In today’s volatile, uncertain, constantly changing and ambiguous (VUCA) business environment, a consistent theme of “too little time” is emerging for the leaders. It’s the relationship leaders have with the construct of time that most impacts their work, relationships and personal lives. As you’ve noticed, this happens to be the work I’m doing in my own practice and life. It’s probably not a coincidence that the relationship to timetopic is coming up in so many of my client’s lives as well – or not so funny at all, if you ask them!
In my work with leaders, who are responsible for setting visions, executing on them and establishing the environments in which people work, this theme of not enough time, resources or energy is taking a toll on business results - productivity, engagement and innovation – their very survival.
When we think about the concept of time, it’s often described as a precious commodity that we don’t have enough of. Most of us would agree that it’s the most valuable gift we can offer to ourselves, others and our work, and yet many of us don’t guard it as if it were. Time has diminished in the face of longer commutes to work, ever-expanding social media platforms to keep up with, hours of back-to-back meetings without breaks between, multiple time zone spans making days much longer such that we cannot meet the many demands on our time and attention each day.
If time is indeed our most precious resource, how can we expand time and create space, to increase our own satisfaction, the quality of our work and connects with others, inspire more meaningful conversations and higher quality thinking? One of the biggest barriers to increasing effectiveness in relation to time is working in our default patterns of behavior. Not many of the leaders I work with test their own assumptions or relationship to timeassumptions. I often hear statements such as “I’m just out of time”, “there’s nothing I can do about the lack of time” or “time to think and reflect in a luxury.” When we open the dialogue about time in our coaching sessions, there are millions of legitimate reasons that this scarce resource just gets away from us.
In our coaching work, leaders are encouraged to test their assumptions and unconscious biases about time. The examples are varied, such as making the choice to not attend certain weekly meetings by assigning them to less experienced leaders that need to learn. The leaders in turn learn to provide guidance for their participation instead of using their valuable time to sit through every meeting. Another leader started an experiment of “less than one-hour meetings”, leaving fifteen minutes between meetings to arrive at meetings on time or to connect with direct reports on next steps between meetings. One of my favorite tests about time is a leader that has chosen to spend Friday mornings taking her children to school and staying away from her office for a couple of hours for deeper thinking, planning or gaining new insights into the work she’s leading. When she gives herself this gift of time, she reports feeling calmer, being more focused, experiencing greater presence and minimizing her stress response in reacting to the high demands of her job. After several months of her new relationship to time she remains ahead the highest priority demands that week.
Leaders that are willing to test their assumptions about time, or expand time, say they see a direct and exponential positive impact on the quality of their decisions, the tone of their communications, the creativity of their thinking, the value of their relationships, the experience of their team’s engagement, not to mention, their own happiness, energy and health. These leaders report greater levels of energy and resilience by practicing daily - breathing deeply before starting a meeting, slowing down the pace of their responses (verbal or written) to provide a well-thought out solution or idea, practicing presence or greater awareness in the moment when listening to their employees, taking a few moments each day for meditation or exercise to expand time.
Expanding time is a habit of mind to increase leadership impact transforms how we feel, controls our reactivity and focuses our thoughts and feelings at work that offers so much more than just impacting the bottom line.
I’m grateful that I made the radical move to jump out into the unknown as the lessons I had to learn about resilience, creative energy and vitality are similar to what many executives struggle with in our volatile, unpredictable, constantly changing and ambiguous (VUCA) work world.