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Executive Leadership: How To Feel About Downtime
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Executive Leadership: How To Feel About Downtime - Executive Leadership Articles

Executive Leadership: How To Feel About Downtime

Executive Leadership Articles

Executive Leadership: How To Feel About Downtime

The marketing team just completed its annual Two Months of Death, that period near the end of the fiscal year when everything, each with a different set of requirements, is due during an eight-week period of late nights, early mornings, photocopier mishaps, rushing to the post office, and far too many lunches at desks. Now it’s the annual two-week lull before things settle into the established regular pace. The marketers and their support staff take two days as metaphorical deep breaths of recuperation, but then what?

Downtime in the office can be offensive to your sensibilities, especially since you seldom find extended downtime yourself. Nobody’s being paid to shop online or rearrange the supply closet, and you’re sure there are major long-term projects that can be jumped into early. Yet you’re also aware of the toll the past two months have taken on everyone involved, a time during which your marketing team worked well beyond its usual impressive full capacity, because this is not assembly line work. The old assembly-line model of a workday (or week, or month, or year) doesn’t work in most professional environments, where things are not the same from day to day. There are days the line moves quickly, or in unpredictable ways, and there are days when it seems to slow to a trickle.

How your managers deal with that trickle is likely to vary from one to another, but the slowdown can be critical to a team’s response to the next (possibly unexpected) flurry. Extended downtime can be a great time for low-powered maintenance stuff, like organizing emails, shuffling the office’s physical arrangement, and evaluating the systemic issues that have been filed away for “later, when we have time.” Downtime is great for nurturing network connectivity, enhancing intra-office relationships, and reinforcing each member’s value to the team. If you have good managers, they’ll know when to put it in cruise control, when to shift it into neutral, and when to give the accelerator a little tap. The key is acknowledging the value of this time so that everyone’s professional life isn’t simply an uninterrupted frenzy of urgent business.

If your managers are a bit handsy, they may get overly involved in their teams’ downtime, an understandable temptation if they think they’re being judged on how busy their teams look. Remind them that you trust their sensibilities, but that they shouldn’t feel the need to occupy everyone’s day with a string of tasks that can best be described as busy work. Nobody wants anyone to be bored, but there’s a difference between boredom and a lack of urgency, and managers should be encouraged to be sensitive about that line.

While you’re encouraging your teams to embrace downtime for all its benefits to them and to the company, apply some of that wisdom to yourself. Downtime is about recharging, about thinking, and about maintaining. Get some exercise, have lunch with old classmates, and spend some time dreaming. Downtime isn’t slacking; it can be an integral part of the overall flow embraced by productive teams.


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