Leaders need downtime too

I recently communicated with the CEO of a large credit union, who held his executives’ need for time away from the office sacred. While I’ve encountered many CEOs in my time who understood the importance of rest and recovery, this CEO understood this need at a different level. He knew that to function well, these leaders – these humans – needed complete downtime to impact at an elevated level in 2024.

Here are two sets of tips for leaders during the holidays. The first is for those who have scheduled time off. The second is for those working in the office – managing while everyone else is away.

Tips for those taking time off:

  • Set intentions around work emails and texts. As you go into your vacation, it’s easy to “just check” work emails and texts. We spend so many of our waking hours at work; it’s easy to want to know what’s happening when we’re out. Repeatedly. Don’t. Set a specific time when you will or won’t check or respond to emails or texts and be clear with your boss and/or direct reports ahead of time (e.g., I will not be on email during my time off. I will only check email every other day or every three days at 9 p.m.). Find what works for you.
  • Be present in the moment. Fa-la-la can also bring its stressors. Coincidentally, being away from work can be stressful. Give yourself grace. Take it day by day. Families and sometimes extended families are not accustomed to being around one another 24/7, so it’s not surprising that you may want to go into a room and just respond to a few emails to feel more like yourself. Try to resist the urge. Ask yourself, what could I do right now that would lead to connection?
  • Some high-achieving leaders need help finding an off-switch. The idea of resting is as uncomfortable as a rushed exam. Take the time to breathe. Think about what you’ve learned in 2023. Even if you don’t nap, just stop, and contemplate all that you’ve accomplished in the past year.
  • Share gratitude. When we have time, we are more apt to be able to take stock and feel gratitude for what’s transpired throughout the year and share gratitude for all those who have supported us through our journeys. Take advantage of this.

Tips for those working through the holidays:

  • Enjoy the quiet. It won’t be quiet everywhere, but leaders often enjoy solace when working in the office during the holiday season. There are usually fewer meetings and a chance of tackling projects and even filing that usually can’t happen.
  • Enjoy a real lunch. Have lunch with a colleague and take a peer or direct report out to lunch. We’re often so rushed that we’re gobbling lunch while working at our desk. Use this time to be present and reflect on the year over lunch with someone from work. Ask them what they’re proud of and what they’re looking forward to in 2024.
  • Take stock of your accomplishments. Whether your credit union has annual reviews and ongoing coaching sessions with your boss, be sure to take a moment and write down personally what you feel are your top three areas of growth this year. (If you’re on vacation, do this when you return). Example:
    1. I’ve become more self-aware when I interrupt someone and now am a better active listener.
    2. My emails have improved; they are shorter and demonstrate more curiosity and collaboration.
    3. I’m learning to engage in healthy conflict more often instead of staying silent and not speaking my opinions. As a result, I’m less passive-aggressive.
  • Purge. Throw out what you have digitally and no longer need. Make space for what is yet to come in 2024.
  • Speak gratitude. Write down two people you’re grateful for this year, and then write them an email letting them know why.

End 2023 with conscious intention. As a leader, you can lead until the end. Whether through rest and recovery or intentionally ending the work year with purposeful action, you will feel ready and charged to enter 2024 with positive resolution.

Deborah Mersino

Deborah Mersino

Principal Consultant Deborah Mersino of Mersino Consulting supports leaders of credit unions and other purpose-driven organizations in growing organizational health and achieving ambitious results. She can be reached at Deborah@... Web: https://mersinoconsulting.com Details