To truly transform your life, you must be willing to turn up the temperature on your relationships.

To truly transform your life, you must be willing to turn up the temperature on your relationships.

Cold-Blooded Animals

My wife teaches third grade and recently finished up a unit on cold-blooded animals. Throughout the unit, she reinforced the idea to the children that cold-blooded animals regulate their body temperature through external circumstances.

If the outside is cold, they are cold, and they have to find a way to warm up.

If the outside is warm, these animals are warm, and they need to go somewhere to cool off.

Humans, scientifically, are warm-blooded animals. We have an internal regulator device that helps keep us warm.

Unfortunately, when it comes to other areas of life, like relationships, humans tend to act cold-blooded.

Understanding External Circumstances

We, humans, are a funny bunch. We have this incredible ability to make up conflict and fear in our heads from perceived threats.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever lost sleep at night wondering what your coworker, friend, child, or significant thought of you.

*I’ll raise mine first.*

It’s a natural tendency. Our brains, uncontrolled, make up things for us to be afraid of. I’ve lost track of how many times I, or one of my clients, have feared a conversation they were going to have with another individual.

Inside of our own head, it usually goes something like this:

Oh now. I need to tell Samantha what happened last Friday at the meeting. I’ll be she’ll be upset. When she’s upset I’ll have to reassure her. I’ll start by letting her know I’ve already resubmitted the proposal. When she gets angry that I did that, I’ll tell her I was forced to. If she becomes irate, I’ll calm her down by …

The power of our brain can easily transform any situation into a quickly escalating argument of emotion.

We think fearfully. Because of this, we enter the situation fearfully. Finally, we unknowingly project that fearfulness on the other person. They sense that and respond out of fear. The cycle escalates. We think we proved our own instincts right.

The problem is that this really isn’t the case. This, from the example above, is a cold-blooded response. We feel as though we are victims of the circumstances around us. Unable to control the outcome, we give up the power to someone or something else to avoid personal responsibility.

The Warm-Blooded Response

There is another choice. It’s what I call the warm-blooded response. It is the internal regulation of circumstances and control.

Think of the thermostat in your living room. If a window is open to blow in a breeze and it gets too cool, the thermostat, ever in control, turns on the heater to warm the room up.

If warm air accumulates inside the room, the thermostat is still in control and turns on the air conditioning.

Either way, the thermostat controls the outside environment instead of letting the environment control it. To truly transform your life, you must be willing to turn up the temperature on your relationships.

We have the same power in our relationships.

Recently, I was working with a client who offers a public service. He has both his own service route and a warranty side to his company where he operates as an independent contractor for a large manufacturer. 

It was time for his yearly review with the customer service director for the large manufacturer, a meeting that my client always hates. In the past, the meeting has not gone well, and the relationship with the manufacturing company is fractured.

Before his meeting, he called me to review some of the information he was going to present. Most of our time, however, was spent on his mindset. If he went into the phone call expecting negativity, he was sure to find it.

If however, he went in under the assumption that they wanted him to win, grow his business, and bless him, he’d find that as well. He committed himself to look positively at the situation and providing honesty and insight into the manufacturer’s warranty replacement policy that he worked under.

Right after the meeting, he called and said that it went extremely well. The representative heard him throughout the conversation,  and he got amazing reviews from the company. They made some suggestions for improvements, and he now has a better relationship with this manufacturing company than he has had in years.

All because of his outlook.

Relational Health For Leadership Health

As we continue our look at seven areas of health that are vital to avoiding burnout, we must look at relationships. Our closest relationships can be both the source of burnout if done poorly and the greatest contributing factor to health if done properly.

So how do we set a healthy relational course? In two key ways.

1.) Commit to being a thermostat. 

The first step is to be the thermostat in your relationships. Realize that you are in complete and total control of how strong your relationships are. You control how often you take your spouse on a date, call up an old friend, hit the golf course with a coworker, and how large your network is.

If you want something, be in control of your own actions enough to get it. Regulate the temperature. If you want a better marriage, raise your own temperature of commitment, and build one.

2.) Be in a room set warmer than your own.

The second step is to realize that you don’t have to do it alone and get help. If your marriage is struggling and you want a better one, don’t go get advice from your uncle that has been divorced three times.

Build a friendship with someone who has been married for 50 years!

If you want your business to grow, create friendships with successful business owners.

To get out of debt listen to someone without any, instead of your friend sleeping on your couch.

