“How Do We Know If Our People Are Tired?”

This was a question of discussion this past week, and I’m sure is something that many leaders are asking themselves.  It’s so much harder to know how your people are doing when they are scattered over Zoom or Teams, and not in your office with you.  It’s also super hard to get an honest answer out of people when the world economy is in turmoil and no one wants to show weakness, lest they lose their job!  The answer we arrived at was “We have to assume that people are tired.  How can they not be after the year we’ve had?”
“Tired” is a completely natural human reaction to the degree of uncertainty and change that we’ve weathered this year.  The mere mental calculation on a daily basis to try and guess at what comes next and reassess when the goal posts move again is exhausting.
Even if you’ve a super strong mindset that’s allowed you to weigh up all the pros gained (less fuel; more time with the kids) vs the cons (not everyone I worked with has a job anymore; home can be isolating) and come out on top, you’re likely to be having to manage your energy considerably better than you normally would have done.
Without realising it, many of us have cut out interactions that drain our energy – whether that’s going to the grocery store less often, not holding conversations with certain people, or getting up an hour later.  We’ve had to make a calculated effort at maintaining our mental and physical health and become more discerning about what we feed our minds with.  All of this is energy management and is indicative of some degree of recognition that our energy isn’t infinite.
Right now, we’re in the last quarter of the year with the Christmas break in sight.  For many, this has provided a welcome spike in energy as we know we only have to power through a few more weeks until year end – because we perceive that at the end of the year we’ll be able to breathe again.
As this time comes around every year, I like to remind the teams I work with that there is a very real and very important personal responsibility looming.  One that will define how the coming year goes for you.  Never has it been more real and important than at the end of this particular year.  This responsibility is attached to the recognition that the Christmas break is, for most, a complete and utter fallacy. 
Rather than the replenishing reset that we try and convince ourselves is coming, the reality is that it’s brief, and filled with less-than-restful goings on.  Whether that’s due to human dynamics (especially family ones), the responsibility of holiday making, or what we tend to put our bodies through in celebration of the year end – “ops normal” during the Christmas period isn’t generally something we come through feeling replenished by.
If you want to arrive in 2021 READY – your responsibility for claiming that readiness starts now, and it starts with you.
It starts with focusing on what you need to get done with in the remainder of this year to be satisfied at the close of business, and to be teed up for the new year ahead.  Doing so allows you to take a mental break without 100 things playing on your mind.
It continues with being clever about allocating the remaining energy you’ve mustered to get those refocused objectives squared away; and with claiming whatever it requires for you to recharge and reboot over the illusively quick Christmas period.
Without us each taking personal responsibility for claiming our reboot and replenishment, we will arrive in January with clouded brains and still-depleted reserves.
Personally, I recommend you offload this year purposefully.  This is an exercise I run with teams in early December that evaluates how this past year has gone.  It’s about pausing to re-evaluate where we’ve been, what we’ve accomplished (or not), and what we’ve hurdled.  Acknowledgement of what this year required from each of us personally and professionally allows us to accept our tiredness as the product of a process, as opposed to some kind of failure.  It is possible to still be positive at the same time as being deeply tired.
What we do not acknowledge sits with us, weighing us down until we have no choice but to pause, identify it and put it down.  Why not do that actively?  Why not acknowledge what this year has cost you, what it has earned you, and what you have recognised and learned through its process?  Why not acknowledge what is done, what is still to do, and what can be done now to be ready and in a position of power for the coming year?
It is your personal responsibility to strategize claiming that readiness, that replenishment.  It is your personal responsibility to put this year down so that you can rest, before picking up again to continue as we turn the corner into what comes next.
Challenge yourself.  Because you are no use to yourself or anyone else if you arrive unprepared at the start of the next race.  And it’s coming.
If you’re one of those people who struggles not to answer emails whilst on leave or holiday – try programming an email autoresponder that advises you’ll be responding to emails only during certain hours and asking people to phone if it’s urgent.  …And then hold yourself (and them) to it!!
If you’re the leader of a team, it is your responsibility to encourage your team to replenish, suggest strategies as to how, and to lead by example!  Help to create a culture that respects those who replenish themselves in the interests of the greater team benefit rather than driving themselves into the ground.  Agree as a team about the ways you’ll re-energise yourselves, and how you can protect each person’s downtime.  This is important at the end of any year – but this year, it may be the difference between early 2021 burnout and the success that drives you through to new heights.
Pause.  Discuss.  Strategize.  Take ownership.

by Christen Killick

November 16th, 2020

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