The Power of a Leadership Off-Season

The Power of a Leadership Off-Season

Baseball is not one of my favorite sports.  The game moves slowly, the season is incredibly long, and honestly, I was never good at playing it.  Yet, despite my love of every other sport, I found myself glued to the television during the recent world series.  You see, I live in Houston, Texas, and this series was about more than just baseball.  The hometown team was playing for a larger purpose; one fueled by strong team comradery and the knowledge that the city really needed a victory after Hurricane Harvey.  The dramatic win in game 7 brought an amazing sense of excitement, joy and appreciation to the people of Houston; it was awesome (sorry Dodgers fans)!  But now that the season is over, and the parades have ended, the excitement that follows a successful campaign fades away, and the players enter the off-season; a time of rest and recalibration.  There are many things leaders can learn from the practice of an off-season which can have a profound impact on their ability to lead.

Leaders need rest.  Most professional athletes do absolutely nothing for several weeks after the season.  They are simply tired.  For those of us in the business world, we can relate to the pressure of demanding schedules.  Many people are over-booked and under-rested, and it is doing damage to our ability to lead.  Jesus knew that the pace of our lives would be a challenge.  In Matthew 11:28-30, He extends this profound invitation when He says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  His invitation is to take time off, spend time learning from Him, and find rest for our souls.  Jesus regularly stepped away from the day-to-day work of ministry to find uninterrupted time with His Father so He could be refreshed before returning to work.  Resting our bodies and our minds from the busyness of life is what refuels us, so we can perform at high levels.

People are over-booked and under-rested; it is doing damage to our ability to lead. 

During my tenure, as Chief Merchandising Officer at Mattress Firm, I blocked one day a month on my calendar to get away, get quiet and get refreshed.  My goal for the day was to slow down so I could think, and spend time doing something that I enjoyed.  Sometimes I spent the morning fishing, or walking on the beach, while other times, I brought along a book or my Bible for some uninterrupted reading.  The point of the activity was to do something I normally didn’t have time to enjoy.

The restful time helps to prepare for the second great lesson we can learn from those who actively participate in an off-season.     

Leaders need to recalibrate.  In an article published by Fast Company magazine in 2016, the author says that stress is related to busyness: “the body releases a hormonal chemical called cortisol that temporarily shuts down our digestive and immune systems.  This can stop people from performing at maximum potential, keeping our bodies in constant “fight-or-flight” mode.  This can isolate you from others and negatively impact your sleep.”  Repeatedly it is being proven that busyness is hurting us.  It’s important to course correct and carve out time to reflect on where you are in life.  It is a critical step for leadership growth.  In Romans 12:2, the apostle delivers a powerful directive, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  The practice of being transformed or recalibrated is how a leader sharpens his/her mind, and ultimately, enhances his/her ability to lead.

The practice of being transformed is how a leader sharpens his ability to lead.

My personal process for recalibration normally included a thoughtful inventory on key areas of my life; family, work, finances, health, spiritual, etc.  I ask myself this key question: if things keep going exactly as they are going now, will I be in a better place a year from now, or a worse place?  The process helps in determining where I need to adjust.  Personally, I like to bring a book, or an article along which focused on an area I may want to sharpen.  The influence of alternate ideas serves as a powerful catalyst for change.  My favorite book is the Bible as there are many powerful truths and practical examples to help connect the dots for how to bring change into my life. 

During one off-season event, I realized I had been flexing performance standards with my team and avoiding accountability in areas of our business.  Our results were declining, and I knew I needed to make an adjustment and raise the bar.  However, I had a mental block on how to do it.  Fortunately, I came across Colossians 3:23-24 which said, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”  I realized that God’s standard for work was one of excellence, and to the degree I let my team compromise, I am compromising God’s standard.  That was enough of a shift in perspective to remind me why a standard of excellence is so important; it is God who I am ultimately working for.  That was a powerful truth that helped me make the change I needed to make. 

What about you?  Do you have plans this upcoming holiday season to carve out time to engineer your own off-season?  How long has it been since you blocked off uninterrupted time to rest and recalibrate?  The off-season approach is a critical time for world class athletes to get refreshed and restored for what they hope to be an even better season.  Consider taking time to bring this concept into your own life and watch how God transforms the way you lead.  

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Craig McAndrews

Craig McAndrews is an accomplished business executive with 27 years of experience in sales leadership, corporate education and C-level responsibility. Most recently, Craig served as the Chief Strategy Officer at Houston based Mattress Firm, where he was responsible for developing strategic growth plans for stores and online businesses. Prior to that, he served in a variety of senior leadership roles including Chief Merchandising Officer, and Chief Learning Officer. Before joining Mattress Firm, he was a sales leader at Sealy Mattress Company and Simmons Bedding Company. Craig also lived the life of an entrepreneur as co-founder and operator of a retail consulting firm, and a chain of mattress retail stores. Currently, he shares his experience at the University of Houston, as an adjunct professor in the Marketing Department while also operating CMAC Capital Group, a small business investment firm. Craig is passionate about leadership development, writing, and teaching. He has written frequently for publications such as Sleep Saavy, Ministry in the Marketplace, and Coach’s Corner. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin, and lives in Friendswood, Texas with his wife April, and their two boys, Ben and Nate.