How to Have an Unplugged Leadership Christmas

Dr. John Townsend

December 11, 2014

Leaders often have a struggle letting go, winding down, checking out and truly engaging in the holiday and “being there.” There are end-of-year financials, projections, plans for the next year, and projects to get closure on.  I’m sure you have heard something like the following words in January:  “We didn’t get all of you, you were still hooked in to work.  You disappeared for hours on your laptop.”  I have heard these words, and felt bad for my family and myself.

You need to really unplug during this Christmas for you, them and the season.  You’ll have more energy, creativity and mojo if you do these simple steps.  They have worked for me.

  • Be part of the Christmas planning.  We engage in the things that we have taken responsibility for.  You are far more likely to “be present” at shows, ski trips, restaurants or family times around the tree, when you have had a part in planning them.  Don’t delegate it to your spouse.  You’ll end up being less intensely involved.  Take a leadership role in your family, have the brainstorming meeting, and do the logistics.  If you have a tough time with boundaries during the holidays please find a tip for dealing with tough relatives in the video below.

  • Differentiate between important business priorities and a desire for closure.  Leaders have a tendency toward an obsessive need for closure.  They feel they must finish a task just because it is unfinished, not because it is critical.  It gnaws at them until they write it, or do the numbers, or make the call.  But be strict on yourself.  Tolerate the tension of things that can in reality go undone until you get back from the holidays.  You’ll get more used to it every day during the season.
  • Have as many no-email/business text/business phone call days as possible.  Shoot for the whole holiday.  But if you have to have to have to check email, don’t do a little every day.  That dilutes your attention.  Check it every third day.  You will be able to relax, hang out, and love the people who love you.
  • Tell the people you are with that this year will be different, and you will be accountable to them. People are impacted by your presence, absence, or half-presence.  They will remember great laughs, sentimental moments and vulnerable conversations much longer during the year than that business project that could have waited.  Give them permission to help, so that if you cheat, they can say, “OK, put the laptop/smartphone up and sit in the chair and talk to us.”
  • Have a vulnerable conversation with the people that matter.  Christmas is a great time to tell people you love how much they mean to you, to affirm who they are in their character, and to talk about faith and God.  It will count and will stick with you and them.

I am grateful to all of you this year.  Merry Christmas from myself, from Cloud-Townsend Resources, from the Townsend Institute of Leadership and Counseling, and from Townsend Leadership Program!


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