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Posted by on Jun 2, 2011

The Energizer Bunny of Leadership

I don’t know if it’s running anymore, but there used to be a great ad campaign for Duracell batteries that featured the Energizer Bunny. This wind-up rabbit would parade through the scene, beating a drum and just kept going and going and going.

That was the point. The bunny, fueled by the batteries, kept going and going and going.

Starting to sound familiar? Maybe hit close to home?

Here’s a contrast to consider. Today I was on a conference call hearing about a particularly fascinating leadership development topic (the stages of adult development), while an email came in from a colleague attending a conference, where she was having a great time, learning lots and feeling good. She called it awesome.

Many leaders we work with report never having the chance, or to be more accurate, taking the opportunity to step back from going and going and going to restore, refresh, rejuvenate and re-engage themselves. And a week in Cancun once every 365 days doesn’t cut it or count – it has to be more regular than that.

Many leaders I’ve worked with report endless days, inhaling their lunches at their desks, multi-tasking during meetings (which means only partial attention and impaired focus – sorry to tell you), not taking vacation days, thinking about work while talking to their kids, checking email right before going to sleep and right when waking up.

They are clinically burned out. (It is amazing how much information you can glean within a fraction of a second when sitting down to coach someone. Always good to check out and validate, but people who are burned out usually look it, and are usually pretty immediate about admitting it. The body never lies, as Martha Graham said.)

This blog could go on for many pages describing the deleterious effects of all this — most notably, crowding out time for reflection — but I’d prefer to make the pitch. You decide if it works and is worth it.

I believe it is really important for leaders – and everyone else, actually – to intentionally set aside time to renew and restore. I don’t care if it’s learning about something that excites you, working the lathe in your basement woodshop, walking in a nature preserve, volunteering, gardening, cooking a really nice meal, singing, or anything else. The key is that your emotions will tell you if whatever you are doing is helping you to balance the work ship, which is dangerously close to capsizing for many people I know.

I’m also not going to go into the brain and body benefits this brings to work, let alone your life and relationships. Instead, I’m just going to ask you to give it a shot. What is something that fascinates you that you would love to be able to do? What really stands in the way? Could it be your priorities?

I once coached a client who decided to haul his bicycle out of deep storage, clean it up and ride. Somewhere along the way he rediscovered himself.

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