I never thought that it could happen to me – after all, I have been working for 40 years.
I am the boss who can set his own schedule, and I have been coaching entrepreneurs for the last 23 years on how to avoid what happened to me last week.
I hit the wall! Not with my car or my body; but mentally and physically. I plain and simply ran out of energy. I was so bad that upon my return from another challenging business trip to Boston, Christine, my right-hand person, kindly said she didn’t want to see me in the office tomorrow.
At first, I was taken off guard, how dare she tell me what to do, in my own company. Then I replied nicely, that I wanted to see her tomorrow, to which Christine repeated her request that I stay home and not show up to the office. After a few moments of silence, it was clear that Christine truly meant what she was saying. I had to respect that she knew me well, having worked together for more than 10 years.
What I had to accept was that Christine was right.
My schedule the next day was clear, which typically means that I unnecessarily interrupt everyone else from doing their work to satisfy my whims and requests.
Why and how did I get like this? Let me take you back a few months to the summer of 2018. You might be wondering, why go so far back? Well it’s like the quote from Ernest Hemingway: “How did you go bankrupt?” Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” This is exactly how I came to be ‘running on empty’.
I can trace the beginning to early August 2018, when President Trump suddenly imposed a 25% tariff on $50 Billion dollars of imports from China.
One of our major product lines was caught in the crossfire. We had one week to solve the problem or lose a significant amount of business. First the good news. We successfully negotiated our way passed the price hike to dramatically reduce the cost impact our customers would feel. However, this was not the end. From September, right through to today; the uncertainty surrounding the tariffs, continues.
The result, GCP’s people have been working tirelessly to maintain the confidence of our customers and manufacturing partners so that either side does not lapse into inaction. Not ordering would be disastrous for our entire supply chain. The uncertainty of the whole tariff situation was slowly taking its toll on the organization and me in particular as the leader.
Again, I’m proud to report our actions have resulted in strong business growth over the last quarter of 2018 and into 2019. We were very proud of our accomplishments so far. However, our business results masked the effects this constant work and stress was having on the team and myself. Without knowing it I was gradually draining my batteries both physically and emotionally. It got so bad for me that I began thinking has everyone on my team suddenly lost their IQ’s and became uncommitted to GCP’s future? In my mind I was the only one looking after the business. It was me against the world!
It was at this moment when I recalled a saying from my mentor Dan Sullivan.
He would often comment “when I feel everyone around me has become stupid and uncommitted, I know I’m the problem.” This is exactly what I was experiencing. How could the people on the GCP team, who I constantly refer to as the best I have ever worked with, all of a sudden lose their brains and commitment? How was this possible? Well the answer was simple. The problem wasn’t with everyone else, it was with me.
Why could I not see it earlier? How could I not have felt my descent and stopped it before I got into this destructive mode?
Well, let me take you back to Hemingway’s quote; “Gradually. Then Suddenly!” I knew I had a busy schedule with multiple commitments that I was not able to change. However, instead of slowing down, taking time off when I could, I just put my head down and forged on. It wasn’t until my own conduct was on the edge of saying something that I would regret that Christine, fortunately “intervened” and politely suggested that I take the day off.
I thought I knew myself well enough to avoid hitting the wall. Yet, I realized I replaced my judgement, with a long period of hard work, fueled by achieving business results. As much as I knew from my past experiences, that constant work accompanied with high stress was a recipe for disaster. I didn’t recognize what I was doing, and couldn’t change my behaviour, until someone else recognized it for me.
As I write this message, I can look back having seen this situation in many of the entrepreneurs I have coached over the past 23 years.
That being said, hitting the wall is not unique to just entrepreneurs, everyone is guilty of trying to work through difficult times without taking the proper time to recharge. What is unfortunate is the lack of awareness we have until we have fully descended into a reactive state. At this point, we not only unproductive ourselves, but we also draw others into our reactive world. We compound the problem. Making it even more difficult to pull ourselves out of and become positive again.
As you read this message, I hope that you can reflect on your own situation past or present. Can you recall the times when you were running on empty? What was the impact of your mental and physical state on others around you? Did anyone help you recognize what was going on? What did you do or change to pull yourself out of this reactive mode?
Use those above questions to not only make mental notes, but physically write down your answers to the questions. Keep your answers handy for future reference, or better yet share your answers with another person who will help you from becoming reactive.
We are better performers and more inspiring to be around when our internal batteries are fully charged.
Mid-level charge is ok, but we are not as creative or productive as when we are completely recharged. Batteries in the red zone, as indicated on a battery charger, say replace! Instead of being replaced, step away and take whatever time you need to return to work in peak form.
Remember, each of us have an impact on a large number of people, so being our best self is not only for ourselves, it is for everyone we come in contact with.
Until next time,