Recently, I had a two-day stretch with 25 different calendar items on my schedule. I’m not proud of that. In fact, it’s a pretty ridiculous situation for a leader. Strategic work is rarely accomplished in the context of a meeting. Meetings are usually tactical. Both the strategic and the tactical are important in leading, but when 18 hours of calendar space is filled with 25 items I can assure you there is little time for the strategic. So I’ve been reflecting on this state of affairs, trying to determine a mitigation strategy.
- Acting out of obligation
- Not setting priorities
- Trying to be the perfect parent
- Being dependent on anything with a screen on it
- Unwillingness to rest
- Failing to understand that life is appropriately busy at times
In my current situation acting out of obligation and not setting priorities are I believe what is tripping me up most. The core purpose of my current daytime gig is to provide leadership to a team in a centralized service organization. We are the sole part of the organization that develops, deploys, and maintains “products” for multiple other business units. By necessity and nature we are responsive to other’s needs. Busyness is often a natural result.
However, this does not mean I cannot or should not be strategic in how I handle that responsibility.
Looking back at the book review that I posted in October of 2014, I shared a personal reflection: “God acts in spite of my busyness. Busyness is, in many ways, founded in pride. So when God acts in and through my life, He chooses to do so despite my busyness. However, I think God is reluctant to do so lest His great works appear to be a result of my busyness.”
That’s a good reminder that God is sovereign even in my busyness and that I can truly find rest and peace in that knowledge.
(I feel more relaxed just having typed that thought!)
That was my first reflection on my over-packed schedule. Here is a second.
I’ve been observing and evaluating the meetings I attend. I’m thinking about how to make them more meaningful and productive. Here again, I recall comments I made in another posting, also from 2014.
There I shared lessons from Patrick Lencioni’s excellent book, Death by Meeting about more effective meetings. One of the points was the need to create more conflict in meetings. Lencioni isn’t suggesting that we start fist fights and arguments. Instead, he’s challenging leaders to provoke some tension through critical dialogue.
Here are four examples I suggested in the earlier article:
- Ask questions: “When you say X, what do you mean by that?” and “Is that the truth?” and “What is the evidence supporting that?”
- Watch body language: Look for shifts in facial expression and body positioning. These indicate a shift in attitude. Find out what changed.
- Solicit ideas and feedback from disparate stakeholders: When a diverse stakeholder group is present in the meeting, get as many people involved as possible. When they are not present, make a plan to get their input (and invite them to the next meeting).
- Force people to connect the issue to your organization’s values and mission: The stronger the connection, the more important the issue.
I made the comment above that most meetings are tactical in nature. By introducing some tension into my meetings I can shift them toward being more strategic. Meetings with healthy conflict will encourage everyone present to be more strategic. Imagine the multiplicative impact of just half the people in all your meetings being 10% more strategic in their thinking and dialogue.
That could be pretty powerful.
So those are my two reflections on the crazy schedule I’ve had recently. First, being too busy isn’t a good thing, but God is still in control and He can use that for His purposes, too. Second, by introducing some healthy conflict in my meetings, I can shift a typically tactical event to be more strategic for myself and others.
If you’re too busy, if your schedule is in the crazy zone, step back and assess your situation. How can you develop a bigger perspective and how can you turn the situation to be more positive?
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.