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102. Exhausted? Try this one question to energize yourself & your team.

This time of year can get crazy.

To be honest, I'm exhausted and guessing you may be too.

Especially as a leader, operating in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world, the end-of-year holiday season can be overwhelming.

So we're keeping this episode short, and I'm giving you just one simple but impactful practice you can adopt today to re-energize yourself and your team.

Resources referenced

Episode 61: Leading on Empty


We offer this transcription by Capsho for those who prefer to read or who are hearing impaired.


Hello, and welcome to Stronger to Serve. I'm your host and leadership mentor, Teri Schmidt.


You are a leader who knows you cannot succeed in today's vocal world unless you are skilled at cultivating cultures and capabilities. Our goal is to each week bring you inspiration and practical steps to build and lead a highly motivated high performing team where people are as concerned about each other's success, wellbeing, and growth as they are their own. Sound good? Let's jump in.


I have a confession to make. I'm feeling exhausted. Are you now? My exhaustion may be partially due to getting over COVID last week. By the way, forgive my voice if it sounds a little strange, but really, I think the exhaustion is more related to the nature of this end of year holiday season.


It always makes me a little sad that this time of the year gets so busy, as there's so much potential for it to be a time for the three elements of life that I mentioned way back in episode 55 that can lead to resilience. Remember, those were rituals, rest, and relationships. The holiday season was really built for rituals, rest and relationships. And I'm not saying that we don't have control over how much peace we bring into this time, but let's be honest in this VUCA world, in other words, in a world that's volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous in leadership, sometimes we're going to feel overwhelmed and just plain tired. So today I want to offer a bitesize lesson, a practice that you can start using today without having to take too much time out of your day.


I'll start with a story, one of our future guests who I can't wait for you to meet. Farah Harris, the author of The Color of Emotional Intelligence, recently illustrated this exhaustion with a story about her Christmas lights. She talked about how she went out to test her Christmas lights like every experienced holiday decorator does, and about 30% of the lights weren't working, but she decided to put them up anyway, strategically putting the lights that were working on the places where they were needed the most. Her beautiful message was about advent, and regardless of how much we feel like we are, those strands of lights only operating at about 70%, that there was one who we were waiting for, whose light never fails. I love and completely agree with that message, but her story also made me think about how when we're tired, prioritization becomes even more important just as she strategically placed the working lights.


We need to be intentional about where we put our energy and our team's energy. But if you're like me right now, even thinking about taking time to prioritize seems like too much. My first feeling is that I just want to get through my todo list and not add anything else to it. So if you're feeling like that, or even if you aren't, today I want to offer you just one question you can use to energize yourself and your team. It's a question we discussed last week, but last week we were talking about how it can be used to do much more indepth strategic planning that I hope you'll all carve out time for, if you haven't already.


But it's also a question you can use as a quick lifeline to an anchor of stability in this VUCA storm. That question is why? And I'd like you to think about it in two ways for both you and your team. The first way, why this task? And the second way, why me?


As you review your task for the day, try to take a few seconds to ask yourself, why is this task important? And then do whatever you can to make sure your team members have a clear answer to the why question as well. What might be some of your answers? Well, if you're talking about a work project, hopefully you and your team know the chain of impact between that particular project and the mission of the organization. If you don't, you really need to find out.


Or maybe one of your tasks for that day is a one on one meeting with one of your team members. And the why for that is that you want to be there for them to help them understand how they can continue to develop. Or maybe your task is buying a gift for a holiday gift exchange or making yet another set of cookies for your kids holiday event. Why are you doing that? Maybe it's to bring joy to someone in particular.


And if you can think about that person, the experience and the task becomes much more meaningful. You get the idea. Just asking the question Why? Can give you an extra boost of energy as a leader. How can you make sure that your team members have answers to that question when they look at their daily tasks?


Doing that can be key to their wellbeing and to their engagement. The second way that I'd like you to ask why? Is just as important. Why me? This is where knowing your strengths and values and making sure your team members know theirs comes in handy.


But even if you haven't done deep reflection on that yet, ask the question, what unique value can you bring to this task or to the project team? Maybe it's your attention to detail or your ability to anticipate conflict, or your ability to juggle many different tasks at once and again, as a leader, have you made it easy for your team members to answer this question, why them? What's unique about them that caused you to give them that project? Make sure they know, and I promise you they will become more engaged in the work. So that's it for today.


Ask the question, Why? Why this task? Why me? And make sure your team knows the answers for their work as well. Taking a minute to ask those questions is something that you can start doing today and can help both you and your team to feel grounded, to get an extra boost of energy and motivation and to strategically use that energy in the places it is needed most.


Until next time, lead with this in mind. This quote is by concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl:

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by the lack of meaning and purpose.”


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