The connection is clear. The demands of operating in a highly competitive workplace result in widespread executive health issues. This is hard to ignore when seven out often executives are obese and the vast majority are suffering silently with serious medical conditions. These problems often start when the executive begins to climb the corporate ladder or first starts his or her business.
While there is often an assumption that success will mean more time to focus on one’s health, the opposite is more often true.
The competing demands of a growing number of stakeholders mount with each passing quarter, and all the while the executive’s health declines. Four symptoms stand between them and their dream lifestyle the first symptom is fatigue.
The fatigued executive lacks physical, mental and emotional energy. Even a small drop in energy levels makes leadership harder for the executive. When the executive is tired, inspiring the team by making each of its members feel special—like they belong—can feel like a herculean task. This energy deficit can affect not only the individual’s performance but also that of the team and even the entire organisation.
The leader sets the cadence. Whether it’s a frenetic pace, an assertive cool or a sluggish crawl, the leader’s energy levels influence how those around them behave. Think of executive decline as a chemical reaction. Sagging energy is the catalyst that increases the speed and intensity of the reaction. When energy levels bottom out, the other symptoms of executive decline begin to appear alarmingly quickly.
No matter how skilled or experienced you are, you can’t endure long and intense periods of decision-making without negatively affecting your energy. The result is decision fatigue. Lurking beneath the surface it is easier to ignore than physical fatigue. Those who have this kind of fatigue are often not consciously aware they are making poor decisions.
Mental fatigue and decision fatigue lead the mind to look for shortcuts, and it has two favourites:
Decision fatigue often leads to impulsive action. This helps explain why ordinarily sensible people can sometimes lash out at colleagues or family members. Decision fatigue erodes willpower, explaining why sugar becomes irresistible at the end of the day. It makes the executive unwilling to compromise; this can lead to excessive spending, drinking or anger if someone gets in the way.
“When an executive is unwell, there is generally less permission—permission to make mistakes, etc. You’re too singularly focused on a narrow definition of success,and so inventiveness and creativity tend to suffer. The opportunities that come from trial and error are still there, but it becomes more mechanical. You rely on the technical more than the creative. You lose that flare.”
David Heine, Chief Operating Officer, eftpos
This is the ultimate energy saver. Inaction and procrastination allow the fatigued mind to avoid or put off choices. Ducking decisions creates bigger problems in the long run, but the exhausted brain is not exactly known for its ability to forecast future results. It merely seeks rest.
Inaction can always be justified: they have worked hard all week; they deserve some downtime; they’ve earned the freedom to hit that snooze button again.
This attitude is the biggest stumbling block when it comes to starting an exercise program. But it’s not the result of any laziness on the part of the executive. No, the mental and emotional energy required to perform their role leaves them little energy to do anything else. At the end of the day, they’re not recharging their batteries.
They’re collapsing into bed with one hand still on their phones.
If you would like to read more about how deconditioned executives can turn into athletes If you want to learn more about the program that allows deconditioned executives to turn into athletes you can download a free chapter sampler of my book here or on the website.