quality reflection.