How do you show up when you sit around the table with your team these days? I get to stand in front of many teams and sometimes I wish I could take a quick snapshot of what I see.  Right now, I see a lot of people who look like they’ve run out of gas.  Where’s your fuel gauge these days?

It’s not surprising if your answer is that it’s running a little low.  In many ways, it feels like we’ve all been trying to get traction in pretty thick mud since the recession of 2008.  For most of my clients, business has never returned to how it was before.  I see so many companies that have missed their financial plans multiple years in a row.  The result is that team members are hearing repeated messages that they aren’t winning (and therefore aren’t winners).

Add to the macro-level business challenges the day-to-day slog associated with overwhelming workload, unclear priorities, and matrix-structures with shared accountability and it’s even more difficult for people to feel like they’re making progress.  Most folks are working harder than ever without getting traction.

So I get it.

Now, you have a choice to make: How do you want to show up when you sit around the table with your team? It’s really important that you make that choice consciously because if you don’t, your empty gas tank will show. It will be obvious in how you slouch in your chair; how infrequently you contribute to the discussion; or how you shoot down ideas for what else to try.

Reconnect to the Destination

In the midst of challenging circumstances, it’s easy to lose sight to what you’re trying to accomplish.  It’s hard to be excited about clearing your inbox or making three calls to disgruntled customers.  But it’s not hard to be excited about becoming the most successful company in your industry, or helping customers lead healthier lives. Take a few minutes to reconnect with your organization’s purpose and vision. Remember what you’re in it for.

Invest in Resilience

If you are physically or emotionally exhausted, you’re not going to be in a position to contribute.  Investing in resilience means making all the good choices about sleep, nutrition, and exercise.  It also means investing time in the activities that charge your batteries.  Whether it’s getting outside, partaking in some creative ventures, or reorganizing your closet, do something that makes you feel great.

Simplify and Focus

One of the reasons you might feel exhausted is that it seems like you’re trying to boil the ocean. The secret is to go one bucket at a time.  First, think about the one primary purpose of your role.  “If I can achieve only one thing for this organization, I’m here to…”  Then each month, each week, and each day figure out the single most important thing you can do to add your full value.  The feeling of accomplishment, even if it’s only one bucket you’ve managed to boil, will go a long way.

Reconnect with Others

When you’re feeling tired, make a connection with a teammate.  Tell them how you’re feeling and see if they have some energy to loan you.  Sometimes enthusiasm can be infectious.  Other times, just having someone who will to listen to what’s dragging you down makes you feel less isolated and more supported.  One of the joys of being on a team is that when you’re feeling down, there’s someone else who’s feeling up.

Fake It

I’ve written before about the amazing reverse process that allows the brain to infer how we’re feeling from how we behave.  So on the low days, wear your favorite suit, sit up straight, and contribute your ideas to the discussion. If you need to talk yourself into it, just ignore all the reasons why something might not work and throw out a hypothetical to get the discussion going.

Temporary, short-term doldrums is totally normal. If it’s starting to be more than that, you’re going to start pulling everyone down with you.  Make a conscious choice today to show up differently.

Further Reading

How to Build your Resilience

Embracing No-Vember

Bolster your Stress Reserves