“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”- Sydney J Harris
Last week I have shared with you why it’s my belief that taking a break from your routine will be the smartest personal and professional investment you can make in your busy life. This time around I will show you what to expect from a time away. Why? The time to refresh, reflect and reconnect with the exciting future you can share is by far the highlight, it provides uninterrupted time to carefully reflect on whom you need to become and your contribution moving forward. What are the main learnings and benefits from this time?
1. DISTANCE– To create a healthy disconnect with the past.
Transitioning and re-engineering anything takes time and effort. It also takes wisdom, courage, grace, humility, perseverance and flexibility from everyone included in the process. This isn’t just a leader-centric experience; the whole team experiences it. This could be at work, home or in business. That said, there is a unique role for a leader to take a specific position to hold to, based on the discernment and convictions that they hold. In doing so, a leader experiences the highs and lows of change. A break allows you the time to freely process the positives, the negatives and everything in between. Having that time and space has allowed one of the most helpful experiences any leaders can have, PERSPECTIVE. To enjoy a healthy distance from the recent past so you can lead to a healthy, positive, bright future is a critical lesson from a break.
2. PERSPECTIVE– To reflect more deeply for on what matters most.
As previously noted perspective is a vital leadership currency. Executing a game plan is more challenging in the trenches than it is in the “war room.” Time away from the day-to-day demands of leadership. One of my favourite cities in the world is New York City. Don’t ask me to explain why I have loved that city for years. Life on the street is very different to life on top of the Rockefeller Centre and it’s different again from a helicopter up and down the west side of Manhattan or from the ferry back from Lady Liberty. The difference is PERSPECTIVE. When you can see clearly, you can see further. When you can see further what is in front of you makes more sense. Perspective serves the future because it puts it in context, gives it meaning and invites the energy to make it happen.
3. TRANSFORMATION- To have resource and energy to focus on personal development.
This lesson is a two-sided coin. One of my highest value lessons at this moment is personal responsibility. I am learning that you and I are ultimately responsible for the outcomes we have. Whether we like them or not and a time away allows the two dimensions of leadership to play out. The role of SELF-leadership and the reason WHY you’re leading. As any type of leader, this is a delicate paradox. Too much focus on self is unhelpful and difficult to justify when the ones that follow you do not see the benefit in doing so. And, if you and I aren’t in a healthy place as a leader we cannot carry the responsibilities we have forward as well as we hope. A break serves this process because it allows you to focus on yourself for a purpose. Similarly to a car, you focus on its health and longevity because of what you intend it to do. The better you look after it the more it can produce. To reflect, pray, consider, think, decide and act are all healthy parts of self-leadership. To do these things with a clear answer to the questions “For what purpose?” is even better.
4. CLARITY- To decide what goes on the “not to do” list.
Made famous by Jim Collins the “not to do list” is a list that lives in many organisations that declare our intentions to stay focused and disciplined in the pursuit of our preferred future. That’s really hard work in my experience. And I think I’m average at best when it comes to a, not to do list. I see opportunity everywhere, I make decisions based on possibility, not resources, I think through events and environments based on what COULD be not what is. That makes a not to do list hard. And they are still critical. A break provides the room to really, really, really consider what is mission critical. It creates the distance between activity and revelation. A break stokes the fire of courage to make the necessary changes when you return. As I experience it, a team does this better than one leader. You need a team around you with opinions and insights and convictions that help shape that list then hold you accountable to it. Jim Rohn got it right when he said: “each of us needs all of us.”
5. VISION- To think harder about what to be and do in the future.
Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion. Think of it this way. Activity – Action = Assessment Having time away from activity and action allows time for assessment. How are things really? How are our families? Our teams? Our staff? What is the quality of the most important relationships in your life? In addition to those questions, you get to reflect and do some work on the following insights. What specifically is God calling us to be? Who am I called to be? Where are our brightest opportunities? What are our biggest obstacles? How do we develop people to serve and influence in ALL spheres of life? What’s preventing us from growing? If we made only THREE changes in the next season what would they be? A break creates the space to think about your “being” and not just your “doing.” It invites you to make the meaningful important again and assess how everything lines up with what your convictions are and what your direction is.
6. PREPARATION- To take the time to articulate the next best steps.
The purpose of unplugging for a period of time is actually, to plug back in. To return with a clear sense of what to do next is essential for any leader. In my earlier post 6 Reasons To Have A Break I talk about the danger of overload on return. Now that you have returned it should be an exercise in sharing what the experience has made clear and then submitting it to our core leadership team to be rigorous around what happens when. Lean into your team, your board, your management team, whoever is your key decision makers to discern and decide what happens when to who and how it gets communicated. Be clear, be courageous. Your next steps are important ones.
7. FAMILY- To invest significant amounts of time into the most important relationships.
Of all the roles a leader has. Of all the roles I have, the role of husband and father tops the list. A break provides the time and space to employ the “be with” factor. You get time to go to sleep and wake up every day as a family unit. You get to share memories, friendships and sights together. You learn new words and phrases. You see a big world. You laugh, you cry, you have all the important little moments between the big activities. You have unhurried conversations with your spouse. You are fully present (I hope) to them and as attentive as possible to what was happening to them, not just with them.
There are many ways to make a break work in your world. When you do I trust you experience some of these things and they serve you as you serve others. If you have any amazing sabbatical stories please share them with us in the comments section.