John was an incredible leader, but he worked long hours, missed his kids growing up, and often found himself at the office far later than even the cleaning people. His boss had the same working style and consistently contacted him after hours on his phone with whatever was the fire drill of the day. It was a habit and a lifestyle he was used to and he just thought that was the way it worked when you wanted to get ahead. Those he worked with respected him and admired his dedication but often reminded him to make sure he had a life and he even heard it come out of his boss’s mouth a time or two, but he just wasn’t sure how to do that. Then one day it hit him that it was football season and he’d really like to just relax and watch a game… maybe even unplug.
Now, not every male leader loves football and rest assured, there are women who like football and many a Contagious Leader who I know to be an avid sports fanatic. That, despite the title, is not what this is about.
One weekend, John decided to take a break, shut off the phone, ignore his emails on a Sunday, and sit down with his son to enjoy a Dallas Cowboys football game. (I’m from Texas, work with me here on the team!) He enjoyed himself immensely, finally felt he could cross “have a life” off his list, and was actually proud of himself for following through on his need to unplug. He arrived Monday more refreshed than he’d been in a long time and met his boss first thing upon his stroll down the hallway to his office. You can guess what he was met with and as the story unfolds, his boss fussed at him for not being available to share a report on that Sunday and put enormous pressure on him to get it done right away first thing that morning. All the pride, the rest, and the feelings of accomplishment dissipated and he felt as if he’d let his boss down, missed the deadline he didn’t know was expressed on a Sunday “urgent” email and immediately reminded himself that having a life was not how it worked. Hmmmm…. Is that really the message we mean to send to our leaders?
It’s impossible to tell the team members you lead, as a Contagious Leader, that they must have a life, out of one side of your mouth, and expect them to be on 24 hours a day, from the other side of that same mouth. Either you respect their need to recharge or you don’t. Either you recognize that a career, however fulfilling it might be, is only one part of someone’s existence, or you don’t. Do you contradict yourself when you communicate this expectation? Do YOU set boundaries for yourself and those you lead in this arena or do you blend the boundaries of what you wish you could “let” them do and what you feel you must.
Contagious Leaders connect with those they lead and find a way to give them the room they need to lead not only their own lives, but the teams they’re in charge of and the projects. A deadline delivered on a Sunday might be necessary in some cases, but if it’s the norm and you’re demanding 24 hour availability of those you lead, then don’t be surprised when they roll their eyes next time you say “you have to have a life” or bring in a trainer to say the same. In some cases, you have to help them have that life, by leaving them alone long enough to enjoy it.
Football wasn’t to blame for this failed project, the leader’s fumble in dropping the ball of respecting the life of those he led was. Is that the kind of leader you aspire to be?
Want more information or need help?
Go to www.ContagiousCompanies.com and click on Contagious Communication™ or Contagious Leadership™ training and tools. There you will find resources to boost your clear and consistent communication to those you lead and information on training provided for more effective leadership. Maybe it’s time for a Contagious Leadership™ or Contagious Communication™ training class before 4th quarter kicks into high gear?