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Your Leaders Need Less Haste

Thursday, May 17, 2018
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Ever hear the story about the man chasing after a passing bus? As he finally catches up to it on the corner, he hastily yells to the driver, “Excuse me, how far is it to X?”

“Oh, that's the next stop,” the driver responds breezily.

Since it’s just the next stop, the man decides to save his pennies and run alongside the bus rather than hop on. But when he gets there, panting for breath, he realizes, “Wait—this isn’t where I had wanted to go!"

“Well, I didn’t say it was the next stop in this direction!" the driver responds, hitting the gas and zooming away.

Now the poor gentleman has to travel twice as far (and waste even more time) getting to where he needs to go. He sighs wearily and starts trudging back the way he came.

How often do your leaders do the same thing?

We live in a world that rewards the rush, and our organizations can be guilty of doing this too. Think about it: How often does your company actually encourage people to slow down and think?

We’re betting the answer is almost never. We just don’t allocate as much time to thinking as we do to acting.

If you’re a global business, you’re naturally part of a results-oriented enterprise. Of course, you’re keenly aware of how quickly the world is changing, and there’s always the fear that if you don’t run after those changes, you’ll be left in the dust.

But there’s a danger to that: yes, a flurry of action will definitely lead to something. But will they be the results you’re looking for? Or will you just wind up at the wrong bus stop?

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This is why we encourage leaders to slow down now so they can move more quickly and get better results later.

When we design leadership programs for rising and high-potential leaders, we build in enough time for them to simply explore solutions, to ask more questions, and to think before they act. We reward strategic thinking, not just execution. And we emphasize relationships over results. (When we do this, the results always follow!) The building of these habits and mental muscles delivers long-term returns that assure a legacy of great results.

Here’s how to get your leaders to slow down now so they can get better results in the long run:

Emphasize the importance of curiosity and active listening.

Rising leaders mistakenly believe that they don’t have time to plan, think, and question, when in actuality that’s what senior leaders are paid to do! Make it clear to leaders that we don’t expect them to have all the answers—but we do want them to practice asking great questions! Teach them how to stay curious and listen to what’s going on around them. By slowing down and asking great questions initially, they’re able to implement solutions far more quickly and effortlessly later. Ask, “What do you think? Why do you think that?”

Stress that haste won’t really solve the problem.

When confronted with a problem, the first thing our leaders want to do is rush in and solve it, rather than slowing down and getting to the root cause of it first. That’s why we spend a lot of time redirecting their focus to the problem itself, encouraging them to identify key stakeholders, capture and analyze their perspectives, and identify an array of potential solutions. By taking the time to do this, they gain a 360 degree view of the problem and are better positioned to tackle it. The results they come up with are always worth the delayed rush. If we take time to think, we can choose among options versus choosing to solve in a rushed manner. The latter gives us fewer and more shallow options.

Remind them that their results got them where they are today—but their relationships will get them to the next level.

Effective executive leaders spend 95 percent of their time connecting with people. This is a big revelation for rising leaders; for most of their careers, they’ve been rewarded for how well they deliver, not how well they connect. When they’re first starting out, they likely spend 95 percent of their time delivering, but that slowly diminishes as they progress in their careers and become responsible for managing and influencing others. So we teach them to shift their focus, allocating more energy to how they connect with others, not just how quickly they get results. In doing so, we change the way they lead for the better—and the results always follow.

It’s been said, “Go slow to go fast.” In essence, it means build relationships before solutions and requests. The leader who takes the time to think, ask questions, and build relationships builds the wiring for better communications, decisions, and action. Take the time to build the network. A well-developed network takes time, but a well-developed network also delivers better thinking and implementation; you will not only arrive at the right bus stop, but also have a better ride.

About the Author
Greg Zlevor is the president and founder of Westwood International. He has more than 25 years of experience in executive leadership development and education and has served as a coach, consultant, and facilitator collaborating with Fortune 50 companies, governments, and emerging industry leaders all over the world on programs that have profoundly shifted the way they do business. He has worked globally across Europe, Asia, North America, South America, and Australia
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