The annual “fill-up” for my leadership bucket comes every August when I attend the Global Leadership Summit – an event that reaches 180,000 leaders around the world. With presentations from amazing leaders – this year including Geoffrey Immelt, Carly Fiorina, Tyler Perry, Patrick Lencioni, plus a number of faith-based CEOs and even pastors – the event covers the gamut for honing leadership skills.
Bill Hybels, the man behind this 20-year happening and whose messages are always a highlight, released his new book “Simplify” coincident with the Summit. The premise of the book is this: Leaders who focus on 5 simple areas of their lives will find more clarity and activate more energy to accomplish their God-given purpose on earth. Wow.
As soon as the Kindle book was available, I dug in. Here’s a synapsis of what I found, how it relates to me personally and how it relates to the hundreds of CEOs I’ve come in contact with over the past 5 years of growing our firm:
#5 – Exercise
It’s not a big surprise that keeping our bodies active is key to personal energy. Physical energy and physical health is an obvious accompaniment to a bonus of higher emotional energy and mental health. I admire CEOs who take the time out of their crazy schedules to ensure they stay fit. Including our CEO, Art Saxby, who has a treadmill desk (yes, walks several miles a day while attending phone or Skype meetings), then rides his tandem bike with his wife Linda on the weekends.
So, how am I doing? Not bad. I try to make it to the gym 3 times a week and sneak a bike ride in sometimes too. Seems to be a pretty good rhythm for me. I also find I can use this time to catch up on my personal passion for music, listening to Pandora while I work up a sweat. How about you? (Note: my wife Cindy participates as the oldest member of a local “boot camp” program, getting there 3 times a week. She’s my hero.)
#4 – Recreation
Initially, I got this confused with #5 Exercise above. But I can see how really different it is. As it turns out, both Bill Hybels and I look to sailing as our preferred form of recreation. While it can be physical, it’s much more than that. It’s exhilarating. Sometimes romantic. And always a way to enjoy the outdoors. My wife and I have taken up bare boating and try to keep a trip on our calendars as something to look forward to. We’ve been through squalls, storms, lightening strikes but have also found the most beautiful and desolate beaches and coves. These exotic trips, or day trips on our local Lake Travis, go a long way toward keeping one of our key energy buckets filled.
#3 – Work
Without fulfilling work, life is a drag. Sure, as business leaders we presumably have chosen our professions and industry. However, it’s not uncommon to come across a CEO who feels trapped by their job. Or to a lesser extreme, unfulfilled by their work as their company’s leader. Clearly in these situations the CEO must identify why their energy bucket is being drained. When I find my Work Bucket leaking, I can often trace it to a personnel situation I’m not facing up to. In other cases, I find I’m not working strategically, that I’m being pulled into the urgent rather than managing my time to address our most important priorities. When these things occur, I can finish a day in a bad mood rather than being forward-looking with anticipation of the next day. Yet, with courage and focus, I can keep my work fulfilling from day to day, even as unexpected challenges emerge. Keeping my Work Bucket filled is mandatory in our fast-growing company.
#2 – Family
Let’s face it, when our homes aren’t happy, nothing else seems to matter. At best, we may substitute other activities or even obsessions for the hole in our hearts left by unhappiness at home. At worst, we fill this hole with any number of unhealthy behaviors. For me, keeping my Family Energy Bucket filled starts with being intentional and purposeful in my marriage. This certainly has something to do with fact I was granted a do-over, enjoying a second marriage of 16 years along with forgiving and loving kids. And my kids are grown, married themselves and with kids of their own. All living in the Austin area. So we have plenty of opportunities to fill our buckets. I’ll confess that at this moment, my bucket has been drained as a result of too much business and personal travel as of late. I’ve got to work on this.
#1 – Faith
The happiest, most energetic CEOs I know are grounded in faith. Their faith is not an appendix to their lives. It’s front and center. Sunday is the first and most important day of their week, not a leftover day on their weekend. Their faith is a highly intentional and focused part of their lives. For many of us, our faith and our connection with our Creator are not nearly as intentional.
Bill Hybels made the following observation: Have you ever seen the Michelangelo painting of God and Adam? The one where they have their arms extended, reaching out to touch each other’s fingers? It’s part of the amazing ceiling fresco in the Sistine Chapel. Hybels points out a message in this scene that I’d never noticed: God is reaching desperately toward Adam, while Adam seems a bit laid back and apathetic. Wow. Hybels suggests that as leaders, we should reach out toward the hand of God, grasp him by the wrist and then hold on. I love that image. And daily prayer and devotional time is paramount to keeping my Faith Bucket full and overflowing into every other bucket in my life.
Perhaps this list is so terribly simplistic it doesn’t conjure any new insights or inspirations. Or, perhaps it’s so fundamental, it provides exactly the formula for keeping our energy high and fortifying our ability to lead and enjoy life. Our people are counting on us.