Leaders Avoid Rewarding the Exhaustion of Productivity

I wrote a post back in 2015 that talked about leaders not saying “busy.” The word itself is so commonplace in our every day lives that we say it without thinking about it or considering its meaning. But the word itself can mean several different things, depending on the context and implication.

That’s why I’m so glad Brene Brown includes “being busy” in her list of armoring behaviors. I’m also glad that she has a countermeasure.

“‘Crazy-busy’ is a great armor, it’s a great way for numbing. What a lot of us do is that we stay so busy, and so out in front of our life, that the truth of how we’re feeling and what we really need can’t catch up with us.” ~ Brene Brown

Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly. New York, New York. Avery Press.

“Rewarding exhaustion as a status symbol and attaching productivity to self-worth.” ~Brene Brown

When we say we’re “busy,” what do we mean? Do we mean that we’re being productive? We have a previous engagement? We’re spending quality time with family or friends? That we’re taking some needed down time for ourselves?

Daring behavior: Modeling and supporting rest, play, and recovery.

We have to stop thinking of rest, play, and recovery as being lazy, unproductive, a novelty, or as something totally detached from being a productive person. Instead, consider

  • a 15-minute nap in the middle of the day that’s necessary to make the last two hours solid.
  • a three-day hiking trip that gives you time to process the previous week and mentally prepare for the upcoming one.
  • a spontaneous card game in the middle of Saturday house-and-yard work that keeps the family connected, makes memories, and reminds everyone of what’s most important.

Rest and recovery are productive behaviors.

Back in my teaching days, I remember a time when my principal walked in to my office. I was looking out the window, thinking about the rehearsal I just finished. When he entered, I grabbed a pencil and the piece of music to make myself look busy. He laughed at my sudden movements. “Alan, it’s okay. If I don’t look out the window to think, or even daydream, I can’t process everything. It’s okay.”

That was some great mentoring, and it came at the right time. Have you reminded your team—or yourself—that mentally processing is okay?

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

This is the fifth post in a series featuring the work of Brene Brown. Specifically, her book Dare to Lead. Read the introduction post to this series here.
Post #1: Leaders Know the Myths of Vulnerability
Post #2: Leaders Understand the Pitfalls of Perfectionism and the Fear of Failure
Post #3: Leaders, Beware of Numbing Behaviors
Post #4: Leaders are Clear and Kind

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