It has been quite some time since I have posted an article. Well, life happens, and sometimes it just gets in the way. But that’s okay. What matters most is how we respond to the issues life throws at us. None of us are perfect. It is more important to respond – versus react – to what gets thrown our way.
So, what are the differences between responding and reacting?
Reacting on the other hand, is:
Why is this distinction important?
When something does not go as planned, the easiest thing to do is react, which becomes a quick decision to resolve the issue or address the situation. While reacting quickly may be needed, to stop a toddler from walking into traffic for example, a response will be more appropriate. With experience on your side, responding may become as quick as reacting, but without the adverse side-effects from reacting.
How do I get there?
Life brings us opportunities to learn, make decisions, and become more knowledgeable. Knowledge is gained from experience and education (formal and informal). Wisdom is knowing when and how to apply knowledge in a way that suites the situation. Each situation is different, and must be carefully considered. Next week, I will discuss, a bit more, knowledge versus wisdom.
You wake up in the morning, take a shower, brush your teeth, make some coffee, say good bye to your kids, kiss your spouse, and head out to work. During your commute to work, you begin planning your day to maximize your time at work, and serve your team more effectively. With 3 one-hour meetings, 1 presentation to prepare for, 4 follow-up calls to make, and seemingly endless emails to respond to, your day quickly fills up before even getting to work. No worries here, you are a highly efficient and effective leader, able to handle issues as they arise.
Then it happens. Your boss give you another week’s worth of work that must be completed in the next few days. On top of that, your team’s regulatory training is due by the end of the week, your monthly reviews are scheduled for Thursday… the list goes on. How do you handle the growing list of tasks and responsibilities that must be accomplished in what appears to be an impossible amount of time? Staying late at the office is not really an option as you have your son’s baseball game tonight and your daughter’s dance recital the next night. You are family-oriented so missing these events is not an option.
What do you do? Enter the concept of selective disobedience.
Here is how this works. As the leader of your team, you are responsible for what they do and don’t do. When your boss (manager, supervisor, or leader) gives you a task, generally it does not mean you do it, rather that you are responsible for making sure it is completed. To get more done, you train, enable, and empower your team, then delegate, follow up, and follow through.
When you are given an excessive number of tasks, you have the choice of doing them all okay or doing some of them very well. The “do less better” concept from last week. If you choose the first, then you will be mediocre at many things. If you choose the latter, then you will be excellent at some things and short on others. But this does not mean you will never get everything done (although it does not mean you will either). You and your team may get all of your tasks done, just not exactly when originally wanted. This is selective disobedience.
As the leader of your team, you must prioritize all of your work, and complete the most important tasks first. However, when you commit to accomplishing one task, you are also committing to not complete another (at least not right away). You must selectively disobey in order to prioritize and accomplish the most important and impactful tasks and responsibilities of you and your team. There will likely be some repercussion such as a “talking to” from your boss, but if you do your job well, and your leadership understands and respects you, then they will expect you to employ appropriate selective disobedience”.
How have you employed selective disobedience lately? Do you think you have never employed selective disobedience? Think back to the time where you chose to be late for a meeting because of another task from your boss or dropping a child off at school. Did you miss the budget submission deadline for another presentation?
Do you have a supervisor that does not understand, respect, or trust you? If or when you selectively disobey, you experience extreme repercussions – being yelled at, adverse counseling, written up, suspended, etc. Stay tuned for next week’s post on how to handle disruptive managers.
There is a saying that says to “do less better”. The premise is to simply do less of something, but do it very well. Why is that? No matter what we do, we only have 24 hours in a day (1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds if you were wondering). Limiting our efforts to a few things focuses our time and energy into fewer things, becoming better at them as a result.
This is similar to Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” rule. Of course, it really depends on the domain and the individual – some require less time while others require more. While it may not take 10,000 hours to become a master at certain subjects, the premise of investing deliberate time holds true. For example, if I wanted to learn to play the piano, I would learn faster (fewer days) by practicing for 3 hours each day than for 30 minutes each day. I will still need to practice about the same number of hours in total, but over a condensed period of time. Being deliberate requires focused attention on the endeavor, whatever it is.
In a business context, this means limiting the number or variety of products or service offerings, and focus on a few key elements that will make the business stand out. By doing so, the business is able (or more likely) to become a market force in a particular niche. By offering fewer products or services, businesses are able to focus their energy on market research, improving the product or service, or engaging with their customer.
This doesn’t mean businesses cannot diversify their offerings. Take Amazon for example. If it is for sale (legally), you can pretty much buy it on Amazon. What does Amazon sell though – logistics. Amazon offers millions of products online, but sells its logistics genius – arguably one significant service applied to millions of products. Most people can order a product and have it delivered in just a few days. Depending on where you live, some major metropolitan cities deliver within an hour – an hour! – after purchasing the product online. Amazon focused its efforts on delivering superiority.
It really takes leadership support to operate in this way. Too often leaders see “doing less” as a weakness. The reality is, doing less allows the organization (or individual) to become an expert –the best – and provide superior products and service. I have seen and been on both sides of the spectrum – some organizations embrace this concept and others say they do but really do not. The only way to truly experience the benefits of the “do less better” mentality, is to spend time and energy on less, but do them very well.
What about the rest of your life? Do you have kids, are you in school, do you have a hobby you just have to participate in? Where you spend your time, dictates where your priorities are. Make sure you intentionally spend your time right.
How will you implement this moving forward? Let us know by sending us an email or contacting us here.
What do you do when your supervisor insists on doing more (better) but does not give you enough time or resources (money, people, etc.) to accomplish the task? Selective disobedience is the answer and will be discussed next week.
Last week I discussed the transition from employee and peer to small group leader. As time goes on, another promotion may be in order for any number of reasons – organizational growth, retirement, and so on. Some organizations promote their employees but take them to other departments to lead new teams. This requires the leader and team to work to develop as a cohesive element, build comradery, striving towards success as the newly found team.
Many organizations will promote from within, taking someone from within the team and making them in charge of the whole team. The once peer, now leader, is about to take on another journey – leading other leaders. What does this look like? How does the new leader successfully lead this team, consisting of subordinate leaders and employees?
As with last week, there are a number of ways to do so. Here are a few tips to help make the transition smoother and more successful.
What other tips and tactics would you provide? What else would you like to see us write about? Share with us here.
Until next time.
One of the natural progression paths is to start at the bottom and work your way up. That is, get hired at a job, likely an entry level position if you are new to the field or freshly out of college, work hard, get a promotion, work hard, get a promotion, work hard… You get it. How do you handle the process and challenges of promoting to the point that you become a team or group supervisor or leader? Yesterday you were their peer and now you are in charge.
Here are a few tips.
What tips do you have for a new leader, leading a team where they were once a peer?
Next week I will elaborate on the process of transitioning from small group leader where you have a few team members, to large group leader where you will have subordinate leaders. How to handle the transition to leading leaders?