Sometimes illness has the worst timing. Every time I get sick, it seems to come with maximum inconvenience at a busy time for my company. My consulting clients are always trying to close a deal, start a new initiative, or deal with a crisis. Inevitably there's a ton to do, and I don't have time to be sick!
What's a leader to do with an immune system failure? People are depending on you, so crawling under the covers and ignoring the cruel world is not an option. You have to manage through the day, keeping your team on track and avoiding any disasters.
Here are tips to help you pull it together when you're not feeling well:
1. Don't Be a Hero
Guess what? You're not Superman, so stop pretending. Don't go into the office when you're not feeling well. Technology has allowed access from wherever you are, so take advantage. I know you want to set an example of showing up even when you don't want to, but illness is not the time. You might make yourself sicker and delay recovery even further by failing to rest when you need to. Plus the only thing worse than 1 person sick is a whole office of sick.
2. Have a Plan in Place
You already should be prepared for situations like this. There's a reason you don't work in silos: collaboration with wide-open communication allows for continuity of work and on time deliveries. If you have delegated properly and created strong team dynamics, this will be no sweat - practically just another day at the office!
3. Evaluate What's Really Important
Prioritization should be a regular process in your day-to-day. Now is a chance to test how well you do it. Evaluate the time sensitive, the important, and the less important. Maybe you'll find that the project you've been stressing about isn't actually that critical. Also make sure you remind yourself that your health really is critical - just look at how disruptive it is to your work when you're under the weather! Make sure you do all you can to keep yourself in tip-top shape all year round.
4. Manage Expectations
If your health is going to impact a client, let them know right away. Remember to under-promise and over-deliver. Managing client expectations will help avoid crises later on, and help keep everyone calm. You also need to manage the expectations of your team. Today, you may not be as fast as you normally would be. While you may usually be happy to give feedback, today your head isn't as clear as it ought to be to be constructive. Be clear that you'll be available for the important stuff, and that you'll be happy to cover everything else on your return. Make sure they understand it's not personal.
5. Use the Opportunity
While inconvenient, you can turn your absence into an opportunity. This is a test of the structure and processes you've crafted and implemented. How smoothly do they function in a real life situation? How well do you delegate? What didn't work? Give your team members the chance to step up and impress you. Hopefully, you'll find that your preparation and teaching has guided them well.