Anyone who has ever ran a business, and in particular a start-up business, knows that you can never predict what new surprises, changes, and crises a new day will bring. You can only be certain that your day will not go exactly as planned.
Therefore, as a leader, or entrepreneur you need to be prepared to respond well to unplanned events, be ready to make good decisions, and lead your team effectively through uncertainty and sometimes adversity.
So what can you do to perform well on these challenging days?
My short and simple advice is: make sure your get enough sleep.
To get through these tough and often stressful days you need to have your A game; be at your best performance, both physically and mentally. You need to be alert and present, maintain your composure and focus, display confidence, and make good decisions.
According to research done by Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, the Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, many executives don’t get sufficient amount of sleep. If they average four hours of sleep a night for four or five days, they develop the same level of cognitive impairment as if they’d been awake for 24 hours—equivalent to legal drunkenness. This greatly lengthens reaction time, impedes judgment, and interferes with problem solving.
The general effect of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance is well-known: Stay awake longer than 18 consecutive hours, and your reaction speed, short-term and long-term memory, ability to focus, decision-making capacity, math processing, cognitive speed, and spatial orientation all start to suffer. Cut sleep back to five or six hours a night for several days in a row, and the accumulated sleep deficit magnifies these negative effects.
What makes matters even worst is that leaders set the example for their entire organization. If you work long hours, stay up late writing e-mails, have late night conference calls, and work on your weekends and vacations, you implicitly cause your people to do the same. They naturally assume that it’s expected of them too, and part of the company culture.
This vicious cycle creates a whole organization of sleep deprived, ineffective people. That’s definitely not the formula for building high-performance teams and long-term success.
Instead, leaders should set the right example and improve their own performance by getting sufficient amount of sleep; at least seven hours a day. You will feel ten times better, physically and mentally, and your company will perform a whole lot better as well. Moreover, you’ll be doing a great service to your people and their families.
Good night and sleep well!