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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

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There was a vastly underrated road trip movie last year starring Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr. called Due Date. Downey plays an uptight businessman and Galifianakis plays a goofy but lovable stoner. They take a cross-country trip together. Hilarity ensues.

Whenever Downey’s character would explode in rage, Galifianakis’ character would say, “Hey, you better check yourself before you wreck yourself.” It’s one of my favorite catchphrases ever. Not sure why I love it so much. Part of it was Galifianakis’ delivery, I guess. Part of it is the rhyme. The biggest reason it sticks with me is because I think it’s a great mantra for most leaders today.

Here’s my evidence for that. For the last seven years, I’ve run 360-degree surveys and self-assessments based on the leadership model in The Next Level with thousands of executives and managers. The lowest-rated item across that group for the past seven years has been: “Pace(s) myself/himself/herself by building in regular breaks from work.”

In the 360 surveys, the colleagues usually rate the leaders low on that behavior, and the leaders’ self-assessments are even lower than those of their colleagues. By the way, the scores have gotten lower every year.

What’s going on? Here’s what I see.

It’s getting crazier out there every day. Harvard Kennedy School leadership guru Ron Heifetz likes to say that leaders can either be on the dance floor or the balcony, and that it’s vital to alternate your perspective between the two regularly. The demands of modern work and life have most leaders dancing as fast as they can with very little time spent on the balcony to rest, renew and get a different perspective.

The demands of today’s world are great. How, though, can you have a reasonable shot at showing up at your best if you’re dancing ‘til you drop? As Galifianakis would say, “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

In this Video Coaching Segment, I offer three simple, practical ideas for doing just that by pacing yourself by building in regular breaks from work:

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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