Slow Down

JohnKeyserContributed by John Keyser

“Slow down, you move too fast” is the opening line from the 59th Bridge Street Song, a wonderful Simon & Garfunkel song from 1966. It is often recognized as “Feelin’ Groovy”.

Today, slow down is a key message all of us, certainly pretty much everyone in business, needs to consider. Fact is, we are all too busy. Way too busy.

If I were a composer rather than a leadership coach, I’d try to write a new song, “Slow down, we’re too busy”.

And it is hurting us, individually, and our leadership – and our businesses.

CEOs and senior executives spend endless amounts of time in meetings, on conference calls and in front of computers, hours and hours just about every day.

Yet the work of their businesses is done by the people of their companies. Senior managers should be out of their offices, off the executive floors and be out side by side with their people, having conversations with them, e.g.:

  • Asking for their ideas and feedback.
  • How can we improve?
  • What help do they need?
  • What advice they have for top management?….. and
  • Letting them know that their work is important and valued and that they are appreciated.

The Internet was supposed to make us more productive; arguably it’s made us less productive. Business results are not good, our workforces are not happy, and morale is low in a great many companies, in fact I’ve read studies that it is in the 75% range.

The endless flow of emails is a huge problem. There is not easy answer, no magic solution, no off the shelf product guaranteed to work. I have taken the Getting Things Done workshop by David Allen and gained lots of good ideas, but was forewarned that it can take two years to truly implement the system. There are other good productivity programs available, lots of them.

Yet, I only know two people who actually get their emails down to zero on a regular basis. The rest of us struggle, and that weighs on our mind. We are not in control, and that is a major source of stress.

David Allen’s premise is that our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to be relaxed.

So one message I offer – please try to find an approach that works for you to gain control of your time – your time reading emails and in meetings.

With regard to meetings, no one seems to want to go to all of them. Sure, information has to be shared. No question. Why not ask the people of our companies how to have fewer meetings. They may well have ideas and appreciate being asked. Remember, the best ideas are bottom up ideas, and also that top down directives are not as effective as bottom up ideas and initiatives.

And how’s this? Have stand up meetings! Seriously. The information will be shared, ideas will be discussed and discussions can be made respecting everyone’s time. Sure, there may be crucial meetings where this may not work, but try it when you can.

We want to conserve our time, to invest it wisely!

Identify our priorities!

Our attention, focus and time are our great assets, of course. Yet, the hectic pace of our lives pulls us in many different directions all the time. Let’s find ways to stop that.

If we are a senior executive, or currently an up and comer, then our leadership has to be a very top priority. The most effective leaders are servant leaders, and that means working with our team members. The operative word is with. It means:

  • Connecting with our team members.
  • Supporting them.
  • Asking for their ideas.
  • Listening to understand and learn.
  • Helping them learn, grow and succeed.
  • Inspiring them.
  • Caring about them.

I have not written this paper because I have answers to offer.

I wish I did. Rather, I know that low morale in companies is prevalent. Our responsibility as a leader is to take positive steps to help change that, and we can only work towards improving morale and the spirit of our people if we slow down and come around from our computers and out of our offices and have authentic conversations with those during the work of our businesses.

Let’s slow down! Let’s be more purposeful! Let’s have meaningful conversations!

John Keyser is the founder and principal of Common Sense Leadership, He works with executives helping them develop organizational cultures that will produce outstanding financial results year after year, and a striving for continuous improvement, theirs and their team’s.

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