Why getting well away is a must for social change leaders
It is common sense that says it's good to have a holiday but for many people a holiday doesn't end up being the relaxing chill time that the body is craving. Family responsibilities, friends' events, lack of money, moving house, you name it, there are a million things that can make your time off feel nothing like a getaway. However, your body does need it and when you're in the business of social change, odds are you need it more than most!
Almost all of the leaders of social enterprises and charities I have worked with were in need of a proper break. However, getting them to do it was another thing altogether. Why was I demanding it? And why was I insisting on a place well away from it all, rather than a busy resort?
Inevitably, people who lead effective social change are immersed in their work day-in and day-out. This means being around people all the time, people in need, people under pressure to help and a range of other stakeholders to please. Many emotions, challenges and demands every day, on top of major responsibilities, often addressing dire need in really challenging circumstances. Also, people leading effective social change tend to give a lot, they have huge empathy and are likely to self sacrifice. They are people who really feel how others are suffering and are prepared to give up large amounts of their own time and resources to help. As a result, people ignore their body's request for rest and often end up getting sick and having to rest in a much less joyous way.
There is another very important reason for leaders of social change to get well away and that's for reflection and inspiration. People achieving social change do so because they can see the big picture and know what is needed in response. To properly reflect means no distractions, no interruptions and lots of clarity and space for thought and intuition. It is part of a necessary approach to social change I call strategic wellbeing. When your life and work entwine substantially, as it does for many social change leaders, it is necessary to take an all inclusive strategic approach for the well being of both. As a result, having a clear head and being well rested is planned for, not just for the person's leisure time, but for their inspired leadership at work as well.
I have seen numerous social change founders lose their way because they have neglected this opportunity to reflect. Often, founders have found inspiration to start up the organisation but once the daily demands kick in, after a couple of years their energy and inspiration starts to flail. They tend to become more head led, take more of a logical approach, taking 'sensible' decisions, rather than being able to draw on the creativity, clarity and intuition they had when they began. A proper getaway is an absolute must for them and their organisation, an essential recharge of the most important battery - the leaders energy. It is a necessary part of the business of social change and arguably more important than almost all other work commitments.
If you are a Board Member, philanthropist or other supporter of social change leaders, then insist on time out, be it a retreat, strategic planning time away... No matter what it gets called, make sure your leader is well away from it all and disconnected from the organisation as much as they can be for the period they are away.
It is very easy for a leader to be all consumed by the operational decision-making day-to-day and survival of the organisation. This is a rut best not to be stuck in. To get out of it, however, needs some planning well ahead. As a 'getaway from everything' is not yet mainstream and less likely to be well thought of, it's important that the leader isn't seen as just 'going on a jolly' but taking planned annual time to make the best decisions for the organisation.
Social change is about addressing need effectively. For social change to happen, it is absolutely paramount that an organisation's leader can reflect and make insightful decisions on how the organisation can best address the need. It isn't a nicety or a bonus - they simply must have the space and time to do it.
NB: These are the reasons I began offering people the option of a retreat - I saw clients in desperate need of them but without a good place to go and/or somewhere they could afford. If you are struggling to find somewhere do get in contact.
My preference for people is to go well away and into nature, so that a person can benefit from the tranquility of wilderness, quietness and uninterrupted, energising environments. If required, I can help as an independent sounding board, a critic and advisor.
I have put together a range of options to meet different budgets and to make it doable for everyone who needs it.
If you would like to find out more about a retreat in the foothills of the French Pyrenees please get in contact.