Leaders are finding themselves exhausted, which is no surprise as we survived Covid, having skillfully navigated our personal lives, work teams, and organizations. As we exit the pandemic mode and enter a hybrid work mode, many leaders find themselves and their teams lacking the same drive and commitment they had pre-pandemic. The recent war on talent further compounds an already difficult situation for leaders. After two and a half years of near-stability, firms are experiencing talent exits on an unprecedented scale, creating instability once again.
Our energy and resilience are incredibly linked to our ability to lead and live a healthy life. All leaders have a responsibility to be in condition to lead because when a leader is not in condition, they are less effective and less able to meet the demands of the role. In some cases, unmanaged stress will cause unintended damage to teams, organizations, and relationships. When this happens, the leader will have to work even harder to undo the impact of those interactions.
In this first of two posts, I highlight common causes of post-Covid energy drain, why that matters, and how to begin noticing your energy. In the second post, I’ll share how to identify what is depleting your energy supply and what questions to ask yourself to learn how to refill your levels.
Where is our energy, and what do we do about it?
As an executive coach working with leaders and their teams, I am seeing first-hand the toll that merely surviving the last two and a half years has taken (see article below on crisis fatigue). There is a drain on resiliency (your ability to withstand stress and crisis) in almost every element of peoples’ lives… emotional, physical, spiritual, creative, and cognitive. Without this resilience, leaders are not conditioned to meet the high demands their roles and constituents require. This depletion comes at a time when leaders must be diligent in re-engaging their teams, sustaining focus on vital strategic areas, and stewarding their organization through an ambiguous and less certain future.
- Take notice of your energy a few times this week. Where would you put it on a ten-point scale, with ten being I have enough energy to take on my whole day and then some. Track your scores over 1-2 weeks and see what patterns emerge.
- Pay attention to your levels of motivation and interest. What do you notice?
- Sometimes the energy drain is reflected through an inability to rest, or sleep well, an inability to manage the more difficult sides of our personality (volatility, withdrawal, disinterest, etc.)
Our Lives Outside of Work Matters
With re-entry to the office, I have noticed that many of us have not fully regained the parts of our lives that used to refill our tanks. We focused almost entirely on surviving the pandemic at work and home, and other critical aspects of life, like social connection and fulfillment through outside endeavors, fell by the wayside. The pandemic caused each of us to close off our lives in many ways, and, notwithstanding that society has now “opened up,” our lives remain contracted.
Why does this matter? Humans are social beings, and social connection provides a sense of safety and belonging, which, as research demonstrates, relaxes the autonomic nervous system by registering as “safety or protection from basic threats and inhibiting these same health-relevant physiological threat responses.” [See link below for more detail]
In basic terms, social connection and a sense of belonging are fundamental to living. In addition to the disappearance of our social lives, during the pandemic, work became a long, blurry day that was no longer distinguished from social, external, or interactive times (meals, exercise, entertainment) which meant fewer opportunities to recharge. Connection can take many forms, including group belonging, relationship time, and being a part of a community (think volunteering, cross-fit, etc.).
- How much social time do I have with my family, friends, and other communities I am a part of? How does this compare to my life before Covid?
- What is my desire to connect with others? I have noticed that many people are less social and have a lower desire to socialize due to the contracted state of our lives.
- How am I spending time outside work filling other aspects of my life? Spiritual, creative, physical exercise, etc.
So for now, start to pay attention to your energy, your social connection and your times of low energy. More next time on what to do!
Sources and other resources:
- Naomi I. Eisenberger, Ph.D. UCLA Department of Psychology https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3664098/