Ever throw a water balloon? When I was a kid, this was one of the highlights of a suburban Chicago summer. We would have massive water balloon fights that were almost as epic as the snowball fights we would have in the winter. There are many water balloon strategies we would see in the neighborhood. Some kids would put a little water in them to get maximum distance in their throw and some would fill them as much as possible to get maximum explosion as they sneak up on you. Too little water and they would not break, too much water and they were hard to throw and broke too soon. No matter how much or little you stretched them, the one constant that happened when they did eventually break, water came out of them. It’s not complicated, water was put in them so that’s what came out. This is the same with people, when we are stretched, stuff comes out of us too. What comes out of us, is exactly what we put in us. As leaders of course, it is not all about us. When our teams are stretched, what comes out of them is exactly what is put in them.
I am reading a best selling book that recommends, above all else, to guard your heart, because everything you do flows from it. As I was considering that exhortation, I thought about a recent situation at work where I had an immediate emotional response. What came out of me was exactly what was in me, emotion; in this case fear and anxiety. I have been letting stress and anxiety play a much bigger role in my life than they should. Some stress and anxiety can be ok and can act as a motivator or driver to get something completed but too much and the balloon pops to easy. As I let these two burdens fill my life, I have not been finding appropriate ways for them to flow out as easily as they are flowing in. We all know appropriate ways to deal with stress and anxiety: exercise, meditation, vacation, proper down time. These things in an of themselves are not the goal. The goal of those activities is peace. The one thing that can guard your heart from these and other burdens, above anything else, is peace.
Peace just doesn’t come. It is not like stress or anxiety that are everywhere and we really don’t have to do anything intentional to find them. Stress is at home, at work, in relationships, finances, and in teams. Stress and anxiety can fill a balloon much faster than peace can. Peace must be sought after. Of course if you don’t see value in it you won’t look for it. Hopefully, as a leader, you understand how your behavior impacts others. If you walk with too much stress, this is exactly what you pour into the team. Do you see where this can go? Your balloon is only so big, your team’s is bigger. Eventually the pop will happen for both you and the team and it will probably happen at a most inopportune time. As you seek your peace through exercise or vacation or whatever works for you, how do you help the team seek peace?
First, remember your impact. The more you walk in peace, meaning appropriately dealing with your stress and anxiety, you begin naturally to pour that into your team just through your exposure to them; they will undoubtedly notice. Secondly, just as you need exercise and some time away, so does your team. Half day, or even quarter day offsite mini retreats can help. In these mini retreats you can exercise relationships. We have all been part of a ropes course with a team or something similar, that is exactly what these are designed to do. They decrease team stress and anxiety. The goal of the retreat is not just a retreat. The goal is to provide tools to help guard the heart of the team because everything they do flows from it.
Get together with your team and talk about stress and anxiety. Tell them you want to address this and ask for ideas how. Over time they will respond with experiences they have had and before you know it you will have a way to guard the heart of your team. There is a never ending supply of stress and anxiety that can fill your team’s balloon over and over. There is also a never ending supply of peace that can help diffuse the eventual explosion and make it a non event instead of an end to the project or worse yet, the organization. As far as my balloon is concerned, I am so looking forward to fall and sitting in a tree stand, going to the mountains, and enjoying the cooler weather. In the meantime, I’m headed to the peace pool to swim some laps, water is always involved somehow with me, balloons, snowballs, or pools!
How do you find peace? Would love to hear your feedback or comments on Twitter or Facebook