One of the challenges in today’s leadership roles is the high level of connectivity that exists, often accompanied by an expectation of immediate response. We all tend to operate with our phone in hand, next to our iPad, in front of our computer screen. The reality is that you simply cannot be effective 24/7; so it is important that you have some way to reconnect with your family, your friends and have time for self- reflection. For me, it has been important to keep up routines get me outdoors and exercising. I have been a runner since high school and in my working career I have noticed that when I’m running consistently, I work better, have a better outlook on things and am more relaxed.
I think the other thing you have to do is to have some kind of diversion that’s so different from your work self that it completely changes your viewpoint. One of the things I did when I moved to the Atlanta area to take my current role was to take on a new challenge with music. I had played “recreational” guitar, since I was in college and it was a fun activity limited to weekends or evenings at home. As we moved in to our new community, I made the made the mistake of chatting with the music director at our church about his guitar. Soon after, I was asked to play at our church in the new contemporary service. Reluctantly, I agreed to help out. While I am comfortable speaking in front of groups as a part of my profession, it was surprising how nervous I was playing in front of people. It was awful, my hands were sweating, fingers much less sure of what they were supposed to do! In the end, those issues passed, and I reached a good place. More importantly, the challenge of playing an instrument was a very good diversion. It was so different from my work self to have to do something like that; kind of artsy and creative, using skills that are outside of my comfort zone, so I had to work at it a little bit. I think things like music exercise the right side of your brain and balance out the analytical left side. Ultimately, before, during and after playing, that little bit of diversion and balance shows there are other things in life to value other than answering the next call, text message or sitting in the next meeting!
Bruce Karas is Vice President of Environment & Sustainability at Coca-Cola Co. and a member of the NAEM Board of Directors.