drawing of sad stick figure under rain and happy figure radiating

How Are You Coming Back?


I had a conversation with one of my CEO leaders at the beginning of this month. He had just come back from a week-long vacation with his wife and kids.  The same people he’s been with the last six months – different location. He admitted the break was mostly for everyone else. He continued hard at work. His company has actually done remarkably well in spite of Covid and the economy. They’ve been rolling out new products, signing new customers and hiring leaders for key positions. 

Much to celebrate. And yet, he said, “Rob, it’s getting to me. I miss being in person with my team. I’m tired of the media and the news. I feel I’m continually losing energy . . . .  I’m like a battery you plug in, but it won’t hold its charge.”

If you are like most of the leaders I know, you have found a way to take a break from it all in the past few months. Somehow, in spite of Covid’s effect of freezing us all in place, you escaped. Many of you escaped physically – driving a few hours to an Airbnb rental for a week. Others have attempted to “escape” the barrage of bad news by tempering your focus on news or social media swiping. How did you take a break?

And how are you coming back? Really? Let’s take inventory:

  • Physically: Have you put on some of the “Covid 15” because your gym is closed? Or because you’re eating/drinking more than usual? How is your behavior, your presence, around others?
  • Intellectually: What is your first thought in the morning? How are you feeding your mind? What is your diet of news and social media?
  • Emotionally: What is your prevailing emotion these days? Anger? Fear? Sadness?

Three to six months ago, we were hoping we’d be in better shape by now. That all this craziness would be temporary and go away. That solutions would be found to reduce/eliminate the threat of Covid. That conducting business would be easier. That the kids would be back to their schools and their sports. That our society would be figuring out how to come together. 

Ummm . . .

So, whether or not you had a break, how are you coming back to reality here in September?

As I see it, leaders have two choices in how they come back: Autopilot or Intentional.  Let’s look at the definitions of these two words –

  • Autopilot: a state or condition in which activity or behavior is regulated automatically in a predetermined or instinctive manner
  • Intentional: possessing the determination to act in a certain way

When I am on autopilot .  .  .

  • I am a reaction to my external circumstances
  • My emotions are in charge of me, because I don’t notice them
  • My subconscious thoughts control me, because I don’t notice their influence
  • I am doing and saying things the way I always have . . . and getting roughly the same results

When I am intentional . . .

  • I am leading from the inside out, to influence my circumstances
  • I am noticing and channeling my emotions constructively
  • I am choosing my thoughts, and managing what goes into my brain
  • I determine to lead myself well so I can lead others well through my words and actions

You say, “Rob, you don’t know my circumstances!” I get it; and I sympathize with those who are having a particularly rough go of it right now. AND, I encourage you to avoid an autopilot response of “There’s nothing I can do.” Great leaders always find a way. They don’t stop and succumb.

How do you be more intentional? I suggest you start with looking inward:

IDENTITY – Who do I want to be through these challenging times? 

PURPOSE – Why am I here? What impact do I want to have today on my team? My company? How do I want to be a “positive circumstance” for others?

You have a choice in how you “come back.” Choose to lead yourself well so you can lead others well.


Two timely resources to help you come back at your best:

  1. My book, Lead Like You Were Meant To: Make the Switch from Autopilot to Intentional, comes out September 1. It provides a personal roadmap to help you lead well through these difficult times.
  2. My one-hour virtual workshop, “How are You Coming Back?” helps you and your team quickly re-set and “come back” at your best as you head into the fall. Write me here for more information.