Each of these is an intentional act to “raise the temperature” of the room you find yourself in. You’ll slowly start to acclimate to your new environment and rise to the occasion.

Relational health is vital to leadership health Examining your key relationships and keeping them strong, vibrant, and life-giving is the only way to remain healthy and avoid burnout.

What’s your current temperature?


The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.

Two people exercising with kettlebells and superimposed text reading your body was made to move

Holistic leadership health includes physical health. Your body was made to move. It not only provides physical benefit but mental and emotional health as well.

Your Body Was Made To move

During my master’s program, I was extraordinarily unhealthy. I honestly stopped stepping on the scale after it read 250, but if I had to guess I got much closer to 260 or 270. I was overweight, had issues sleeping, bought the biggest pants I’d ever owned, and masked my feelings through food.

Shortly after graduation, my family moved from California to Denver and Elise became pregnant with our second child. My sleeping had gotten worse and I literally could not make it through a single day without taking a nap. My weight ballooned closer to 280.

Finally, I had enough. I bought a membership to the local community rec center and hit the weights. I was weak and I was tired, but I was determined.

Soon, after that, I began to clean up my eating.

Along came babies three and four, and new responsibilities at work. The pressure was mounting.

This time, however, I exercised the stress away, rather than attempting to eat my feelings away.

By the time we left Denver to move back to California, I was down over 40 pounds. While 240 was still much too heavy for me, I was on the right path.

Three years later, I’m now a trim 215 and in the best shape of my life. I now find it more of a struggle to not work out than to go hit the weights. My morning routine includes 30-40 minutes of weight training in the morning and a 10-20 minute walk in the evening.

Lead Through Physical Health

Healthy leaders who care about avoiding burnout take their own physical health seriously.

I know this because I suffered from burnout while being extremely physically unhealthy.

I also know this because I’ve worked with dozens of leaders over the years and have seen it play out time and time again.

If your work schedule consists of more fast food than fitness, you’re in for a world of pain. Two people exercising with kettlebells and superimposed text reading your body was made to move

Healthy leaders know to move their bodies and stay in great shape. Physical shape and your ability to control yourself around food often say as much about your emotional and mental health as anything else. I’ve seen it enough, it’s almost a guarantee: if you are unfit physically, you’re also likely unfit emotionally and mentally.

Benefits of Exercise

There are numerous benefits to exercise. Exercise has been shown to:

  • Release the brain’s happy chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins.
  • Boots creativity.
  • Improve your mood.
  • Increase sex drive
  • Promote better sleep
  • Fight off infection
  • and Balance hormones

Made To Move

Our bodies were made to move. It’s why I added a personal training certification to my coaching packages years ago and constantly work with my clients to achieve optimal health. Our bodies, when not in motion, experience degradation.

Sitting, quite literally, kills you.

Whether it’s taking frequent walks around your office, your block, or your neighborhood, your body is made to move.

If you’re struggling, start small. At my heaviest, I had no grand illusions. I never wanted to “run a marathon” (still don’t!) but I did want to make it to the gym three times in the first week. Next, I tried hard to go three days without dessert. Then, I challenged myself to sleep through the night. I replaced an overabundance of coffee with more water.

Make a small but significant step today to seize control of your health. Call a friend and go for a walk. Eat an apple instead of a donut. Head to bed on time instead of binging your favorite television show.

Each time you intentionally make a stand for your own health, your leadership capabilities improve. More than that, you care for those around you.

People are counting on you to show up, perform at a high level, and influence those around you. 

When it doubt, move your body. Your body was made to move!


The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.

Hands Playing piano with superimposed text saying what's your range? Emotionally Healthy Leadership (Blog Post Cover Picture)

Think of emotional intelligence like a piano. The greater the intelligence, the greater the range. What’s your range as an emotionally healthy leader?

In the last article, I talked aboutspiritual health.

The next step in the journey towards sustainable leadership is emotional health.

Now, I’m no piano player, but I’ve painstakingly taught myself chopsticks and Joy To The World over the course of about twenty years.

I don’t have a very good range on the piano.

I possess, at best, a very limited repertoire and skillset. If you were to give the best piano in the world, on the best stage in the world, in front of the most attentive audience in the world … I’d still be an embarrassment to most of the people who know me.

My limited piano playing ability is one thing, for the leader in business, a limited range is quite another.

What’s Your Range?

