When Jean-Luc Robert, CEO of San Diego, Calif.-based Kyriba wants to blow off some steam, he straps on his skis and jumps out of a helicopter. Robert is an avid heli-skier and adventure sports enthusiast--hobbies he says help make him a better leader at his corporate finance technology company.
When executive coach Stacia Pierce works with business leaders, one of the first things she does is encourage them to find a hobby. Whether it's developing a reading regimen or getting them out on a fishing boat, she helps her clients make time for the things they love outside of work. While many entrepreneurs argue that they don't have time, Pierce says hobbies actually make people better at running their companies in four key areas.
1. Decision-making. When you've had some time away from the office, you return with a fresh perspective and a renewed ability to focus and make the best decisions, Pierce says.
Robert agrees. "You're able to clear your mind of all the details," he says. "The mountain sometimes is a pretty dangerous scene. So, you learn to be cautious. You learn not to make the wrong decision, and you learn to take your time making the decision." After all, make the wrong decision when you’re jumping out of a helicopter, and it could be your last.
2. Systematic thinking. Hobbies require systems, which train your mind to think that way in business, Pierce says. Even something as simple as her own reading hobby requires planning the time read, having books on hand, and making notes about them in her journals to remember passages or book themes.
In addition, mastering a new skill, whether it’s playing golf or playing a musical instrument, requires a systematic approach that includes trial and error, patience, and practice. Those are also important business skills, says Pierce.
3. Creativity. Finding something you love that allows you to relax and focus on something other than work is going to keep your brain occupied with new ideas, she says. Just as a good night's sleep or a brief vacation can stoke creativity, time spent on a hobby could be just the thing a leader needs to begin thinking about a vexing problem in a different way, Pierce says.
"Having interests outside the office just give you more balance and give you a greater sense of well-being," she adds.
4. Confidence. Whether you've conquered a tough mountain on skis, run a marathon, or finally read War and Peace, hobby milestones can give you a sense of accomplishment and confidence that carries over into the office, Pierce says.
For Robert, mastering a challenging ski route is a feeling that stays with him long after he's off the slopes. "I think it's the fact that you're outside of your regular world. It's very refreshing. You have a lot of adrenaline going on and you have to make the right decision at the right time," he says. There's no time to worry about trivial matters, he adds. And that is how he strives to be in his leadership style, too.