Time to take a break? - Business Works
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Time to take a break?

by Simon Marshall, Founder, TBD Marketing Ltd Imagine if I could promise you a sure-fire way to succeed over the coming months? If I could say that I knew a way that would help you to process and retain information? That would give you a better sense of the bigger picture, enable more creative thinking and make you more productive as a leader? That would leave you better equipped to make the right decisions for your organisation, says Simon Marshall, Founder of TBD Marketing.

You would probably bite my hand off, right?

Well, it's simply called taking a break. In fact, it is more necessary than ever, as we enter a dangerous phase of the Covid-19 pandemic for business.

We are only now nearing the end of the first phase of the epidemic in the UK; a major point of inflexion. This first phase has been about survival and taking all the action that we needed to persevere as individuals and as organisations. We have lost too many people along the way, but have also seen areas in which we have overcome the most challenging of circumstances. Without slowing down, you risk hitting 'Leader Fatigue' - a very real problem.

the next phase ... is full of peril

The next phase which will consist of unlocking, un-furloughing, relinquishing our tight grip, is full of peril. You will no doubt have begun to turn your head to planning for this second phase already and may well have a detailed set of ideas and actions in place. But, in my experience of acting for leaders for the past 20 years, there are real risks of approaching this phase by ticking things off in an attempt to revert back to as close to the prior normal as possible.

That approach is unlikely to work. The context has changed and changed permanently. In a way, trying to return to the prior normal is like asking someone who has baked a cake to give you back the eggs. It just is not possible as the state of things has changed.

Have you noticed how much you've changed? Do pre-Covid photos makes you think that shaking hands looks ... weird? Or are you attempting merely to revert to type? Do you want things to get back to normal as quickly and as much as possible?

Trying to keep things at work as 'normal' as possible, may in fact inhibit progress. After all, though we may be tempted to continue to deal with things as we did before, we simply cannot. The old normal has gone and we, as leaders, need to champion the 'new normal'. We need to set an example for others to follow - otherwise we no longer lead.

This is why I strongly advocate taking a break away from the front line for a few days. Our bodies move in cycles with the seasons - which broadly correlate with Christmas, Winter, Easter and Summer holidays. You have skipped one of these already.

When I have spoken to leaders these past few weeks, several have resisted committing to taking a holiday. In fact, many of them are resisting taking two full days off at the weekend. Given the circumstances we're emerging from, that's perfectly understandable. However, my advice is the same - take a break! This tail end of phase one can be run by a deputy for a few days; it has been sufficiently normalised that it'll be hard, but manageable.

If I go for a run when I have a big problem on, I often return with the solution. The amygdala has to focus on the run and so the rational part of my brain can focus on the problem without interruption. As it is for running, so it is for holidays: when the body is busy holidaying, the mind can make huge leaps forward on things sub-consciously. The brain can make breakthroughs where before there had only been barriers.

Spurs recently played Manchester United in their first fixture back since lockdown. The new rules stipulate that they take a drinks break half way through the first half. Spurs had, until that point, been outclassed by Manchester United. But then Mourinho had 90 seconds with his squad to coach them as they rehydrated. They emerged a transformed team and scored a few minutes later.

Now, it's important to note that Mourinho had coached his team prior to the match, imparted all the pertinent knowledge he had at the time. But it was during the match that he could observe what was happening. Sometimes, Mourinho is very animated and at other times, he appears in a dream-like state. His clarity comes in those moments. He works out what he's going to say to produce the best result and then in those precious seconds together, re-configures his team's performance. He never wastes time with his team and he is often seen leaving for half time a minute or two early in order to gather his thoughts ahead of the next phase.

For Mourinho, the time to reflect on what the team needed was when the football was taking place - the equivalent of you taking a break from the business, observing from a distance.

Distance. It's another way of saying perspective. You need perspective to make the right decisions. Some things about our new context will be 'worse', some 'different' and some 'better'. You need to put distance between you and the situation in order to recognise which is which and make the right decisions.

For more information, please visit Simon Marshall's website at TBD Marketing

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