Leadership and the Dog Days of Summer

I love to use times of the year as reasons to do things. 

These things need to be accomplished anyway and the time of year doesn’t really matter. For example, spring cleaning can and should be done any season. Since March my house is being used like never before, and it needs a deep cleaning every month, jeez. (Don’t reply back to me that your house has never been cleaner. That’s like the person who told me she was cherishing this precious time with her children. Riiight.) 

Tying an action to a calendar, season, or time helps ground me. It makes me feel as if there is a reason to do things. And that makes it more likely I actually take action.  

Right now we’re in the middle. The middle of the year. The middle of the summer. The middle (we hope) of the pandemic. We’re at home, we’re tired, we’re frustrated, and all this stuff still needs to get done.

For my executive coaching clients, this middle of the summer means we work through some questions to assess where they are at this point and where they need to go.

Here are 5 of those questions:

  1. What 3-5 behaviors did you use often from January to June? Why? What were the end results?
  2. What 3-5 behaviors do you need to practice more often during the second half of the year? Less?
  3. What are you most proud/happy/relieved/excited about?
  4. What is one regret you need to let go of?
  5. Who is one of the superstar performers on your team you need to dedicate more time to?

What are your answers? Email them to me if you’d like some reactions. 

Now, if you’re feeling a bit lazy about this exercise, maybe it’s because we’re in the dog days of summer. We’re approaching the middle of the summer. 

The Greeks and Romans associated these hot, lethargic, unhurried but at the same time restless days with an ominous feeling of bad stuff coming. You know—a scorching drought, bands of mad dogs roaming the street, sudden thunderstorms that lead to flooding, and, oh, yes, a fever or a plague. 

Let me just crawl back into bed and turn up the AC. Time to hide.

If you’re feeling unenthusiastic and tired these days, it’s not just you. It’s huge numbers of us. We are scared. We want to see the end. We want answers. We want something steady. We are anxious. 

Instead, it’s the middle of summer, and we’re scared. 

We’re usually relaxing now. We’re usually on vacation or standing in line at the airport, trying to get somewhere enjoyable other than home. But now we’re in an “endless staycation”—check out this lovely illustrated elegy on traveling. So clever.

We’re going bonkers inside the house, and then we reach our limits and go outside and do goofy stuff. I don’t need to share any links for you on this point. It’s ugly and it’s out there.

You could blame it on the pandemic, yet COVID-19 can’t take the blame for everything. How we and our leaders reacted or not to this pandemic is how we all ended up where we are now. (Yes, it goes back to Leader Hosen—you can wear them anytime of the year—we always need leaders.) 

I don’t have the answer, and I’m not your mother, but here are three ideas for you if you’re frustrated, wishing you could travel, and feeling apathetic and you need to stay focused.

#1: Find one thing to fall in love with.

Find one thing that you love doing and give yourself that as a reward. The walk around the block as the sun goes down; binge-watching K-drama shows such as “Signal” (guilty); the fact that you are saving on gas and dry cleaning. Find one thing. Write it down. Sigh when you think about it. Look up with a soft gaze, sigh, and imagine being with or doing that thing. Again, fall in love with just one thing.  

#2: If you’re a leader, you must learn about resilience and emotional intelligence (EQ).

Your team somehow thinks you have it under control or should have it more under control than them. I know. What the heck?! Your employees think your title means you are smart. It’s crazy. Anyway, becoming more resilient is the #1 behavior my executive coaching clients are honing with me this year. 

And emotional intelligence, well, we all need more of that.

Speaking of EQ, I will be publishing a Knowable audio course on this topic in late August. Knowable is a new audio learning platform, and they asked me if I would write an EQ course for them. Hello—you mean people will want to listen to my ideas—unlike my children?! Um, yes, I will do that. I’m gathering a few thoughts on material for the course, so I’d love if you could complete this quick survey.

#3: Realize when it’s time to sign off. To do less. To hang out. To be lazy. 

As you can guess from the Awesome Leader mascots, I find some of what I love (idea #1) in the animal kingdom, and since it’s the dog days of summer, dogs do a wonderful job showing us—many times each day—how to sign off. How to be idle. Dogs are masters at this. They tell us:

  • Just relax
  • You can’t do it all
  • Take a nap
  • How about a snack?
  • How about we play?
  • Lift me into the bed so we can doze off together
  • Hanging out with you is so fun
  • I love you
  • It’s OK to act like a weirdo (Fergus the Corgi demonstrates that in his above photo)

It’s OK to be like a dog sometimes.

If you’re a leader, I just want you to do #1 (falling in love with one thing) and #2 (becoming more resilient and upping your EQ) before you do #3 (the idle bit).

Then, the lazy part will feel lovely.

Lead with ease,

PS In the below photo, Archibald, my colleague Heather’s dog, shows us how hiding is done. Good dog.