Why Leaders Require Time for Recovery
On my 40th birthday, I proudly ran exactly 3 miles and promptly hung up my running shoes. That is, until fifteen years later when my daughter suggested we do something fun together. I envisioned a girl’s trip. She was thinking marathon. My daughter’s idea won out.
Well not exactly. She signed up for a marathon. I agreed to do a half. Which was exactly 10.1 more miles than I had ever run in my life.
I was daunted by the idea of running that far, especially at my age (you do the math😊). So, in my typical pattern, I read. I researched. I joined a running group. And yes, I began to run.
We both accomplished what we set out to do. Nicole completed 26.2 and I did my 13.1. Funny thing is that ended up completing over fifteen half-marathons after that, much to my surprise.
Throughout all that training and all those races, I learned a lot about running and about myself. One of the most important lessons I learned was the importance of recovery when you are pushing your body and mind to do something difficult.
The expert training plans I followed were insistent that after a few days of training hard that you schedule a day of recovery. A day of rest. A day of no running or strengthening, that allows your muscles and body a chance to heal and come back stronger.
I also found out the hard way that not providing time for recovery led to many things no one wanted: injury, a lessening of overall performance, and not being able to reap the reward of all that hard work.
Recovery days enable muscles to heal. They provide a mental break. They replenish your store of energy, stamina, and focus. Even though it seems you are doing “nothing”, your body and brain are silently doing all this in the background. Your job is merely to create the space and time for your body to recover.
It strikes me as odd that as much as we use sports analogies to parallel business performance, I’ve yet to hear much about the need for recovery in business and leadership. I think it is time we have that conversation.
Leading has many parallels to endurance sports. There are new challenges daily. Some are routine; some are not. Some have relatively easy solutions; some do not. Some challenge our analytical and problem-solving skills; others our emotional and social skills.
When, as leaders, we don’t allow for recovery, a host of counter-productive things occur:
- Our critical thinking skills diminish
- Our ability to empathize lessens; we can become short, rude, and self-focused
- Our creative and problem-solving skills abandon us (our brain is in stress/survival mode and we lose cognitive ability in these areas)
- Our physical health is compromised
I could list a few more, but why? Any one of these outcomes is enough to have us take our recovery seriously.
Showing up our best as a leader means we are intentional about recovery. That we take time and focus to restore and replenish. We can recover in both little ways and big ways by doing things like:
- Taking short breaks throughout the day
- Eating regularly
- Eating well
- Sleeping at least six hours a night
- Having at least one day a week in which you disengage totally from work
- Using mindfulness techniques to learn to “turn off” that constant mental chatter
- Practicing being in the moment more often
- Stepping out of the day to day for longer periods regularly
There was another thing I learned about training hard, taking time to recover, and then going back to it. You are stronger and more resilient after recovery. It is the exertion or stress, followed by the healing that results in higher levels of performance.
Keep pushing past your limits and you crash and burn. Know when to stop and recover and you build capacity, endurance, and reliance.
Recovery has worked for me in training for half-marathons. It also works for me in business, leadership, and other stressful situations. I step away. I breathe, rest, and take care of my mind and body. I return to that same situation more relaxed, more focused, more energetic, more creative, and better equipped to successfully solve the problems at hand.
Creating spaces where leaders can recover and reclaim their focus and energy is something I’m both passionate about and skilled at. This is why I’m excited to announce Evergreen Leadership Retreats.
I’m offering four different retreat options depending on your team’s needs:
- The Reset Retreat — which is focused on recovery, renewal, and refocusing
- Our Higher Purpose Retreat — which provides your team a space to tap into passion, and unify around a common purpose
- The Harmonic Team Retreat — focused on teamwork, trust, and relationship building
- A Questions Only Retreat — where you can explore, create and empower