Tag Archives: Family

Lead Yourself – Take A Break

I have recently returned from 6 weeks leave, including a month with my family traveling in the West Coast of the United States. Apart from the obvious joy in spending time with my wife and daughters, a few other important observations reminded me of the importance of stepping away from the day-to-day roles I have.

CoachStation: My Girls in Hollywood Taking a break and removing yourself from the routines and ‘busyness’ of the modern daily grind is more important than ever. This topic is quite relevant at the moment, particularly in Australia as the school holidays are on and many of us are just returning to work after a break over the Christmas and New Year period. Making change to your lifestyle does not have to be a New Years resolution, which may not be sustained over time, but should derive from a level of self-awareness about what is working well for each of us and recognition/action around areas that could be improved. Beyond holidays, the period when returning to work from a holiday is a good time to refocus efforts on how to operate during the day whilst at work, at home and other times. This focus minimises the risk of burn-out and the expectation that holidays and extended breaks are to be the restoration ‘catch-all’ that they often need to be.

British researcher Scott McCabe noted that vacations’ personal benefits have been found to include: rest and recuperation from work; provision of new experiences leading to a broadening of horizons and the opportunity for learning and intercultural communication; promotion of peace and understanding; personal and social development; visiting friends and relatives; religious pilgrimage and health; and, subjective wellbeing. The benefits of vacations extend to family relationships. An international group of researchers led by Purdue University Xinran Lehto concluded that family vacations contribute positively to family bonding, communication and solidarity. Vacations promote what is called the “crescive bond” (in sociological parlance, a “shared experience”) by fostering growing and enduring connections. Shared family memories and time spent together isolated from ordinary everyday activities (school, work, and so on) help to promote these positive ties. Though family vacations can have their own share of stress, the benefits outweigh the risks. (1) The disconnection afforded from a vacation can help us relieve stress, improve mood, and see the bigger picture. The anticipation of an upcoming vacation can boost well-being for up to eight weeks prior to the trip, according to a 2010 study in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life. (2)

It is not only the type of break that a vacation or extended holiday provides that has benefit. How we operate during the day has a marked effect also. One of the core goals this year is to better utilise my time and how I apply breaks each day so that there is less of a ‘need’ to look forward to or expect that my holiday time is going to perform the miracle of restoring my energy and offer a period of relaxation that re-energises me. Discovery has shown me that this is unlikely based on experience – how I manage my time and energy every day has a much more significant impact on my resilience, tolerance and patience. It does not work if I wait for this balance to occur during a holiday, so a focus on how I operate daily provides a more sustainable, effective mindset. The alternative is like a short-term sugar high…the effect is short-lived and non-sustainable.

Though breaks might seem counterproductive, they’re more important than ever in the 24/7 workplace of constant connectivity and non-stop streams of email. We’re constantly checking and updating our email, Twitter and Facebook in addition to the other work we’re doing, and frequently we forgo real breaks in favor of cyber-loafing or Facebook-updating. There’s no way to perform at your highest level without allowing time for rest. Over long periods of working, the brain uses up oxygen and glucose, its primary form of energy. (2)

My most recent holiday was outstanding for many reasons whilst it also provided an opportunity to reflect on other aspects of my life. During this period I recognised the areas that could be improved even further related to the lifestyle, holidays and choices that assist to make the difference for myself, my business and my family. Some of these may be of relevance to you:

