My husband and I are planning to run a half-marathon (13.1 miles) in Nashville in April. We’ve been training consistently for the past month and a half to get ready for the race. We run three short runs (3-5 miles) during the week (every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday) and do our long runs (6 miles or more) every Saturday. Wednesdays and Fridays are generally busy days at work. The schedule is perfect, because although we do have short runs back-to-back, we never have two days in a row with long runs. I would never think to run two long runs back-to-back. First of all, my feet would be killing me! My pace, and therefore, my times, would be really, really bad, and that would be depressing. But most important – my body needs time to recover – and it wouldn’t be getting that.
Thank goodness for Sunday – our rest day. The day when my body gets to recover…to restock nutrients, rebuild muscles, and reset itself. Without it, I’d likely see far less improvement in my running than I have now. I might even face burnout or injury. And while you may not be training for a half-marathon, you can treat your work in much the same way. You need both work and recovery time built into your schedule. Don’t just run from one project to the next without stopping.
I know there’s a temptation to run wide open all the time. You likely have more work to do than you can say grace over. Everyone needs you and your input. There’s always one more project to tackle. But putting on the brakes can be good for you. Without that pause, your quality will suffer. If it hasn’t already…
As a manager, leader, project coordinator, (insert any job title here), you need time to recover from your “work sprints.” Did you just hit “send”, submitting a 30-page report to a funder? You need a rest day. Did you finally push through to the end of a 28-day legal trial? You need a rest. Have you closed out an amazing in-person conference for the first time in two years? Rest, my child, rest.
While the temptation to move right into the next project is strong, resist it. Give your brain and body time to reset. All projects require flow, focus, and renewed energy if you’re going to do a good job on them. Before taking on anything new, take a real break – not just a coffee break.
I’m a better runner by building recovery time into my schedule. You will be a better team leader, team member, or team contributor if you build this in, as well. Recovery time won’t be the same for everyone. For some of us, it may just need to be a day – but for others we may need to apply the brakes and not take on any complex task or NEW projects for at least 48-72 hours. It depends on YOU and your rhythms and your recovery. Maybe on recovery days, you are de-cluttering your office, reading that book you ordered three months ago and never skimmed, or perhaps you are just being still without any meetings on your calendar? Whatever it is…make sure you do it. Quality matters and we can’t produce high quality work if we are always pushing forward without taking time for recovery.
I want to be wiser this year than last year. Wisdom is something I suspect we all are probably seeking. Something happened recently that made me think about how I develop wisdom.
While walking though the Redwood National Park in California this past week, I couldn’t stop looking up. Staring in wonder, I saw massive trunks rising over 300 feet into the sky, with green leaves and branches stretching toward the clouds. The redwood trees are massive, old, and utterly unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Some of the trees in this National Park are over 2,000 years old, and even the most common, relative youngsters are over 500-600 years old. That’s a time frame I find it hard to wrap my brain around. And I submit, we can learn from these ancient trees.
I was shocked to discover that these massive, ancient trees have a very shallow root system of only 10 to 12 feet. How can this be? How can such an apparently tiny foundation support something taller than the Statue of Liberty? I learned that these trees create an interconnected web of roots with other trees that extends for hundreds of feet. You see, not one redwood tree stands by itself. Each towering tree depends on other trees around it. These trees – that have survived earthquakes, fires, droughts, floods, good seasons and bad seasons – live in a family of trees supporting one another.
I believe we all can take a lesson from the redwood tree and spend less time growing vertical roots (on our own) and invest our energies in nurturing our horizontal roots. We need a family of partners, organizations, and friends to survive and thrive in both good and bad times. Let’s focus on strengthening our horizontal roots to be hundreds of feet long. It won’t happen overnight, and we must be intentional about developing those strong connections. That can be a challenge because we are living in a time of disconnectedness. But you and your organization will be breathtaking when you’re linking hands, time, and energies with one another. Beauty comes in our connectedness. So be like the towering redwoods and send out those roots. Because we are wiser, together.
A number of transitions have happened this year and it’s only the beginning of 2023. This past week Tom Brady announced he is retiring (for real) and Dr. Phil McGraw is saying goodbye to the “Dr. Phil” show. A good friend of mine is considering some big questions and decisions about moving. And, whether they wanted to or not, over 46,000 tech workers are saying goodbye to their jobs this year. Some of these may have been planned transitions and some may have been emergency transitions. But regardless, transitions happen.
Organizations that continue to do well will pay attention to leadership transitions. And a crucial part of that is a well-defined job description for the leader. You’d be surprised how many founders of organizations do not even have a job description. Don’t join them.
I want all of you to revisit your job description and really look at it. Update your current responsibilities. Some may not have changed at all. Other responsibilities may not make sense any longer. You may not even recognize what was written…where did that come from?? More important, you probably have responsibilities now that simply didn’t exist a few years ago. (Leading Zoom conferences, anyone?)
Carve out some time to think deeply about your job description. What exactly do you do? What do you do that no one else does? What are you responsible for that someone else could handle? What technical and social skills are essential to your success? These are all vital details to the health and longevity of your organization. No one can help with leadership transitions without a clear understanding of exactly what you are responsible for and bring to the table. And because we all know that change is inevitable, revisit and update your job description every two years. Make this a habit.
Next,have a conversation with other leaders on your team or your Board of Directors and talk about the future and what certain scenarios could hold. After all, no leader stays forever. What is the vision for the organization moving forward in the next three to five years? What kind of leader is needed for where the organization is headed? Difficult question…are you that leader? If not, do you know what that new leader will need to look like? It’s highly probably the skills needed to lead the organization 15 years ago are not the skills needed in 2023 and beyond. I know that it’s hard to swallow – but just as your business has evolved, the type of leader and team members that are essential have likely evolved as well. It’s so much better to deal with these questions proactively than to face a crisis of leadership later on.
Don’t kick these two steps down the road. They’re that important.