Entire libraries could be filled with writings covering the impact that leaders have on their organizations (both good and bad.) Classic must-reads such as Good to Great, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, and Execution, and blogs such as Michael Hyatt’s Intentional Leadership all do an exceptional job teaching and reminding us about that impact. But most of those focus on long-term effects. They take an “implement these principles and over the next year you will see positive change” approach. I believe that is absolutely critical, but I experienced something this week that reminded me to not neglect the short-term.
I am not normally one that stays home sick but after having some sort of stomach flu all weekend I could hardly summon the energy to get out of bed Monday. Deciding to work from home so I could try to rest and recover some energy (I had a very busy schedule the rest of the week that I could not miss,) I need my way through email and non brain-heavy tasks. By late afternoon I was exhausted but feeling better. After a long-nights rest I went to work Tuesday morning, alive but not my usual self. I am typically very high-energy. I joke with my staff a lot and maintain a fun atmosphere to work. But Tuesday morning, still feeling a bit sick, I was very muted. It was very interesting to see how the rest of the staff took on that tone for the entire day. They were quieter than normal, worked a little slower, and over all “muted” much like me. They mirrored my energy.
Before I make my point let me share another story:
When I was in high school I sang in an advanced Jazz Choir that won the Reno International Jazz Festival. Because of this the Monterey Jazz Festival invited us to tour Australia and New Zealand for three weeks singing jazz in numerous spots on their east coast. When you aren’t used to traveling and performing on a rigorous schedule, you wear out pretty fast. We sung full sets just about every night and traveled to a new location each day. It was grueling and amazing. Our Director reinforced a very important lesson on that trip: it doesn’t matter how you feel or what mood you are in, the show must go on.
I know it’s cliche, but when was the last time that phrase was applied to leadership or training? It is well documented that leaders set the tone for their staff through the way they handle tough situations, work, dress, and even joke. The same is true for teachers and trainers. The audience, whether they be a staff, class, or a group of peers, will mirror the energy level and attitude the leader or trainer presents.
A friend of mine is dealing with an illness that leaves him very low on energy and often very ill. He teaches regularly and has an amazing ability to “turn on” when it comes time to instruct. One moment he looks ready to collapse, and the next he is standing in front of people full of health, energy, vibrancy, and excitement. He understands the importance of presenting his best, no matter how he feels personally, so the class gets the most from the training. I’ve seen him teach while very ill and still pull 4.9 out of 5 on his course evaluations. He’s a master.
It really comes down to a choice. The show must go on, but you can dictate how successful the show is by the outward appearance you present. I’m not saying it is easy, but it does make a big difference. And remember, sometimes it really is better to cancel the show than put on a bad performance.