July 27, 2023
By Allison Iantosca, ACC
It’s summer. School buses are in hibernation. Daylight lingers well into the evening, offering a sense of ease and playfulness. Bare feet in flip flops tender a subtle nod to a larger freedom. A collective deep sigh as we turn towards vacations at the beach, in the mountains, at the lake. Family, friends, and fire pits. Ready?
If you’re a leader, probably more than ever. It’s been a hectic couple of quarters to get this year off the ground. A few weeks of all day in your bathing suit, ice cream for dinner, crashing out to the best sleep of your life under the soft breeze of the ceiling fan…heaven.
Yet your “In Box” is stuffed full of PTO requests from your employees seeking to recreate their own summer magic. That’s ok. It’s what you expected, and you easily sacrifice your freedom so they can refuel theirs. Covering for the particularly anemic weeks and being on call for the others. It’s the kind of person you are, always putting your employees before yourself. A worthwhile selflessness for the sake of a team that feels seen and well cared for; a true leader would never ask for the reverse.
But you and I both know where this is headed. Like any other high-functioning machine, maintenance is required so the engine doesn’t irreparably burn out…and covering for employees might just be an excuse.
Perhaps this is the spot in these types of articles where the author suggests scheduling personal time into your calendar as if it is a work appointment. Or might beseech you that it is possible to take a week (or two) cut off from your cell or laptop.
I don’t disagree with these options, but they miss the fundamental impediment that keeps these seemingly fantastical notions from coming true. Work is your identity. It is your habit. It is what you know how to do even when you don’t want to be doing it. It is your structure, your routine, your way of knowing you are having an impact. It’s the driving need to stay on top of things, finish things, hold on to things.
Sometimes, even, work is a stand in. A martyrdom for the other responsibilities in your life. An active excuse for the faltering –on parenting, childing, spousing, friending– that time-off might force you to face. Or perhaps work validates you as a human. Human doing is way more structured and tangible than human being (being is hardly enough when definition of self is tied into action and outcome! No one ever told us otherwise.) Or maybe it’s just plain easier to keep the machine going. To stop it and then start it up again feels wasteful and exhausting in and of itself.
In other words, the consequences of letting go are just too great and recalibrating for two weeks, a long weekend or even a day off is, well more work. I get it. It takes energy at a time when you’re supposed to be blissfully recharging. But here’s the trouble, you can only bear what you can bear…and then it becomes unbearable. And once you reach that point the resolution is no longer self-sacrifice – it’s survival.
So, might I make a suggestion for this summer? In equal part to laying out your duffel bag, catalogue shopping your summer wardrobe, cleaning out the cooler…call your Coach. Get help bringing into your awareness what belief system tethers you to the office. Sit in the discomfort of your “leader habit” until you know it and love it and can support it. Give it voice. Let it be seen. Let it dance about in its full glory. Figure out what you will do with it when it questions you reading “junk lit” on the beach or why you’re in bed past 6:30 AM. Learn its narratives…then make up the happier ending.
It might take a little more effort to prepare for your “out of office” this year, but it could make for one of the best vacations of your life.
Allison Iantosca is a Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) trained coach certified by ICF with extensive leadership and management experience. She is an Executive Coach and is the Owner and President of Boston based FH Perry Builder.
*Photo Credit: Johan Nilsson