Manager Development

In April 2011, I completed a 90-day sabbatical with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Chilean Patagonia. Root – just like HBR’s April 2012 article titled “Wilderness Leadership – On the Job” – recognized the value for me becoming a more effective people manager by navigating waterways and mountains with a small team.

NOLS’ guiding principles and 1,200+ hours of skill development helped me return as a more resourceful and a stronger judge of priorities. Yet, the greatest benefit seems to be my renewed focus on self-care.

In a world where 70% of people are not engaged in their work and managers are the primary reason employees leave companies, it’s worth exploring how self-care impacts people. I define self-care as the relatively simple routines of staying hydrated, getting sleep, eating nutritious meals, exercising, and practicing hygiene. If these aren’t priorities in the wilderness, then a team of adventurers is sure to stifle its potential. In manufacturing plants, retail locations, and office buildings, the same routines affect manager/employee relationships and team performance.

As a manager, it’s my responsibility to come to work alert, refreshed, and available to my teams. I rely heavily on water, whole foods, and even quick runs up and down office stairs to make sure I have the energy and focus to help my teams succeed.

Our work lives are demanding. We’re working longer hours, relying more on fast foods and energy drinks that actually make us more sluggish and dehydrated, and losing the battle to keep good people with our companies. I take responsibility to fend off these trends. Self-care is my solution. It helped my team thrive in Patagonia, and it’s helping me be more productive and in the moment with people at work.

We all have tremendous control over our personal routines. If we fail to take care of ourselves, how can we expect to get the most out of our people?


May 9, 2012


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