18 May 2019

Solving the Crisis of “Busyness”

Solving the Crisis of “Busyness”

In an article in the HBR, Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy from The Energy Project talked about their experience of having worked with thousands of leaders and managers in large organisations.

They have seen that rising demands in the workplace encourage leaders to put in longer hours and ‘work harder’, doing more stuff, which inevitably takes a toll physically, mentally and emotionally.

Looking after yourself as a leader is key and if you can’t lead yourself, how can you lead others? What is the impact of this on those you lead?

We all know that one of the key skills or required behaviours of any effective Leader is the ability and awareness to lift your head up from your work on a regular basis and look at what is going on around you.

This is what others are looking to leaders for. They need you to create the right environment to generate new ideas and to work with other people to get some positive changes happening to move forward and if you don’t do it, who will?

Because many leaders seem to be trapped in this ‘Crisis of Busyness’ they rarely continue to develop the leadership qualities and skills that could make a massive difference to both themselves and their organisations.

So one of the first things we do when working on leadership development for large organisations is based on helping leaders to understand the impact of the brain at work.

Neuroscience is beginning to identify more effective ways we can be working with our biology rather than against it, which can help us to be more productive and manage the busyness crisis.

One of our top tips to help individual leaders is encapsulated in a simple model from the book ‘Quiet Leadership’ by Dr David Rock.

Here it is: CHOOSE YOUR FOCUS This model shows that it is not just how you think; it is also what you spend your time thinking about. Many jobs require us to spend quite a lot of time dealing with detail; the issue is where your thinking goes after that. The more time in detail the harder it is for us to remain clear and emotionally detached i.e. to think straight and about new ideas and positive change. If you are spending all your time in detail, problems and drama you may be working very hard but you are reacting rather than leading. (Oh, and if you are not leading, then who is?).

Dealing with detail is important but as leaders we want to lift our own and our colleagues thinking and not get bogged down. The way to do that is to be able to stand back at the ‘vision’ level: ‘what are we trying to achieve’ and ‘planning’ level: ‘how are we going to get there’?

Spending more time focusing on these two solutions-focused areas helps us to remain clear on our priorities, and gives us a positive way forward.

You can also encourage this thinking in others if they continuously come and dump problems on you that you feel they should be able to solve themselves. This is leading with a coaching approach i.e. getting others to stand back from the situation and remind themselves what is the best outcome that they are looking for. If they can do that, what are the best key steps to take them towards that outcome? Many leaders that we have worked with over the years have found this an incredibly simple but very valuable tool to remind them of their key purpose: to step back, check what’s happening around them, look for positive changes and inspire and motivate others to do the same. It helps to clarify your thinking, where it is and where it needs to be.

If you Want to take some Action Today

1. Ask yourself ‘where is my thinking most of the time’? Be honest!

2. Create some regular space for reconnecting with visions and plans

3. Manage your time on the detail to be as efficient as possible

4. Print off the model and put it somewhere prominent

5. Use it as a prompt to regularly check-in on where your thinking is at