Leadership Unlimited is a career column by Terry Wall, MBA '97. Terry is a recognized expert on strategy, leadership, and productivity, who will share his experiences and tips each month.
Alumni are encouraged to send comments, questions or suggestions for future column topics to email@example.com.
My outraged friend seemed to be coming through the phone, which I held a little away from my ear as he said, "You want me to do what?!"
This happened several years ago. All I had done was give a suggestion on how he might improve his effectiveness as a manager. He was one of the best managers I had come across. I can't even remember the specifics of what prompted my suggestion. All I know is Bill considered it pretty radical.
My suggestion was, "Bill, you need to periodically shut the door, put your feet up on the desk, lean back, and...think."
"You want me to do what?!"
"Think." For a fast-paced, bottom-line, action-oriented guy like Bill, this was hard to take. Like a lot of capable managers and leaders, Bill was always busy, too busy to take time to just sit back and think. And he told me so in no uncertain terms. The next week, he called back and said that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all.
This is important, especially in today's world of 24-7 connections to technology. With computers, cell phones, pagers, beepers, Blackberries, and iPads, iPhones, not to mention old-fashioned technology like TV and radio, when do we ever get time for the solitude of thinking?
Sure, we feel that the work we're doing is always more important, but it's not. Not always, anyway.
We need time, uninterrupted time, to just think. And what do we think about? For starters, what is it we're doing, how well we are doing it, and how can we improve. Lots of times, we'll come to the conclusion that we're doing too many of the wrong things, and not enough of the right things.
As someone once said, efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.
I think about this when I'm on a train, and see everyone on cell phones, or their heads buried in books, or their glazed eyes glued to the laptop screen. I wonder, what's wrong with just looking out the window, and watching the scenery sweep by?
In this information age, we're so into audio and visual stimulation. Sometimes we just need to sit back and think.
Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against getting things done, or taking advantage of downtime. I just feel that sometimes we need to step back and look at the bigger picture of what we're doing, and how we can be more effective.
If you're a manager, you can think about how you can do a better job of motivating your employees. Or, how you can tap into the employees' vast reservoir of experience to come up with innovative ways to create, or manufacture, or market. The possibilities are endless, but it requires quiet time.
For other leaders, you can think about improving the relationships you have with others. How you can do a better job of promoting teamwork, employee engagement, building trust, or achieving goals.
You don't have to wait till the end of the calendar year, or the fiscal year. Any time is always a good time to evaluate what you've done in the previous 12 months, and to develop goals for the next 12 months. And one of those goals should be to schedule time to think.
Time really is precious. Use it wisely.
Terry Wall, MBA '97, accelerates success for individuals and organizations. For individuals, he accelerates success through coaching. For organizations, he accelerates success by building winning teams, working with management teams in groups. Either way, Terry teaches people how to improve how they manage and lead, so that they and their direct reports are more engaged in their work, more committed to organizational goals, and more productive in what they do.
That accelerates success. That improves profitability.
Terry specializes in strategic planning, leadership development, change management, corporate culture, and productivity improvement. He works in a wide range of industries, including service and manufacturing, non-profit, and large and small organizations. He is a skilled facilitator who provides coaching on individual, executive, or team levels.
A recognized expert on strategy, leadership, and productivity, Terry has a B.A. in psychology from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, and an MBA from Drexel University in Philadelphia. He is a professional speaker, and a professional writer who coauthored a book on teambuilding, and has been published in many publications.
Terry Wall accelerates success, and improves profitability, for individuals, teams, and organizations.
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