Living Leadership

Living Leadership

Island time is leadership time

Julie Thorson, Friendship Haven
Julie Thorson, Friendship Haven

Apparently we are all in a hurry. We think we slow down, we think we relax, but really we just pause. It's very infrequent that we completely disconnect and truly relax.

So here is my “I was just on vacation” blog. Good for me. What could this possibly have to do with leadership? Well, everything.

We are only as good as our ability to focus when we need to. If we only focus on what is in front of us at the time and never focus on ourselves, it's impossible to gain perspective.

In order to gain perspective, we must spend a portion of our day on “island time.” This may be in every way contradictory to being “on time” (which I am also crazy about!). But island time to me means taking the time to clear your head (even for a minute) and concentrating on the moment.

This takes practice and discipline. To not think about the next meeting or the next conversation and only focus on whom and what you are active with at the time takes commitment.

I was reminded of that while on the beach last week in St. Marteen. It took a few days to not miss the panicked feeling of not checking my phone every few minutes. It was only when I stopped worrying about the phone that I started to not miss it! I was able to focus on the amazing surroundings and actually completely relax.

I also forgot about what time it was or even what day it was. I trusted all would go well while I was gone. This place would still be standing and the teammates running the ship while I was away would do just fine. This is necessary.

I repeat: A strong dose of island time is necessary. It should be a prescription ordered by co-workers. Take two doses of island time, leave your phone at home and go relax, come back refreshed and ready to focus on our responsibilities going forward.

Now back at work and in the midst of hectic, sometimes even frantic decisions, I'm reminded of the importance of island time. The check at a restaurant took a little too long while we were on the island. If I were home, I would have marched to the manager and explained we had been waiting for two hours! Where is our food? But on island time there is no such thing as being in a hurry.

You relax, enjoy the moment and enjoy waiting. Enjoy waiting? That sounds ridiculous. I would challenge you, though, as a leader. Sometimes waiting may offer the best solutions, and sometimes just “being” offers the best insight possible.

So slow down, don't be in such a hurry, appreciate the moment and relax.

There's plenty of time to run around, from fire to fire and accomplishment to accomplishment. Just being and appreciate who is in front of you and the work we do is enough.

Of course my version and my “aha!” moment during vacation may have been a tiny bit influenced by 85 degrees and sunshine for seven days. But I'm going with it.

Julie Thorson is the president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a continuing care retirement community in Fort Dodge, IA, that earned the Governor's Award for Quality in 2014. A coach's daughter at heart, she is a former part-time nursing home social worker who quickly ascended the leadership ranks. A licensed nursing home administrator, she has been a participant in LeadingAge's Leadership Academy and was recently named LeadingAge Iowa's Mentor of the Year. 

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