Over the last couple of weeks I’ve noticed the level of intensity and stress experienced by leaders in finance has increased significantly. The words consistently used are exhausted, stressed, worn out, weary, challenging, fatigued, reduced resilience, crunch time, meeting fatigue…you get the drift.
The other trend that has come through in the many workshops I’ve run recently is that when I ask them the question: “What is the best thing to come out of COVID-19?” the highest polling response is “Time to reflect on what really matters to me.” (And don’t get me wrong, I don’t try and swing the responses, I give a range of responses including, “Nothing - it’s all sucked” as an option.)
A new trend emerging: clarity and chaos
Despite the fact that some of us are in the middle of our financial year-end, and naturally it’s busy - insanely busy - there is an interesting trend emerging.
On one hand we appear to have greater clarity about what matters and on another we are possibly experiencing more stress and chaos than we ever have before.
What’s going on?
Being thrown into the new way of working and living as a result of COVID-19 was a little like having a bucket of cold water thrown over your head on a hot summer’s day. Suddenly things become clear and light and you look at the world with fresh eyes. With those fresh eyes, we (at a subconscious level) become aware of the things we need at work (and at home) in order to be our most productive, most effective and our most fulfilled. You might think - yes I had a gut feel that this is going on. But because the awareness of this at a detailed level happens at a subconscious level, its component parts combined are quite significant on how we operate at work.
Shift our awareness up to the conscious level and yes, we know busy season is challenging. We also know that due to the economic impact of COVID-19 we have had to invest extra time re-running cash flow forecasts, release additional investor notices and meet more as an exec team to continue to monitor the precarious situation we find ourselves in. But at its core, we know that year-end (or half year) is simply part of the job, it extends for a finite period of time, and the reporting has a purpose that we buy-in to.
In short: many of us are struggling to find a connection with what they do (busy season) and why they do it (purpose).
Presence or presence?
Often our interpretation of resilience through year-end is to buckle up, sit up straight and be very tactical about our every thought and move we make. We want to make sure that our level of executive presence doesn’t wane, and that we power through to the signing of those blessed accounts. We operate one day at a time, and keep our fingers crossed that we can maintain the intensity.
But what about simply taking time to ‘be present’? To unbuckle ourselves, to remove the tactical chip from our brain for a moment and just be present to what’s going on. For 10, 15 or 30 minutes of your day. Reconnect with purpose. Ask yourself the following 5 questions:
Why do I get out of bed in the morning?
What is going on that is challenging me?
When I get through this difficult period, will this move me toward my vision?
How do I need to view this challenge in order for me to make sense of it in my broader context?
What conversation will be the most valuable for me to have now?
I wrote an article a long time ago about how feelings give you focus. It’s still true. The additional lens I’m offering here is to consider the impact a renewed or refreshed perspective might provide. A perspective that can only be gained through disconnection and space.
Who knows, it may be exactly the thing you need to find clarity in the chaos.
What else do you need? I’d love to hear...
P.S. By the way, no one selects the option “Nothing - it’s all sucked”. Whilst it is hard right now, as Viktor Frankl says in his book, Man's Search for Meaning, "He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How."