Today’s Tuesday Reading is an essay by Matthew E. Mooney, Assistant Dean for Teaching, Learning and Technology the at Pennsylvania State University’s Smeal College of Business. His essay first appeared as a leaders program reflection last fall. [Matt may be reached at <email@example.com>.]
I’ve so appreciated previous reflections. It’s comforting to see that while we are working hard at our “day jobs,” we also have the opportunity to progress toward developing our leadership abilities. The honesty about struggles and setbacks is reassuring. It reminds me that each and every one of us is on a different path and yet are working toward some common goals. Something that has struck me is the level of responsibility that I find among colleagues. We have demanding and important positions that require a lot of energy and attention. Tackling our daily responsibilities and doing the self-work needed for us to continue our progress toward our goals is quite a balancing act.
At this point some of you may be cleaning your glasses, monitors, or rubbing your eyes. Yes, I have intentionally made every “re” bold. The root of the prefix “re” is back or again. So, for example, in this reflection, I am looking back at the past few months and thinking about things. If I reiterate something, I’m saying it again.
The coming weeks in American higher education are very important. It’s a common and extended break for all of us, and it is filled with “re!” I’d like to encourage everyone to focus on some of these “re” words over the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays.
Recover – Sleep is an important part of our health and often one of the first things we limit when we’re under stress. The nature of our 24/7 world means we are usually on call or accessible all the time. Many of us bring our work home through our mobile devices, work into the evening, and …. As we enter this holiday season, there is also work to focus on recovering from the stress of our day-to-day life. Take a nap or sleep in if possible. I realize the holiday season can also be a very stressful time for some. So, remember to take care of yourself. Do the things you need to do to balance your mind, body, and soul. Maybe that means you sit quietly at home and read a book, or call an old friend, or even sit and shed some tears thinking of those we have lost. Recovery is different for each of us, but critical for all of us.
Reconnect – Reconnecting isn’t only about someone among your family and friends. This time off is an opportunity to reconnect with yourself or something you love. For me, holiday breaks have often been a time when I’ve been able to take my dogs for a walk along the river. Something I love to do, but typically don’t get a chance to enjoy on a regular basis. Maybe it’s doing something in your craft room or workshop, maybe it’s going bowling with friends, or what about cooking a great meal. It doesn’t matter what it is, we all have something that we miss doing and having some time off is a chance to reignite an interest or rediscover a passion.
Relationships – We all know relationships are currency. Relationships are also things we need to continuously care and feed. We spend a lot of time and energy on relationships in our work lives. We cultivate those relationships. It’s really easy to forget that the support system we have developed outside of work is equally important. Those relationships sustain us. They could be at church, in a social/hobby group, our circle of friends, our significant other, or our neighbor. It doesn’t matter what the make-up of the relationship is. What matters is that it is a relationship that is not about work. Take some time over this week and mindfully cultivate those relationships in the same way we do with relationships we have at work. For me, it’s spending some quality time with my wife. We both have very demanding jobs and for some of the time this holiday season, we are planning to stay in sweats, relax, enjoy a 2nd cup of coffee in the mornings, watch movies, cook together, eat together, and not worry about work until late in the holiday break.
Restart – For me, holiday breaks represent a “line in the sand.” Winter break and the beginning of the New Year mark the end of the semester and the beginning of the next chapter. I’ve always thought of it as a clean-slate moment when a lot of work gets done and I have an opportunity to have a strong ending. If I’m able to recover, reconnect, and feed some of my relationships, I can really dial in for the next days and focus on some end of year goals and establish a solid foundation to start off 2020.
Reheat – OK, let’s be honest…the American tradition of holiday dinners should not be overlooked. So if you have the opportunity for leftovers, please remember to follow the recommending storage and reheating instructions found at: https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/thanksgiving-leftovers-safe-keeping-weekend-grazing
Remember – All of us likely have some sort of baggage to carry at the holidays and every day, but I think it’s safe to say we also all have things to be thankful for as well. I am thankful for my family and friends, the opportunities and challenges I experience, and for those that await me. I hope you too have plenty to be thankful for and get a chance to thoroughly enjoy your winter break.
Matt has given us a valuable set of reminders to guide us in reflecting on some of the key principles of leadership. Do make time to refresh what you learned when you participated in the MOR program, to see what’s to come if you are now in a program, and for those of you who have not participated in one of the MOR programs, to get a sense of some of what we see as key elements of a leader’s work.
On behalf of all of us at MOR, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday time.
The Tuesday Reading will return on January 7, 2020.
Make it a great holiday for yourself, your family and those friends you are able to be with during the holidays. . . . jim
Jim Bruce is a Senior Fellow and Executive Coach at MOR Associates. He previously was Professor of Electrical Engineering, and Vice President for Information Systems and CIO at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.