Leader
Splat!
  Learn how
  to rethink,
  and you
  start to
  change.

   --Chris Turner

LESSONS LEARNED FROM HITTING THE WALL

I was sitting in a shuttle, heading from LAX to a conference center when the call came. It was my husband, telling me that his father had just had a heart attack. I didn't need to change my plans just then, or even do anything differently, yet I felt undone. Inside I clearly heard the word "Enough!" And that's exactly how I felt.

We had been expecting a call like this for several weeks, so even though I wasn't surprised, I found myself sinking into internal quicksand. That weekend I'd like to think that no one noticed how disoriented I was. Maybe no one realized that I wasn't really present in conversations. Maybe I even fooled some of the people who came to hear a brilliant presentation and instead heard me start my opening remarks twice because I lost my place. Yes, I made a joke of it, but inside I knew I was in trouble.

That conference was one of the most difficult experiences in my life-and it has produced some of the most fruitful insights. Whenever I could, I spent much of my time alone in my room, trying to sort out what was going on inside, wondering why I wasn't functioning-at all!

Several lessons finally emerged as a result of my encounter with the wall. They were so instrumental in my personal life shifts that I thought they might be of value to others as well.

RESERVES
Reserves are critical, and I was out of them. Reserves are stored time, money and energy that can be drawn upon in times of trouble. Because of my pace over the past three years, I was depleted—spent. One more little thing to deal with put me into the red zone and over the edge. I knew it was time to start rebuilding the reserves in all areas of my life.

TIME-OUT! (Permission to Back-Off)
I had been pushing hard in two related start up companies, and I was exhausted. I had built teams, hired and fired friends, developed products and services, and assumed a remarkable amount of responsibility. I needed to give myself a time-out to evaluate the situation objectively, and to make some changes. It was time to give myself permission to back off.

DELEGATE, DELEGATE, DELEGATE!
As a leader in a large organization, I had forgotten one of the most important tools and rules of effective leadership—delegation. I was doing too much myself. Even though I had a staff and an excellent assistant, I found myself focused on the tactical rather than the strategic—as my position required. Part of my change, then, was to delegate more of the tactical tasks, leaving me time for the strategic function of my position.

QUALITY OF LIFE
In the shadow of the wall I had just hit, I was no longer willing to compromise my quality of life for the sake of the company. Several important aspects of my personal life had slipped away—exercise, quality time with friends, focused time with my husband and family. I knew that I was in charge of the quality of my life, and I had taken a hiatus from what I knew to be healthful for me. It was time to make a dramatic change.

When I came away from the conference, I believed I had heard from God and was ready to make some changes. I had a new awareness about how I needed to live and work, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy. Here’s how I learned to turn splat into strength.

General Operating Principles
I needed some general operating principles for each day-principles I believed essential for my continued health-such as:

  • Become aware of God’s presence in my daily activities
  • Maintain a clean desk
  • Store no more than 10 e-mails in my inbox at the end of the day
  • Focus on each conversation singularly
  • Spend the majority of my time with people as opposed to technology
Having these principles in place, and keeping them there, helped me stay focused on the things that were important to me.

Action Plan
I then developed a specific action plan based on the four key areas above. My action plan included such items as:

  • Start each workday at 8:30 am, allowing time for exercise and journaling in the morning
  • Walk four mornings each week
  • Give all computer tasks to my assistant
  • See one friend each week, and talk with two others
  • Spend at least 30 minutes of focused time with my husband daily
I worked with my coach to establish crisp, clear actions that I could reasonably accomplish, but would still be a stretch.

Hard Choices
Over the following weeks, I carefully instituted the changes I had identified. It wasn't easy, yet I made some major shifts. Unfortunately, however, even though I was taking effective action and feeling really great about it, it wasn't enough. I had already pretty well exhausted myself, and the question remained: Could I regain and maintain my well-being in my current position? After much prayer and counsel, I made a hard choice. I resigned.

My resignation as a response to hitting the wall, though not necessarily the right choice for others, was perfect for me. Calling "Time Out" allowed me to rebuild my quality of life, so that when my father-in-law died, I had the reserves in place to spend focused time with our family without corporate guilt. Immediately after his death, my husband and I moved. Even though it was a planned move and required some effort, it went smoothly in all ways. A family death, resigning a position and a move are all high on the stress scale, especially when they happen in such close proximity. However, through it all, I have been able to maintain the lessons I learned that weekend when I hit the wall.

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Phone (602) 421-9927
Fax (602) 276-0148
E-mail Linda@InterLinkTC.com
www.InterLinkTC.com