Not a moment to lose? Then how are you leading?

Like all leaders, you’re guiding your people through unprecedented change and uncertainty. Held to account for their performance, and stretched by the expectations of your seniors, customers and colleagues, do you feel you’re spreading yourself too thin?

I’ve been reflecting on how the leaders I coach invest their time, especially as they transition into roles with broader responsibilities and bigger challenges. What helps them take on more and more, and still attend to the people and priorities that matter most?

In response to this question, I offer three ideas from my book Are you listening or just waiting to speak?to help you find more time to lead. Why? Because if you don’t invest in your people, how can you expect them to invest time in the work you deliver together? They may give the hours you pay them for, but will they choose to invest the extra effort, focus and insight that makes a real difference?

Your time is scarce. But give someone your full attention for 15 to 20 minutes, and you can ignite their ability and effort. Give this article 4 minutes of your attention and find those precious moments.

1.  Use your energy wisely

Pulled in too many directions? Tied up in back-to-back meetings? Stressed by unrelenting priorities? This suggestion invites you to restore your energy by reconnecting with the purpose of your role. Rediscover the essence of what you do, and why you do it, and your energy levels will rise. Tap into your renewed reserves, and you’ll reclaim time that you’ve been investing in the wrong places.

This is a handful of recommendations rolled into one, because revisiting your sense of purpose extends the reach of your discernment. It equips you to be intentional in what you say “yes” to and comfortable in what you say “no” to. It exposes distractions and interruptions so that you can minimise them. It empowers you to challenge energy-draining habits and limiting assumptions – your own and others’. It helps you fine-tune your contribution, especially the critical one you make when you bring out the best in others. 

2.  Consider the impact you want to have

Being a leader is a profound responsibility. Your efforts turn your organisation’s strategy into action. Senior leaders expect you, and your team, to deliver on their intentions. As structures shift and resources are shared, your peers look to you for collaboration. Your people need clarity and direction as change becomes the norm. At the centre of this complex web of relationships, you communicate and influence in all directions, and your behaviour carries a weight that can strengthen or undermine the workplace culture. 

What you say and do can have the biggest impact on how people feel at the end of each day. So what messages do you need to share? What actions do you set out to encourage? And how do you want your people to feel? Reflect, plan ahead, and make every 10-minute conversation a moment of impact.

3.  Invest in others – and yourself – to create opportunities for growth

Your most important job is to help others do theirs. This is the mindset shift that all leaders face. And it’s hard. You forgo the buzz you get from doing things yourself. You step back, so that others can step up. You listen to team members to ignite their thinking, not to form your own response. You help people solve their own problems, and trust that they can. You set standards for outcomes but relinquish control of the process.

What does it feel like to delegate? What emotions does it stir? And how do we handle them? Many leaders with a high need for control start letting go by regulating when, and how, they invest time in others. The conversations that happen within this crucial first step create two-way trust and space to grow – for leaders and their team members. 

There are many barriers that limit the time we invest in others. Most of us need help to understand and overcome them. When organisations attend to this need, especially at the key transitions from individual contributor to manager to leader, they can accelerate the effectiveness of people at every level.

“The key is not spending time but investing it.” Stephen R. Covey

If you enjoyed reading this article, I’d love to hear from you. If you think it can help others invest their time in the things that matter, please pass it on. Connect with me on LinkedIn or simply get in touch with me. 

Thanks for your time!

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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