If you’re struggling to stay engaged as a leader lately, here are some leadership tips to pull you out of the slump.
Some days, being a good manager is more difficult than others.
You can’t focus. The day drags. You feel “off.”
The company isn’t doing as well as it used to. Or you received a scathing email from a client. Or you’re questioning the latest shift in the company’s direction.
Whatever the reason may be, there’s no shame in it. I’ve had these “off” days, myself — and so many other leaders have too. As companies go through highs and lows, and our mind and emotions ride the highs and lows along with it. In our online Watercooler community with almost 1,000 managers in Know Your Team, many folks shared this sentiment: We all “occasionally fall into slumps where being a good manager becomes more difficult.”
The question is: How do you handle “off” days, so you don’t stay discouraged as leader?
Here’s the advice that our Watercooler members gave to overcome the work doldrums:
Take a day or two off.
Perhaps this sounds like conventional advice when you’re feeling “off” — but it’s because it works. Go somewhere quiet and get away from anything that could remind you of work. No phone, no emails, no talk about work. Studies have shown how beneficial “unplugging” from technology is in particular to clear your head. Use this time to re-evaluate your priorities, the things that motivate you, and the sort of contributions you can make to your company and team.
Focus on the impact you have on the people you work with directly .
Even when you’re not particularly motivated by your company, think of the impact you can have on people’s lives and their careers. As a manager, your attitude and actions shape the everyday lives of your direct reports.
Revisit your team’s vision and purpose.
This should be the “why” behind your work, and re-evaluating it and can invigorate you. One member of The Watercooler did this by meeting with each member of his team to get their perspectives on the company’s direction. He listened to their feedback, looked at the market and their competitors, and reshaped the company’s vision accordingly. The adjustment in the team’s purpose gave him greater purpose to show up for work each day.
Dig into the work itself.
Sometimes you feel in “funk” at work is because you haven’t been able to be in a state of “flow.” Choose to get back to more hands-on work to make progress on something you love to work on. Before you were a manager, were you a programmer by trade? Roll-up your sleeves and write some code. Do you work at a public relations company and used to be the one interfacing with journalists all the time? Put together some traditional media pitches and pick up the phone. Reconnect with what you love to do most.
Switch up your role in the company.
You might be feeling “off” because you’re not in the right position in the company. One Watercooler member mentioned how he changed his role in to a “visionary” one (think CEO) rather than an “integrator” one (think COO). He then realized he was better suited — and qualified — for big-picture thinking than operating the business.
Consider going on a “work retreat.”
You could be missing some of the unstructured creative time you had prior to being a leadership position. To combat this, one Watercooler member will take little work retreats a few times a year where he can recharge his batteries. He normally spends about a week in an AirBnB in some random city all by himself. It’s like a vacation in the sense that he completely unplugs from his normal responsibilities, but instead he just works on design/programming.
Now, of course, these are not solutions to remedy serious core company issues. You may be feeling “off” for important reasons that you need to resolve: Your team culture is toxic or your work habits are unsustainable. Pay attention to the underlying reasons causing the “off” feeling.
Rather, these suggestions work well as a short-term boost, when you know it’s merely an “off” feeling, and you’d like to steady yourself.
If you’re stuck in a slump as a manager, you don’t have to stay in it.