Don’t laugh. This happened to a client not too long ago. He’s a very busy CEO, who was so tired that he showed up at a morning press conference in a suit and tie but without socks. It was a tell tale sign that he had mentally checked out because of exhaustion. He wasn’t conscious of what he was doing.
Falling Asleep on Your Feet
Executives tend to feel they are invincible, and that they can do it all. We were asked to squeeze in a coaching session for a CEO in between an important Board meeting and a dinner where he was being honored.
We declined because we felt it would be too draining for him to focus on training while his mind was elsewhere. Instead, we suggested scheduling the session for another day when he would be fresh and at his best.
Everyone needs their rest, including top executives. You need a good night’s sleep to be mentally sharp in making decisions that can alter the course of an organization.
Another time a PR Department scheduled a training session for an executive we work with who spends two weeks in New York and two weeks in Chile every month. The training was scheduled for 9 a.m. after he had only arrived back in the U.S. at 2 a.m. that morning. He was so exhausted he left after a few minutes. It just wasn’t the right time to rehearse for a presentation.
It’s critical to take care of yourself. Set aside time to rest during the course of the day. Close your office door and put a Do Not Disturb sign on it. Sleep is so important to employee productivity that many companies, like Google, have “nap rooms” where employees can grab a few zzzz’s, wake up refreshed and be ready to tackle their next project.
Companies such as Nationwide Planning and the Huffington Post have installed recliners that are designed for corporate naps.
Ariana Huffington discovered the hard way that she needed her sleep. In 2007, two years after founding her news site, she collapsed from exhaustion at her desk, broke her cheekbone, and needed four stitches on her right eye. She describes (below) the episode to Oprah Winfrey and how it changed her priorities:
It’s difficult for a CEO, who is the public face of the company, to be at to the top of his game 24/7. He can’t project the image of a leader if his face looks like his rumpled suit.
PR people who schedule his dates need to have the guts to stand up and tell the boss he looks too tired for a public appearance. Suggest he take a catnip and postpone the meeting until another time. It’s not a good idea to schedule a press conference or media interview for a CEO who is clearly exhausted.
There are some people, like Bill Clinton, who claim they can get by on four or five hours sleep a night, but even the former President enjoyed an afternoon nap to recharge.
Charlie Rose, who co-anchored CBS’ morning show while contributing to 60 Minutes and anchoring two programs for PBS, said the trick to doing all this is to “not read the same book twice” . . . and take two naps a day.
President Lyndon Johnson and Prime Minister Winston Churchill were other famous nappers.
It was widely reported during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan that he took a nap every afternoon and occasionally nodded off during meetings. He had a sense of humor about it, joking that his cabinet chair should be inscribed with “Ronald Reagan Slept Here.”
But not getting enough sleep isn’t a laughing matter. Looking and feeling exhausted is not good for your public image and even worse for your health. If this describes you, take a cue from famous nappers and schedule a nap to get some rest.