This topic will be expanded on in my forthcoming book "The Leader's Guide to Resilience" (Pearson & FT, due 2020)
This not a female thing. This is not a male thing. If you are a person who tends to be the one who organises, or who is strategic and logical in project management, who probably has a number of achievements (but most likely doesn't see it that way!!)...this is a you thing.
In a recent, and evermore popular, approach to authenticity in leadership, Soosalu & Oka talk about "mBraining" - Multiple Brain Intergration Techniques...also known as mBIT. Simply the premise is that one is driven by the instinct of:
Survival and self preservation
Impulse and mobilisation to action
In terms of leadership the Head is expressed through creativity, the Heart compassion and the Gut courage.
In an ideal situation, the heart would draw us to what we are passionate about, the head then finds a way to make it work collaboratively and successfully, and the gut makes us brave enough to take the plunge.
What I have recognised in myself, and many of my high-achieving clients and friends is that because the head is so dominant to get you to where you are, it has become the habitual lead, the heart feels "unheard" and the gut finally gives in through illness, self-sabotage, or giving up.
Unmanaged head led behaviour
An example of this comes from my own experience.
My timetable has been reduced this academic year. While this has meant some adjustment financially (head driven, managable and dealt with), it has been something I have wanted for a while (heart). I now have the time to not only put effort into my writing, but to develop training sessions and workshops that I know will be absolutely first rate, rather than "re-hashing" old material and relying on my ability to perform. It is important to note here, similar to you head-led achievers, when I say "rehashing" because of my experience and, well previous achievements, my "rehash" is of a pretty decent standard...in other words - like you it IS possible to "phone it in" and get away with it...and although it doesn't fulfil me, it's the logical thing to do when you're busy!
On gaining that time, I was able to see people I loved (which energised my heart to work harder), and I developed some sessions which, on delivery gave the "mic drop" moment I knew I was capable of. This was month 1.
By month 2, I had a good idea of how to continue to develop sessions - that took up a little less time...but my immediate reaction, rather than say to myself "OK, what else do I really want to do (heart), but couldn't fit in that will enhance my life, or even my career?" I started to feel guilty about the gap in my schedule. After all, seeing friends, or taking some time out from thinking all day - maybe even going for a walk or run - that's not work is it?
So I started trying to fill it with things that to my mind made me feel less "guilty" - helping out neighbours (practical), making the house "just so"/taking on all the errands because I work from home (practical), agreeing to do extra work-related but not directly beneficial tasks to ease the load on others (practical)...and all of that was "nice"...heart right?
That is the head in disguise. These things were fuelled by obligation or guilt not love. And then, when I had set aside time to see people I loved I rushed them, I thought "Oh I should be doing x" and suddenly all the ways I was re-energising and improving my performance had not only gone, but I was probably worse off than before not least because I was doing all these new favours for free!!
Get a visual if you don't believe me!
So I took stock and colour coded my online calendar! I put all the things (and people) I loved in pink; all the things directly related to my work in green; and all the "extra bits" in orange. Green remained the same, but from lots of pink, the orange was beginning to take over.
Immediately I drew back on the orange entries...and within the week of giving myself that space again, I added two greens!
"No" is a complete sentance
If you think others (who you are not close to/who are not related to your work growth) are taking advantage of your time, ask yourself have I set this precedent up?
While I am lucky that my husband was grateful for my doing a little extra at home - he doesn't expect it, never did and never has - and in fact told me to stop because he was capable too!
You don't have to be rude to anyone, but you also don't have to do more than your share. And you absolutely don't have to set yourself up to do it because of a misplaced sense of need to be busy!
Of course - let the "head" work out the bottom line
I'm not telling you to let things slip professionally here either! In my case if I (or someone I cared for) needed me to take on any extra workload to survive (gut) then of course there is a good reason for doing it - love (heart). But in taking on extra because you think you can means you may run the risk of compromising not necessarily your work (don't forget, high achievers can often phone it in), but neglecting or reducing what's really important (heart)...and if you aren't energised even the work, responsibilities or duties you enjoy can become a chore...it's still work, responsibility or duty after all!
If you know you can survive, try to listen to what your heart wants before saying "yes"...or even initiating a task that wasn't there before/yours to do or making things harder for yourself because you're trying to make things better for others including for example, if you know you can do a great job on 3 hours, don't offer 5 just because you think someone needs it from you. You'll resent the extra two hours and your performance may even suffer!
Holistic body, holistic life
It's not easy, but you might even find that listening to your heart helps resolve the tailspin you might have got yourself into:
Is this familiar:
- You want to do something to look after yourself - for me it is meal plan or run to manage my weight
- You would do this, but you're on the go for someone else, so you just eat anything despite knowing it's your anniversary and your spouse was planning a meal, which would have been guilt-free had you just eaten sensibly in the day
- You don't enjoy the anniversary meal as much
- You know you are pretty good at being disciplined, so you'll do it tomorrow
- Tomorrow you're on the go again
- You get really angry with yourself...and your scales are not on your side...and you might even resent your spouse for taking you to that fancy restaurant when they KNOW you're watching your weight!
It's the same with health needs eg physiotherapy, or time out to rest and/or reconnect!
By curating your life - and maintaining that balance between head (bottom line) and heart (energy, joy and love), your gut doesn't drive you to self-sabotage, or give up on yourself.
You are responsible for you - ALL of you
1. Do/wear/see one thing or person that fills your heart with love.
2. Say no to or reduce the time that you've filled through obligation (only you can do this...I tend to make clear arrangements within a set time limit)
3. Share the load with your team (whoever they are, spouse, family, friends, work team etc - as long as your head hasn't led you to controlling down to the minutiae, trust them...they'll rise to the challenge if you let them...and if they falter - help them rather than do it yourself)...and if it has then start small with things you know they can do, and let them do it (even in their way!)
4. Before you say yes (as long as it is not survival related), learn to ask yourself "Do I really want this?" or "By doing this, will I be sacrificing time/energy/patience/money to spend with anyone or anything I truly love?"
Audrey is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), and the author of "The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness" (Pearson & FT series) and "Be A Great Manager - Now" (Pub Pearson, 2016, Book of the Month in WH Smith Travel Stores). She is a CPD Accredited speaker, trainer, and qualified FIRO-B and NLP Practitioner. She is the founding Development Coach and Training Consultant with her training consultancy CLICK Training, and the resident psychologist on The Chrissy B Show (Sky191), the UK's only TV programme dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. She often presents at National and International conferences in the fields of leadership and team cohesion, and is part of the Amity University conference panel. She currently lectures in Personal Development and Mindfulness and offers psychological consultancy in these areas to organisations.