Leadership is Not About Making Time To Lead

Leadership is Not About Making Time To Lead

One of the most common obstacles I hear from leaders who say they want to improve their leadership impact is that they simply don’t have time. They don’t have time to have weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one conversations. They don’t have time to have team meetings. They don’t have time to spend reflecting on how they have demonstrated their values and made an impact.

My first instinct to these time roadblocks is that they are actually self imposed. If improving your leadership and providing your team with direction, support, and coaching is truly important, you will make the time, even if you need to be creative about it.

But the more I think of it, the more I think there is a simpler way to overcome this barrier. That is to BE a leader, no matter what you’re doing. In your day to day work, you inevitably come into contact with others, whether in person or virtually.

How can you make sure that in every interaction, you’re behaving in alignment with your Values, supporting your Vision, and spreading positivity? 

If you’re being a leader throughout the day, you will have a positive impact.

What being a leader throughout the day might look like

When greeting people:

“Hi Sam – how was your weekend? What’s your focus for this week? That will be great work towards our goal of XYZ! Excellent! How can I help to make sure you have everything you need?”

When you’re being a leader, you always greet people. You care about them personally, and you remind them of the importance and connection of their work to your goals and your customers.

When sending an email to the team:

“Hi team, Great work on ABC! I really appreciate how you (specific details here). The completion of project ABC is going to really make a positive impact on our customer. Thank you for your commitment to it! … Today, I wanted to share new information about… (and the email continues).

When you are being a leader, you take opportunities to recognize good work when you have them, whether digitally or in person. (This is a lesson I was recently reminded of!)

When leaving for the day:

“I’m heading out shortly. Is there anything anyone needs from me before I go?”

When you’re being a leader, you make sure your team knows you are supporting them, even if you leave before them. Leaders don’t need to be the last one to leave the office. In fact, if you continue to demonstrate that, your team will think that they can’t leave, and you propagate the idea that time is the currency of work, when results should be.

When completing your own work:

Ask yourself “Is this work important to our teams / company’s objectives?” and “Am I the one who should be doing this work, or is there someone who would love to learn what I’m doing?” Action your answers.

When you’re being a leader, you lead yourself, first. This is often a great opportunity to realize the potential for more meaningful and impactful work – personally and for your team.

When in a meeting:

Be fully present. If the conversation is off track, remind the group of the purpose of the meeting. If attending the meeting is not a good use of your time, ask for the purpose of the meeting and decide whether:

  • you should attend personally (then be fully present)
  • you should send a team member
  • simply reading the minutes would be enough

Meetings should have a clear purpose and should result in clear outcomes, decisions and responsibilities. If you find this isn’t happening in regular meetings, give that feedback so that the group can all benefit. When you’re being a leader, you help others to make a more positive impact too.

When you get asked a question:

Consider whether answering the question directly is the best strategy. It probably is, if:

  • You’re the only one with the information that could provide an answer
  • The person has never done this work before and needs direction and clarity from you

But think twice if:

  • The person has done this work before and is just lacking confidence
  • There are others on the team who could help them with an answer

Rather than answering, you might acknowledge that it’s a good question and ask what they think they should do. You might suggest they discuss with an expert on your team and come up with an answer together.

When you’re being a leader, you do not have to have all of the answers. Great leaders find opportunities to develop confidence and teamwork, even with simple questions.

The funny thing is… if you focus on being a leader throughout the day, you may actually find that your team gains more focus, they develop skills and confidence, and you all actually have more time than you thought for you to spend time leading!

What do you think? How can you BE a leader at work, even when you don’t have time?


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