Great leaders are often tied to outstanding performance. It makes sense; why would we follow someone who can’t seem to get things done? Interestingly (almost paradoxically), there are times that the best option for a leader is not to perform but rather to stop. This might not be the most popular idea that we write about, but we believe it is valuable for leaders to stop their activity and purposely do nothing to refocus on the critical items that will propel them forward. As we launch into this week, we want to share two moments when leaders would do well to stop their frantic pace.
Stop to Plan
As consultant David Goldsmith once wrote, “Leadership is not about getting everything done, but getting the right things done.” This is why leaders need to prioritize moments to stop and plan. No doubt, most of our time is spent ensuring the execution of our plans, but if we don’t take time to press pause, take a step back away from the hustle and bustle of the week, and strategically plan about where we need to go, we will undoubtedly mismanage, time, energy, and resources within the organization. We encourage the organizations we serve to prioritize recurrent, off-site strategy sessions. It disrupts our everyday work routine, separates us from the office, and, when done well, challenges us to think deeply about where we want to go and the moves we should make to get there. Stopping long enough to plan thoroughly can advance a team and organization to new levels of success. As the adage goes, “Failing to plan is essentially planning to fail.”
Stop to Process, Think, and Reflect
There is no getting around the fact that most of us lead within environments characterized by speed and complexity. Those descriptions were appropriate before the global pandemic; they’re particularly true now. The decisions we must make and the answers that we need to provide are expected to be given in a timely manner, often very quickly. All of us are aware that our decisions can impact the lives of others in positive and negative ways. This is why leaders need to stop and process their decisions to determine the best option or choice. The value of taking a moment to stop and think doesn’t just apply on the front end of decisions but also on the backend. The father of modern management thought Peter Drucker is credited with saying, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” Many of us would benefit from taking a moment to reflect on our emotions, attitude, behaviors, and reactions after a tense interaction, an important meeting, or a big project. Just 5-10 minutes of asking ourselves what we could have done better and what we did well in the situation could improve our performance moving forward. Once we have taken the proper amount of time to reflect inwardly, we can then reflect on outside factors like a team member’s performance, a problem or issue at hand, a current project, or the release of a product or service. Stopping to process, think, and reflect can propel us forward.
Action Step: Stop for 5 to 10 minutes right now and think about the actions you need to prioritize this week to advance your team.