Leadership in a minute

There’s the obesity epidemic, now it seems there’s a busyness epidemic.  If you’re like most of the leaders we work with, time is the currency you most crave.  As one senior manager said to me “I’d love to do more of that leadership stuff but I just don’t have the time”.  Good intentions are thwarted by the thief of time.  “Don’t despair”, I replied “for we have invented Leadership in a Minute!”  His eyes lit up.

Before sharing the magic formula of Leadership in a Minute, let’s explore whether time is the real issue or whether it’s the gravitational pull of management.

Management is about handling complexity – planning and budgeting; organising and staffing; controlling and problem solving.  These tasks are tangible and immediate.  They arrive regularly through our door or into our inbox.  They demand our attention and we get an immediate sense of accomplishment when we complete them.

Many functions of leadership are intangible, hard to measure, and don’t come knocking on our door demanding attention.  When was the last time someone poked their head around your door and asked “how’s that shared vision and people alignment KPI coming along?”

So while we may have good intentions to do more leading, our time gets consumed with the never-ending demand of management and operational duties.  Failing to carve out time to lead is perilous.  If management is about doing things the right way – leadership is about making sure you’re doing the right things.  The risk of not leading is ending up being efficient at the wrong things!

Try this quick audit.  What percentage of your time do you currently spend managing?  How much leading?  How much doing operational work?  If you are like 90% of people you’ll be thinking you’re doing too much management and not enough leading.  What’s the impact of this split on you, your staff, clients, and the organisation?  If you were to recalibrate this split, what would it be?

So how can you lead more?  Try Leadership in a Minute.  Great leadership is often portrayed in the form of heroic acts and inspiring speeches but the fact is that effective leadership rarely comes from Hollywood like moments.  Effective leadership is built like a bird builds a nest – through scraps and straw interactions and conversations you have with people.

So, what’s Leadership in a Minute?  It’s about adding leadership messages and moments into what would otherwise be transactional conversations.

Here’s an example.  Let’s say you need to delegate a task to Susan.  A managerial way of doing this is to say:  “Susan, can you compile a report about the spend volume and trends of our top 20% of customers over the last three years?”

Applying Leadership in a Minute turns this into a leadership conversation:

“Susan, you’re aware that our vision is to grow the average spend of our top 20% of customers by an average of $100,000 per annum.  To help with that we need to know their spend volumes and trends over the last three years.  I know this is something you are passionate about so I ‘d like you to compile a report.  I think you’ll do a great job, so that’s why I want you to drive it.”

If you were Susan, which version would have you more motivated and engaged?  The second version reinforces the vision and appeals to Susan’s motivations.

Any opportunity to reinforce and align people to the vision, purpose, strategy and values, or to appeal to motivation, represents a Leadership in a Minute opportunity. Practice it a few times and it will quickly become a habit.