“If you can’t find time to think, it probably means that you haven’t organized your firm, unit, or team very well, and you are busy putting out little fires all the time. It also means that you are at risk of leading your company astray.
As famous management professor Henry Mintzberg has described, much of strategy is “emergent.” It is often not the result of a strategic plan just being implemented, but driven by opportunistic responses to unexpected events”.
These come from “5 Strategy Questions Every Leader Should Make the Time For” by Frank Vermeulen writing in September’s Harvard Business Review. I think he hit the bull’s eye with this.
So many leaders take little or no time out to think and even when they do, they are digitally connected. Seriously? With all we have learned from neuroscientists about how stress and fatigue progressively diminish our cognitive ability, our ability to solve difficult problems, to be creative, to live longer we still persist in over ‘do-ing’. We don’t strengthen ourselves, our organizations or our relationships by keeping every block of our time filled with thing to do, places to go, calls to make.
It’s a sad state of affairs when we think that taking time to think is not work and many of you feel that way. Our culture has trained us into feeling we must be calling, texting, meeting or flying off somewhere to be ‘really working’. Think about it. Where or when have you been prompted to break away and allot time exclusively to thinking? The farther from this you are the more bizarre that idea and this post might even seem. You may be inclined to dismiss this post and the HBR article as fluff.
Many of you know that it is through your relationships with others that you are able to achieve your objectives and goals. How much time do you spend working on those relationships? How long have you needed to clear the air with someone on your staff but other ‘real’ things needed your attention first? How about that new hire you brought in that was a little light but you liked them and figured you could do the mentoring? How long has it been? What keeps getting pushed off by the dizzying schedule you set for yourself?
For some, keeping busy is a very effective way to avoid addressing things they know deep down only they can do but maybe are fearful about. Maybe by being so busy a difficult but critical conversation can be avoided. Busy is great for conflict averse people. Maybe by being busy we don’t have to deal with the mission critical issue we may realize we lack the knowledge or skills or experience to tackle. Busy is a great place to hide from facing some difficult things.
I hope if you take the time to read the HBR article you will begin thinking about how the best use of your time may not always be to ensure it is all filled up.