Having recently returned from a sabbatical it has provided an opportunity to reflect and refresh on the season that is ahead of us all. Overall I have shared with team and friends that it’s my belief that this period of time will be the smartest personal and professional investment I have made in a decade.
The time to refresh, reflect and reconnect with the exciting future we can share was by far the highlight. This provides uninterrupted time to prayerfully reflect on whom we need to become and our contribution moving forward. In addition to that, there were several significant meetings with leaders and at conferences that have helped shape the next season.
What were the main learnings from this time?
To create a healthy disconnect with the past.
Transitioning and reengineering any people group takes time and effort. It also takes wisdom, courage, grace, humility, perseverance and flexibility from everyone included in the process. This isn’t just a leader centric experience; the whole group experiences it.
That said there is a unique role for a leader to take a specific position to hold to based on the discernment and convictions that they hold. In doing so, a leader experiences the highs and lows of change. A sabbatical allows the time to freely process the positives, the negatives and everything in between. Having the time and space has allowed one of the most helpful experiences leaders can have, PERSPECTIVE.
To enjoy a healthy distance from the recent past so you can lead into a healthy, positive, bright future is a critical lesson from a sabbatical.
To reflect more deeply for on what matters most.
As previously noted perspective is a vital leadership currency. Executing a game plan is more challenging in the trenches than it is in the “war room.” Time away from the day-to-day demands of leadership.
My favourite city in the world is New York City. Don’t ask me to explain why, I have loved that city for years. Life on the street is very different to life on top of the Rockefeller Centre and it’s different again from a helicopter up and down the west side of Manhattan or from the ferry back from Lady Liberty. The difference is PERSPECTIVE.
When you can see clearly, you can see further.
When you can see further what is in front of you makes more sense.
Perspective serves the future because it puts it in context, gives it meaning and invites the energy to make it happen.
To have resource and energy to focus on personal development.
This lesson is a two sided coin. One of my highest values is personal responsibility. You and I are ultimately responsible for the outcomes we have. Whether we like them or not. A sabbatical allows the two dimensions of leadership to play out. The role of SELF leadership and the reason WHY you’re leading.
As a Christian leader, this is a delicate paradox. Too much focus on self is unhelpful and difficult to justify when the one I follow gave up everything for my benefit and yours. And, if you and I aren’t in a healthy place as a leader we cannot carry the responsibilities we have forward as well as we hope.
A sabbatical serves this process because it allows a leader to focus on themselves for a purpose. Similarly to my car, I focus on its healthy and longevity because of what I intend it to do. The better I look after it the more it can produce. To reflect, pray, consider, think, decide and act are all healthy parts of self leadership. To do these things with a clear answer to the questions “For what purpose?” is even better.
To decide what goes on the “not to do” list.
Made famous by Jim Collins the “not to do list” is a list that lives in many organisations that declare our intentions to stay focused and disciplined in the pursuit of our preferred future. That’s really hard work in my experience. And I think I’m average at best when it comes to a, not to do list. I see opportunity everywhere, I make decisions based on possibility not resources, I think through events and environments based on what COULD be not what is. That makes a not to list hard.
And they are still critical.
A sabbatical provides the room to really, really, really consider what is mission critical. A sabbatical creates the distance between activity and revelation. A sabbatical stokes the fire of courage to make necessary changes when you return.
As I experience it, a team does this better than one leader. I need my team around me with opinions and insights and convictions that help shape this list then hold us to it. Jim Rohn got it right when he said “each of us needs all of us.”
To think harder about what to be and do in the future.
Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion.
Think of it this way.
Activity – Action = Assessment
Having time away from activity and action allows time for assessment. How are things really? How are our people? Our teams? Our staff? What is the quality of the most important relationships in your life? In addition to those questions, you get to reflect and do some work on the following insights.
- What specifically is God calling us to be?
- Who am I called to be?
- Where are our brightest opportunities?
- What are our biggest obstacles?
- How do we develop people to serve and influence in ALL spheres of life?
- What’s preventing us from growing?
- If we made only THREE changes in the next season what would they be?
A sabbatical creates the space to think about your “being” and not just your “doing.” A sabbatical invites you to make the meaningful important again and assess how everything lines up with what your convictions are and your direction is.
To take the time to articulate the next best steps.
The purpose of unplugging for a period of time is actually, to plug back in. To return with a clear sense of what to do next is essential for any leader. In my earlier post 6 Reasons To Have A Sabbatical I talk about the danger of overload on return. Now that I have returned it has been an exercise in sharing what the experience has made clear and then submitting it to our core leadership team to be rigorous around what happens when.
Lean into your team, your board, your management team, whoever is your key decision makers to discern and decide what happens when to who and how it gets communicated. Be clear, be courageous. Your next steps are important ones.
To invest significant amounts of time into my most important relationships.
Of all the roles a leader has. Of all the roles I have, the role of husband and father tops the list. A sabbatical provides the time and space to employ the “be with” factor. We went to sleep and woke up every day as a family unit. We got to share memories, friendships and sights together. We learnt new words and phrases. We saw a big world. We laughed, we cried, we had all the important little moments between the big activities.
I had unhurried conversations with my wife. I was fully present (I hope) to her and as attentive as possible to what was happening FOR her, not just with her.
There are many ways to make a sabbatical work in your world. When you do I trust you experience some of these things and they serve you as you serve others.
#leadsmall. Because when you do, big things can happen.