Someone with limited emotional intelligence, a limited range on the piano as the analogy goes, only knows a few emotions. I’m sure you’ve all met someone (or have been that someone) that is happy, angry, sad … and that’s about it.

Increasing our emotional intelligence gives us a wider playing range on the piano.

I once worked with a guy who played his angry key. That was it. He was either stoic, fairly passive, and laid back, or angry. I don’t mean, “Wow, he’s upset.” I mean, “I think he might hurt someone” levels of angry. He always talked about wanting to be a leader, but his ability to play only one note of his emotions left him a hard individual to trust.

Mastering the Basics

There are six basic emotions:

  • sad
  • mad
  • scared
  • joyful
  • powerful
  • peaceful.

Everything else we experience is a shade or expression from these basic emotional reactions.

But, think of the emotional range of being mad.

Here are other notes in the piano range of mad:

  • hurt
  • hostile
  • angry
  • rage
  • hateful
  • critical
  • jealous
  • selfish
  • frustrated
  • furious
  • irritate
  • skeptical.

Each of these, depending on the context, brings another element of healthy expression to a relationship. Was my coworker really angry? Or was he jealous? Frustrated? Irritated? Skeptical? Piano

He may have always expressed anger, and for those of us witness to it, it was troubling, but what was behind it? His inability to distinguish between anger and frustration left him limited in future potential.

The emotional range of happiness includes emotional expressions like:

  • gratitude
  • pride
  • amusement
  • hope
  • inspiration
  • love.

Those with greater emotional intelligence can display a greater range of emotions.

Emotional Intelligence gives us better control and a deeper range. That’s the first benefit of coaching.

The need for healthy emotional expression is vital to fruitful and productive leadership. It is also essential to avoid burnout. Adequately expressing and processing emotions gives the leader tools to work through difficult experiences and situations.

The emotional health of a person sits in the unique field of being almost completely internal in nature through past experiences, while also being almost completely externally visible through actions, perceptions, and relationships.

Peter Scazzeo notes the concerns of emotional health:

Emotional health is concerned with such things as: naming, recognizing, and managing our own feelings identifying and having active compassion for others initiating and maintaining close and meaningful relationships breaking free from self-destructive patterns being aware of how our past impacts our present developing the capacity to clearly express our thoughts and feelings respecting and loving others without having to change them clearly, directly, and respectfully asking for what we need, want, or prefer accurately assessing our own strengths, limits, and weaknesses, and freely sharing them with others developing the capacity to maturely resolve. (1)

Sustainable Leadership

For the emotionally healthy person, effective leadership requires a previous recognition and engagement with emotional traps, snares, and shortcomings at earlier stages of life. Family dynamics, addiction triggers, and shortcomings all need to be worked through and reflected on.

I spent several years in therapy working through many of these issues. It was ingrained in me from a young age that I should work hard and achieve success. By itself, this is not a problem. My issue arose when I began to tie my identity in my ability to work hard. I was only worth what I could produce.

That became a dangerous trap. When I sense I wasn’t producing enough, I sensed I wasn’t good enough. I had to learn these triggers, work through them, and express my feelings in healthier ways.

This work is required for all healthy and sustainable leadership. Work on increasing your emotional range and adding notes to your repertoire. Those around you will appreciate the more beautiful ‘music’ you create and it will enhance your quality of life.


The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.


Notes: 

1.) Scazzero, Peter. The Emotionally Healthy Church Planter (Kindle Locations 237-246). Kindle Edition. 

Spiritually Healthy Leadership Blog Post Cover, a forest with a bridge and a quote superimposed on Sabbath practices.

Spiritually healthy leadership grounds high-achievers by connecting them with their purpose as they seek to influence the world. In this installment of our “Healthy Leader” series, we examine this idea of spiritually healthy leadership.

Spiritual Health: Connecting With The Divine

I spent nearly a decade in pastoral ministry before fully embracing my call as a coach. Each position led me a step closer in the process, but there was always a sense of, “this is not quite it…” when it came to feeling fulfilled.

Over the course of that decade, I learned a lot about myself, belonging in a community, healthy boundaries, interpersonal relationships, and effective communication. I spent time at every level of leadership.

At every point along the way, and with every “promotion” that was gifted to me (we can talk later about why I hate that term when applied to the church…) I found that I had fewer and fewer people to talk to. My friend list grew smaller, my mentors became fewer, and the circle of close confidants decreased.

