…To attain Wisdom, remove things every day.”
No matter how much leaders intellectually know about the folly of trying to fit ten pounds of stuff in a five-pound bag, they seem to always go down that path, ultimately leading to frustration and stress. Of the many conversations with speaking engagement audiences, prospects and clients around how they manage their time, we will invariably get to the question, “What are you going to stop doing so you can do these other new things you need to do?” Unfortunately, the most common response, either verbally or non-verbally is, “What do you mean?” This month’s conversation will discuss “What I mean!”
I had the opportunity recently to visit Gettysburg National Park with my wife. Being a Civil War enthusiast, we were excited to visit the site of the pivotal turning point in the War. In one of the exhibits, painted on the wall in large letters is the quote, “It is hard for the old slaveholding spirit to die. But die it must.”, Sojourner Truth, October 1865. Notice her quote speaks to the spirit, not the behavior, because it is the spirit and attitude that drives a leader’s behavior. Thus, the first thing to address when looking at change is the leader’s Attitude towards managing their growth and development by effectively deciding what they will keep doing and, just as important, what they will stop doing.
“Just don’t add anything new” ~ Taking this approach to the challenge misses the crucial point. As outlined in the first line of Lao Tzu’s quote in the title, to grow their knowledge leaders must add new things daily to keep up with the pace of change that is today’s business environment! To take the approach of not adding anything new because the leader’s plate is full, immediately puts them on a path to irrelevance!
“Delegate what I don’t want/can’t do anymore” ~ Once again, this approach misses the point. Creating Wisdom by removing things does not imply giving them to someone else. When leaders merely move things off their plate to someone else’s on the team, nothing changes and the team is still working on things that shouldn’t be there at all. The exception to this occurs when the leader removes something from their scope of responsibility that directly adds to the knowledge of the recipient. This scenario is explicitly communicated as such so both are clear on the purpose of the move!
“Why are we still doing this?” ~ This is the key question leaders use to set up the “…removal of something every day.” I’ve heard answers to this question range from “I don’t know” and “We’ve always done this as long as I’ve been here.” to “That’s the way the manager, owner, boss likes to do it.” These answers, and those like them, are an obstacle to having a truly open conversation around why the task, function or process is still necessary. Likely the biggest obstacle to truth in this discussion is the person currently doing the task who fears losing their job. Leaders must face this challenge head on with a view to the good of the entire team and the ability to create sustainable success!
Effective leaders constantly engage in conversations around what they need to do more of, what to start doing and what to stop doing to stay relevant in today’s business environment. Tackling the challenge of what to stop doing means a leader’s attitude must ultimately have a clear focus on long-term success and the knowledge and wisdom to get them there!
What are you removing today to stay relevant?