Not Enough Time is More Common than the Common Cold

By Barry Pruitt

Leadership Development

When working with clients, I commonly hear things like, “I’d really like to get out of my office and talk to my Leadership Developmentteam, but there just isn’t time.” In fact, time gets blamed for many things, many problems, most of life's challenges, and more. I blame it, too.

The thing is, none of us has any more or less time today than anyone else. We have equal amounts of time, yet some leaders get much more done with their team in the same time as others who, in a word, fail. Blame doesn’t solve business challenges, it doesn’t improve morale, it won’t help cash flow, and it’s never increased profit. So let’s get over it and look for the cure.

I’ll start with a question I often ask when working with leaders on team development: Think back to two leaders you’ve had in the past. Be specific and think about a leader who brought out the best in others and a leader who brought out the worst in others. In each example, think about the best leader’s behaviors and the worst leader’s behaviors. Link the impact of their behavior to team member performance. Below is an example of how you might keep it straight:

Best Leader Worst Leader Behavior.jpg

It makes sense that we look for ways to minimize any worst leader behavior (and negative impact) and ways to maximize best leader behavior (and positive impact). This means prioritizing to spend our time on highest value effort. So, next, let’s be intelligent about how we invest our time by managing the four cornerstones of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership:

  1. 1. Emotional Self-Awareness: This requires a deeper understanding of self, which also encompasses your thoughts, perceptions, and feelings.
  2. 2. Govern Your Emotions: To govern anything, you must first identify it. Recognize your emotions, moderate your response, and begin to act intentionally.
  3. 3. Be Empathetic: You can understand another’s emotions and reactions without feeling the same or agreeing that it’s OK to feel that way. This usually begins with visual and auditory listening to the cues shared by others.
  4. 4. Build Relationships: I continue to see research that supports my experience – your leadership practices have a great impact on the work environment.

Reflect more of the best leader’s behaviors that have the impact you desire. This often seems to be a leaders’ stumbling block so let me reveal the third step to best balance your time investment in your team and team member growth.

Use the confidence competence quadrant. Answering two questions will minimize any wasted time in growing your team. Ask yourself if the workplace confidence of your employee is high or low based on overall enthusiasm for the task, their sense of value add in the workplace, and their alignment with organizational priorities. Once answered, ask whether the employee competence is low or high based on their basic ability and knowledge: do they have direct experience with their work tasks, do they understand what’s required to execute the task? Now, plot your answers to determine how to best invest leadership time.

Confidence Competence Quadrant.jpg

From the map above, your best time investment has been prioritized. If it’s to encourage, then encourage the team member to continue his or her effort in an aligned direction. If empower, then empower the team member to make decisions and take action on their own, and if the priority is to coach, then step in like your favorite college or pro athletic coach. And finally, if you should be direct, then give clear directions with accountability checkpoints.

It’s time to stop blaming. You can't grow your team unless you're willing to invest time in each member. Start by completing the Best Leader/Worst Leader exercise. Next, plug your individual players into the confidence/competence quadrant. Follow with an employee plan that is the best use of your time. Now you can stop blaming time, and by following the above steps, you can start working on those business challenges, morale, cash flow, and profit. And I hope that catches more attention than the average cold.

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Barry Pruitt


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images