When I started working with executives, I found the same was true with them. The higher they were on the ladder, the fewer people they had to talk to. That was, at least in part, their need for a coach. They looked around and realized they had no one to talk to.

Most of the time, I was (or at least felt) alone. The executives I worked with echoed that pain. Maybe you too can relate.

When I wasn’t alone, and people were genuinely trying to support me, we talked about a wide range of topics.

  • Marriage
  • Family
  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • How much work I was doing
  • The quality of my preaching

Never once, not once in ten years, did someone ever ask: how are you at connecting with God? Is your spiritual life healthy?

A New Direction

That was part of my journey into both my doctoral school program and hiring my own coach. I needed that accountability. Studies, like one conducted by the Percept Group, seem to echo this, with nearly one-third of Los Gatos residents polled identifying “dealing with stress” as their chief spiritual concern. (1)

This in part explains the rise of contemplative prayer and mediation among leaders. There is a recognition that part of the human condition is wired to connect with something beyond ourselves. Spiritually Healthy Leadership Blog Post Cover, a forest with a bridge and a quote superimposed on Sabbath practices.

I teach an eastern philosophy class. In it, we examine Steve Jobs’ affection for Buddhism and how other great leaders are implementing some of these teachings. These leaders are yearning for something outside of the physical and temporal to belong to.

In general then, here are some practices and guidelines to help you grow and cultivate a healthy spiritual side of leadership.

Cultivating Spiritual Health

Spiritual Disciplines

Spiritual disciplines offer a historically rooted approach to healthy leadership. Disciplines have always been an important component for people of faith. Through self-sacrifice, we discover deeper meaning, significance, and a sense of calling.

In his seminal work on the spiritual disciplines, Richard Foster notes their importance when he says,

“The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond the surface living into the depths. They invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm. They urge us to be the answer to a hollow world.” (2)

There are many forms of spiritual disciplines like fasting, prayer, mediation, holy pilgrimages, silence, forgiveness, solitude, and tithing.

The point in each of these is the same: denying some aspect of yourself or your personal will to spend time listening and connecting with God and his guiding power.

“Few things will keep us on course in the exercise of our leadership and facilitate the care of our soul as much as a meaningful prayer when engaged in consistently.” (3)

Rest

Many leaders find it hard to take regular time off. The demands of their job, the joy of feeling needed, and the unexpected crises or tendencies of workaholism can make it hard to pull away from the demands of work.

To combat this, the ancient Jewish people instituted a practice called sabbath. More than a day off, the sabbath is a specific and intentional time to rejuvenate and recharge emotionally and spiritually.

This rest includes the need for extended vacation days as well. Workers operating under increasingly stressful conditions are taking what seems to be a smart approach by working more to meet demand. The problem is that the increased workload does not equal increased productivity. In the law of diminishing return, and most studies show this, maximum productivity happens somewhere around 30-35 hours.

Operating in a job of high demand and need it’s easy to feel needed and guilty for taking time off. But a refusal to take time off can exacerbate the problem of burnout. In addition to regular Sabbath rest, leaders must use their full allotment of vacation time. This is not happening, as a 2019 study found. (4)

Staying Spiritually Fit

Spirituality can be a tough subject to talk about. The common American mantra to not talk about politics and religion has hurt our public decorum. Smart employers, and high-capacity leaders, remain vigilant in their quest for staying healthy in all areas of life.

This includes spiritual health, however, the leader defines that.

In future posts, we’ll continue to intertwine areas of health and explore how creative outputs like hobbies contribute to a well-rounded leader.

How do you remain spiritually healthy?


The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.


Sources:

(1). Source: Ferguson, Jane K., Eleanor W. Willemsen, and MayLynn V. Castañeto. 2010. Centering prayer as a healing response to everyday stress: A psychological and spiritual process. Pastoral Psychology 59 (3) (06): 305-29.

Original Study: Percept Group. (2004). Ministry Area Profile 2004 Compass Report for Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, 219 Bean Avenue, Los Gatos, CA 95030, Study Area Definition: Custom Polygon 1990–2004. Rancho Santa Margarita, CA: Percept Group.

(2). Source: Foster, Richard J. “The Spiritual Disciplines: Door to Liberation.” Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 1. Rev. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.

(3). Source: Rima, Samuel D. “Spiritual Self Leadership.” Leading from the Inside Out: The Art of Self-leadership, 138. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2000.