  1. A family or group holiday provides the opportunity to reconnect with those who are most important to you. This may sound obvious but you have to spend time with others to ensure the rich relationships that have been developed over time remain strong.
  2. The inverse of point 1, it is as important to ensure you take some time for yourself. This should be part of your normal rhythm at any time and matters just as much when on holidays when you are often trying to fit in as much as possible as it does during the normal routines of everyday life.
  3. Related to point 2, the ability to ‘switch off’ and focus on the now, even when on holidays provides a level of balance. I am fascinated by the brain and its workings. We continue to learn more about how the brain works and recent research reinforces the importance of neuroplasticity and mindfulness – keeping the brain active through varied and challenging actions and focusing on the current, at its most simplistic level.
  4. Schedule social media commitments. There are many tools available that allow you to ‘pre-schedule’ your social media activities to ensure you are able to switch off but maintain a presence and consistency on social media. This is important for me as I have worked hard to develop a web presence, so the idea of taking a month off and not maintaining some contact is counter-intuitive, however by using Hootsuite as I do, I was able to maintain an overview presence during the month without taking much out of my holiday time at all.
  5. Ensure that the wonders that are provided through modern technology are used to your advantage, not disadvantage. For instance, it could be easily argued that email and mobile are as big a time-waster and hindrance as a benefit. Of course, how they are used has a major impact either way, like many things in life.
  6. The need for a full and restful sleep is an imperative. Being a light sleeper means that I have to be conscious of getting the right length and depth of sleep. This has an immediate impact on my energy levels, motivation for exercise and tolerance.
  7. The need for holidays with family; my wife and I only; and short breaks for us an individuals each provide benefits and fulfillment.

Taking holidays and breaks regularly are important. I have always been surprised by those people who accrue their leave over many years, rarely taking a break, although ironically they are often the people who most need a break in my experience. How we function day-to-day is as important as when and how often we take a holiday. These are choices that require focus and attention which has been brought to life for me in recent weeks…what do you need to work on?

(1)  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201006/the-importance-vacations-our-physical-and-mental-health

(2)  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/19/youve-been-taking-breaks-_n_4453448.html

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Leadership Starts Early…Real Early

I love my family. I am very proud of my three daughters. I am also pleased that my wife, Julie, and I (almost always!!!) share a similar view on raising our girls. Like any parents, we want our girls to be healthy, happy and able to cope with the many challenges life offers, whilst maximise the joy in their lives, now and in the future. Julie and I set high standards. We are consistent. We love our girls. We lead…and we are developing our daughter’s accordingly.

Leadership is not a title…it is a series of attitudes, developed skills and related actions. Julie and I discuss values with our daughter’s, particularly as our eldest, Maddy, is about to turn 10 – I do wonder where that decade has gone? We do not take this all for granted, regularly assessing and re-assessing where we are at in our relationships and development of our girls.

But we cannot do it ourselves. We are so very fortunate to have a great family support network who are always there for us and share our pains and joys. We are also grateful for the school that Maddy and our middle daughter, Charlotte (and as of next year, Brianna) attend. I am particularly excited to see the emphasis on broader development of each child, including spirituality, respect, resilience, and other values.

Tonight I read the St. Andrews school newsletter and I felt compelled to share a segment with you, as it is so enlightening to see the focus on leadership and related elements at a learning institution dedicated to primary school aged children.

Each year the school focuses on a theme, which for 2012 is ‘Step Up and Shine’. The opening few paragraphs from this week’s newsletter summarise the objective and context nicely:

At the parent teacher night we again touched on the fact that our theme for this year is “Step up and Shine” and framed that theme under the banner of our leadership for the good of our children leadership. We also established that good leaders are very good story tellers. The challenge for us all is to step up and lead for good and be a good example for our children. In order to be a good leader you need to be aware of and be able to show witness via an understanding of three key points. These key points are as follows:

  1. Know who you are and what you believe in.
  2. Know who the organisation (school) is and what that organisation (school) stands for.
  3. Know that actions speak louder than words when you are witnessing to your own values and the organisation’s (school) charter/values/goals.

Stepping up and shining can be easy when you take these into account as you develop and strengthen the right relationships in your own family, your school family and the wider community.

John – School Principal

My Girls: Leadership Starts Early

What a wonderful message! The consistency in how we wish to raise our girls and that supported by our school gives me a lot of faith that we will all see the benefit of preparing tomorrow’s adults today, with a well-rounded attitude and set of values. Wanting the best for our children is one thing. Providing it is another point completely. It is a joint effort – the community, family, school and us as parents all have a part to play.

There are parallels in this message for us as adults, employees and certainly as leaders. When was the last time you revisited your core values, relationships and beliefs? Do we take the time to focus on what is important to us? How aligned are you to those things you once considered most important?

Maybe it is time to take stock. Maybe it is time to Step Up and Shine!

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Filed under Culture, Leadership