I was just in Minnesota with a couple of coaching clients and was thrilled to see – and feel – the sun shining again. I’ve been supporting the leaders in this family business since November, about the same time the sun disappears every year yielding way to grey skies, extremely cold temperatures, and oh yea lots of snow! It’s a recurring event for those who live in the area that lasts for several months. I believe they call it “winter”. Just because we have a name for the season does not mean that it doesn’t have extreme impacts on everyone, their attitudes, and especially their behaviors though.
I remember the first time I heard about – and discovered first-hand – winter depression (also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD) during my freshman year at Northwestern, a prominent university in Chicago where they also experience extreme winter weather. The then 18-year-old me who grew up by the warm, sunny beaches of Southern California heard about SAD while watching the local news and immediately thought to himself, “Seriously? Did someone really name a clinical condition because of some grey skies and clouds?” Well, the answer to those questions was yes, and apparently for good reason. That year and again just the other day, I realized why!
As usual, I started one of my coaching conversations by asking, “How’s it going?” I never know exactly where that will lead our conversation. It always seems to open the door to rich dialogue though. In this case, it gave my client a chance to share how excited he was that spring was coming back because he could start running and riding his mountain bike again. This person is not an indoor gym kind of guy, so he’s been doing what so many people have been doing the last several months. Not exercising or doing any of the things he really loves to do.
So why is a leadership coach talking to senior executives about running in the morning? And why is he writing about it now? Because by not exercising and doing the things he loves, this leader for one has been letting the pressure of work and other common stresses he experiences in life continue to build up for several months now. I would offer that most of us who run companies and lead teams do the same thing, and the impact of this can be disastrous for our companies and those around us.
I know that when I run a few miles or go hiking outdoors it clears my mind and rejuvenates me so I am better able to handle the challenges I face every day. This executive I’m coaching specifically shared how hard it was for him to motivate himself just to go to work this winter let alone engage in fundamental problem-solving or decision-making processes as a leader. Exercising our bodies is not just about staying physically fit or dropping a few pounds of excess holiday weight then. Being active is about keeping our minds sharp and elevating our leadership too.
You could ask yourself what you’re going to do next winter to make sure you don’t allow the writer doldrums to turn you into an indoor sloth. A better question though would be what are you going to do NOW to catch spring fever and be a better leader TODAY? Imagine the results you can produce if you are on top of your game. Imagine the inspiration you will be for your colleagues and co-workers. What if they were to do the same?