Choose the White Room Over the Padded Room
High performance requires rest. It’s better to create a rhythm of rest than be forced into it by personal crisis.
The best thing you can do for your leadership is create daily rhythms of rest and reflection.
Three minutes of rest:
Rushing from one issue to the next results in fatigue and frustration. Fatigue steals your potential.
You’re never at your best when you’re exhausted.
Disengage before you re-engage.
Take three or four minutes after completing a task to prepare for the next pressing responsibility. Try closing the door to your office or taking a short walk. One person I know, closes the door and turns off the lights.
Set a timer for three minutes and just breathe deeply. Frankly, I get distracted at least two or three times in three minutes. Doing this imperfectly is better than not doing it at all.
“Stop doing” three or four times a day.
The white room:
You feel agitated because you’re focusing on several things at once.
Clear your mind to create focus.
Focus enables you to bring your best self to the current moment. Unfocused leaders always fall below their potential.
Find focus by clearing your mind of distractions. I refocus by imagining a bright white room with a white chair sitting vacant in the middle. I’m prepared for the next task after three or four minutes in the white room.
If you don’t visit the white room, you may end up in a padded room.
Note: It doesn’t matter if you imagine a white room or a waterfall. You’ll be a better leader when you find brief daily rhythms of rest and reflection.
What might leaders do to create rhythms of rest and reflection?
Thank you for this message today Dan, it is just what I needed. Often times I find myself in back to back meetings and conference calls with little to no time to debrief or clear myself before the next meeting. I am going to put this into practice and suggest it to my managers and peers as well. Thanks!
I love this title and the message. Even with my commitment to regular guided meditation I don’t give myself permission to do this multiple times a day, even though I know I will be a better presence for others for it. Thank you for giving me permission through your generous words.
As an aside, there’s a book called “Resonant Leadership” that is somewhat of a next step beyond emotional intelligence for a leader and has this same message; An exhausted leader creates dissonance for his team. Are you familiar with it?
What might leaders do to create rhythms? Schedule a yearly retreat for the purposes of rest, silence, and solitude. Utilize resources in your area and get out of the usual workspaces. E.g., We have a local retreat center that offers spiritual direction or allows you to come in and use the facility (for some things like having a room there is a charge, but other things like using the chapels are by donation) – their stillness chapel is a glorious place!
This is something a leader must do for themselves. Figure out what restores your soul and schedule it in! 🙂
Being a visual person, my first thought was to assemble a set of three or four pictures to use in guiding my momentary “unplugging”….one for each session. I would use one of family, one of something fun that I do (singing barbershop music!), one of a fun social event from my company, and one of an outdoor place that I love (Yosemite). After a while, I might find that I don’t need guidance! Unplugging might naturally occur…when I decide. And, yes, there’s the rub…DECIDING!
Thanks Dan, An interesting topic considering where our leadership team is at right now. We have put a strategic plan in place and we are working on many great things, but we have struggled in setting priorities and managing workload. While we need to take on the bigger challenge of getting organized, taking a few minutes throughout the day to relax and reflect can certainly help.
This is interest to me because it highlights one of the hallmark distinctions between those who are naturally “hardwired” as turnaround leaders and those who are not.
Somewhere between 10% and 15% of the population are natural born change leaders – one real surprise we found in our research is that this portion of the population actually THRIVES on “rushing from one issue to the next” and “focusing on several things at once.” It energizes them. Their stress response (how they behave when their needs or expectations are frustrated) is to begin to lose track of details and to give disjointed communication to their teams.
Another interesting aspect of this issue is that, while they thrive on the chaos of keeping all those plates spinning, they want the rest of the team to be comprised of “one thing at a time” types. It stresses them out when others on the team are too much like them!
(I hope this does not come off as a crass commercial message because that is not my intent. Rather, I want to offer an illuminating counterpoint to think about).
OTOH, if you have a leader who is “one thing at a time” and gets flustered by unexpected interruptions, suddenly new opportunities & etc., they tend to engage in behaviors which actually hinder and attenuate the likelihood of a successful change initiatve in their organizations. Which, by the way, may be behind the reason why, after many decades of research on this issue, more than 70% of all change initiatives in the business world fail.
These “one thing at a time” leaders can be trained to engage in the leadership behaviors of the more effective group. A little bit of CBT and some simple self-management strategies go a long way to helping them learn to juggle the chainsaws.
And – interesting – one very helpful self-management tip we teach is to stand and stare out the window for a few minutes…
Apologies – I wandered a bit off topic.
I use the Techniques you refer to walking away does wonders, allows the brain to refresh, the other option I’m fortunate you have is looking out the window and seeing the mountain beside the office another breath of fresh air! Cheers
A simple and powerful technique. If anyone is interested in exploring this in more detail, you can search on the term “mindfulness” There are articles and studies about the positive impact of adopting mindfulness practices for both individuals and companies.
Thank-you for the reminder Dan… I need to make sure I practice this more.
I feel it’s paramount to look at my weekly schedule and incorporate yoga/pilates into the schedule just like I must work in meetings and appointments, because it is every bit as important. I can’t be at my best for others if I don’t take care of myself. Even stepping outside for a few moments of fresh air can provide the R&R needed before proceeding to the next task at hand.