Crunch times are inherently difficult. Budgets are tight, headcount is shrinking and deadlines are reducing. The context of working in today’s world is also increasing in complexity. We operate in a time where disruption and transformation is the norm, corporate crises continue to exist resulting in increased focus by the regulator. For a leader, crunch times also create significant moments of exposure: they are where you succumb or succeed.
I recently ran a series of workshops for leaders to develop leadership action plans in their respective contexts. What emerged during these workshops was the issue of self-care: a need for time to themselves. As part of this, the leaders also reconnected with a belief in themselves. A belief that by recommitting to themselves and purposefully taking time for themselves in a day that was already bursting at the seams, they could be the leader they wanted to be.
Then reality set in. Changing their behaviours to live their new world was going to be hard.
Behaviour change is hard: especially when the risk of cognitive overload is high. When the brain is under pressure being provided with large amounts of new information to process, it struggles to connect and make sense of it. So it stalls. It’s kind of like when a sticker has been peeled on and off so many times it loses its tac. In the case of the brain, these stickers are called ‘schemas’, and when the brain is in cognitive overload the schemas don’t have the ability to adhere to each other. Sustained behaviour change becomes incredibly tough.
I would like to offer 2 ways to recommit to yourself that won’t add to your cognitive load:
* KISS. Simplify, simplify, simplify: focus your time and energy on activities that matter. On the people that matter. Spend 2 minutes reminding yourself of your purpose and the legacy you’d like to leave as a leader. Then scan your calendar and cancel or push activities back that don’t serve you. It sounds harsh, but your time, your energy - your value - shouldn’t be compromised.
* Embed in your routine moments of self-care: figure out what works for you and stick to it. Make it like brushing your teeth - a habit. Make it small, attach it to an existing part of your routine. It can be as simple as going to the bathroom before every meeting you have in the day - whether you need to or not. Give yourself 3 minutes alone to re-centre yourself, listen to the chorus of your favourite song, so you can have the presence and impact you want to when you show up.
It’s your special sauce: your combination of soy and wasabi that makes your sushi stand out. It’s the incremental strategies like these that give you the edge and provide you the energy and confidence to make sure you succeed during crunch times.
What’s your special sauce?
About Alena: Alena works with leaders and their teams to connect technical and leadership skills so they can deliver to deadline without killing their people. She is a mentor, trainer, facilitator and coach. Contact her today on firstname.lastname@example.org