I love my job, I do.
But it certainly hasn’t been easy being cooped up in a makeshift “work” room trying to inspire people to stay engaged (extra credit to those of you with multiples of colleagues in your charge!).
Leading is by nature fun for those of us lucky enough to have such a job. I’ve always believed that building a team or a business and the processes necessary to get meaningful things done is rewarding. But it is dramatically different trying to lead while sitting alone in front of a screen all day. To me, COVID didn’t nudge us into this way of living; it shoved us, and maybe we weren’t ready.
I’m used to being in a room with my team where we feed off of one another, recharging and rebooting without even realizing it; where there’s an incredible amount of synergy and ideas just happen. I am not a pessimist by nature but I need to acknowledge that I really miss that. Six months later, this is (still!) a struggle. We are collaborators—“collaborating” over Zoom is hard. We are humans, made to move—sitting all day is hard. And we now work in our homes—and there seems to be no clear delineation between work hours and non-work hours.
Some of us are struggling because we’re not used to working this way and if we don’t see it, we don’t trust it. Some of us feel engaged and productive and relish the ability to hang up the phone and go back to our lives without time wasted commuting or at a water cooler talking about the weather. Some of us are having trouble managing if, when, and how to turn off work. On any given day, I can find myself in any one of these categories.
A recent study showed people work more when they work from home. I’m no researcher but I could have told you that. Raise your hand if you get up in the morning, shower and walk into the next room for the next 8, 10, 12 hours and often forget what day it is. Our brains are not meant to be wired in all the time, switching from virtual chats to email to webinars and calls all day without any true detachment. Science tells us it’s actually counterproductive.
So I am committed this month to making some simple changes to my daily routine and to spending more time and energy on the things that matter to me. I am going to read more books, take my dog for longer walks, make more family dinners, get better quality sleep. You know, being a human instead of a robot. The biggest change will be shutting off technology each day at a reasonable hour and trying to be less connected to the computer over the weekend. I’m not suggesting we let go of progress, but this culture of constant work is not always good and healthy. I read recently that our endless pushing is impeding our ability to think creatively and function at our highest levels, and that really stuck with me. Pushing harder and treating ourselves like machines isn’t helping us or our companies.
The last few months are really going to change what things looks like going forward. I think our industry is going to be much more focused on clients, as they continue to change themselves. And it’s up to us to be ready.
Simon Sinek, who we interview in this issue, says in one of his best-selling books, “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.” COVID-19 has taught me that we can’t take care of others or our businesses unless we take care of ourselves. It’s time for leadership to mean something different than beating ourselves up 24/7. “Work-from-home life has been about forgiveness and flexibility,” according to a recent Forbes article. I think that’s right.
Here’s to recalibrating how we lead in our own unique ways in an effort to find new rhythms, renew our creativity and retool our energy—for ourselves and for our organizations.