(4) Source: https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/unused-vacation-days-trnd/index.html

 

Phone booth with calling quote from Frederick Buechne

How would you answer the question: why on earth am I on earth?

The foundation for all healthy leadership begins with a calling. Leaders have always been called. Sacred scriptures throughout the world emphasize this. However, what is almost always missed is the development of the call story.

There are two levels of calling that need to be identified. The first is a general calling and a specific calling. Each of these plays a unique and significant role in the life of the leader.

The general call is usually the first initial calling that comes with leadership. As a coach, it’s common to see this within the coaching field. Fresh out of coaches training, I was under the belief that I could (and should) coach “anyone and everyone.”

It’s an easy thought to rationalize:

If the coaching principles are true, then I should be able to coach anyone!

And while the coaching principles are true and universal, I cannot nor should I, coach everyone. Coaches always seem to learn this the hard way, usually through a bad client. Thankfully, I had my bad client experience early on. While I knew that in theory, I could coach anyone, practically I knew I didn’t want to coach him again.

Specific calling happens when leaders remain faithful to pursuing and developing a robust answer to the question, “Why on earth am I on earth? What’s my ultimate purpose? Phone booth with calling quote from Frederick Buechne

In my own coaching practice, I’ve worked with C-Suite executives, entrepreneurs, managers, religious professionals, educators, and people in the service industry. Each person allowed me to narrow down my specific niche. Now, I can clearly and confidently say that I provide executive coaching for small business owners.

Engaging in Your Calling

Most of us have experienced a general calling to leadership. That’s why we’re plugged into a network like LinkedIn. It’s the place for us to connect with other like-minded individuals.

I’m also willing to venture that many of us have found our specific calling. We know what we were put here to do.

The tension happens in two locations: for those that don’t know their specific calling and for those that do and aren’t doing it.

First, burnout can affect those that don’t know their specific calling. For years, I was stuck in this position. You, or someone you know, might be in this position if they say things like:

  • I don’t know where my life is going.
  • What’s my purpose?
  • I can’t seem to figure out what I’m trying to do.
  • I feel so lost.

These sorts of sayings are clues and indicators of an undefined and unrefined calling. For these leaders, burnout happens because the mounting frustration of an incomplete vision leaves them overwhelmed. Life for leaders was never meant to stop with a general calling.

All leaders all call for a specific reason, to a specific place, for specific people, to accomplish a significant mission.

The second place for burnout is for those that know their specific calling but aren’t practicing it. You might hear or feel sayings like this:

  • I feel like I’m made for more.
  • If I could just get the right opportunity…
  • I could accomplish so much if I could just get out of my own way.

For those with a specific, but yet unfulfilled calling, burnout can happen because of the increasing resentment of seemingly insurmountable barriers.

Leaders with an unfulfilled specific calling struggle with the fear of failure, inadequacy, or of missing out on achieving ultimate success.

Calling – Meeting The Needs of Others

Frederick Buechner once referred to calling as,

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

And notice, that so far, I have mentioned nothing about jobs, titles, or positions. Those are largely irrelevant when it comes to fulfilling a calling in leadership.

I worked with an individual once who, by all personality tests and interviews, would have been a great church planter. As we worked through his areas of calling and gifting, however, we discovered that he didn’t want to plant a church at all. Instead, he wanted to revitalize old churches and bring new life to established congregations.

Another former client worked his way up the corporate ladder, only to find himself lonely at the top. After reevaluating his career choices, he started down a completely different career field that gave him more flexibility in his home life. He was much happier wearing the pinstripes of a coach to his son’s baseball team than the pinstripes of his three-piece suit.

Calling – What it is … and what it isn’t

Calling is …

  • discovering, pursuing, and fulfilling the answer to the question, “What on earth am I on earth for?”
  • knowing intimately your deepest purpose and passion in the world.
  • a part of everyone’s story.
  • foundational to establish healthy leadership patterns while avoiding burnout.

Calling is not …

  • dependent on rank, title, position, promotion, or title.
  • arrogant, boastful, proud, or demeaning of others.
  • reserved for a select few “special ones.”
  • an optional endeavor who want to reach their full potential.

The Wrap Up

If you or someone you know is facing burnout, please get help. Email me to set up your first appointment.

Looking for more ways to fight against burnout? Here are 50 self-care tips.

 Want the entire series as a Kindle book? Go here.