I often talk with my coaching clients about “heads-up” versus “heads-down” time. Heads-up time is when leaders shift from doing to being, allowing time to think, to meditate. Heads-down down is the everyday doing. As leaders we need both, but too often we find ourselves stuck in heads-down.
This morning I took a walk on the beach, my happy place. My intention was to have a walking meditation. Within a few steps I glanced down and saw a starfish stuck on dry sand hoping, I imagine, to get back to an ever-lowering tide. I felt I had to help it.
Very quickly my walking meditation turned into a starfish rescue mission! I kept my head down and found at least a dozen more to save.
Was this wrong? It depends. My intention for this walk was to be heads-up, enjoying the many sights of the area: birds, dolphin, water, boats, clouds, etc. By simply looking down and seeing one issue, I was derailed. My habit to solve problems kicked in, and I saw a problem that I determined needed me to fix it. I was instantly sucked into heads-down time.
Upon reflection, I wondered, “Was important for ME to help the starfish? Was I the right person to do this?” My answer is no; this was nature doing nature. My need to be needed took me away from important heads-up time to solve a problem that didn’t even need solving, let alone need ME to do it.
Leaders need heads-up time, and our organizations need us to have it, too. The best leaders let their teams take care of the figurative starfish, they know best how anyway!