R&R for CEOs: How to Take a Thinking Break
Like many middle market CEOs, Tomas Gorny is passionate about his job as head of Unitedweb, the parent company of Nextiva, a middle market company specializing in business cloud communication. When it comes to thinking about his business, "I never turn it off," he says, "but I have nothing to turn off because I love what I do. I'm very intense." But working all the time can lead to burnout and lack of perspective. That's why he builds R&R into his schedule, and his strategies may inspire even the most workaholic CEOs to take a break this summer.
Regular exercise. R&R doesn't have to mean exotic vacations; sometimes it's just clearing your head and getting out of the office. For Gorny, business is "almost like an ongoing game. It's not seasonal, and I'm always in the game." Regular exercise, then, is his version of "stretching before the game" because "in some way you've got to recharge...I don't have much balance, but every day I do CrossFit."
Combine business and pleasure. When I spoke with Gorny, he was calling from a business trip in Germany and was about to take several days off to spend with his wife in Monaco and Capri. For a committed leader, taking time off can be stressful, but Gorny plans in advance with his team. "I usually make sure I'm leaving at a time when people don't need me strategically," he says. "They can execute and I feel comfortable." He says the time away from the office helps him see the business more holistically; he read two business books on his twelve-hour flight and jotted down ideas about company strategy. His trips also provide a reality check: "We're in the technology business and we end up taking technology for granted," he says. Entering an environment where people aren't immersed in high-tech ensures he stays focused on his customers' perspective.
Read voraciously. Sometimes R&R can be physical, like CrossFit. Sometimes it's geographical, as on Gorny's Mediterranean vacation. Other times the best break you can take is mental, clearing your head from business concerns and immersing yourself into another world. Gorny enjoys reading autobiographies of leaders, both inside and outside the business realm. "There's always something to learn," he says.
Keep perspective. Gorny, a father of five children under eight years old, says his favorite form of R&R is spending time with his family. "It puts everything into perspective – what's really important," he says. "Even the most stressful situation at work is not that stressful, because the only thing I worry about in life is that my children are healthy. That allows me to be much more creative-minded in the work I do."
Engaged middle market leaders may not feel a need for long summer vacations at the beach. "For the most part, we're on vacation most of our lives," says Gorny, because the work is so enjoyable. But even the most passionate leaders can benefit from some R&R so they can see things differently and become even more effective. Whether it's through exercise, reading, trips to interesting locations, or time with your family, it's up to each of us to find the best way to recharge.
How do you relax and take time away from work?
Dorie Clark is an NCMM contributor, marketing strategist, and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. Learn more about her new book Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press) and follow her on Twitter.