Leaders are busy and yet, as we all know, busy, doesn't mean productive.
So how can we, as Leaders, maximize our time so that we are better for ourselves, better for our people and better at optimizing our efficiency?
Well... let's get a few principles straight first.
A Leader, in our opinion, exists to serve the Team, client or family member, so the Team, client or family member can serve everyone else. A catchy term for this is "servant leadership."
The paradox is, the Leader is at the helm regarding vision, direction and ultimate decision-making.
We have spoken extensively on this in previous articles here at The Essential Way Project so let's not hammer on it now, suffice to say that mission must be clear, the desired outcome must be clear, the roles must be clear, the training must be focused, the lines of communication must be open, the logistics must be in order and the plan must be flexible if the end is to be a happy one.
So how can we keep all of that on track when we are more than likely bombarded daily with the next great idea, product, need or want?
Here are three phrases that can keep you, the vision, the mission, and your people, on the right path:
1. "How am I supposed to do that?" This is a "calibrated question" from the book, Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss. This little phrase would have saved me hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years if I had known about it then.
When somebody presents you with the next great idea (and it actually might be a great idea, mind you), the next great product, or the next number in the negotiation, respond with, "How am I supposed to do that?"
Voss writes, "The critical part of this approach is that you are really asking for help and your delivery must convey that... Calibrated questions make your counterpart feel like they are in charge but it's really you who are framing the conversation."
You're not in charge of solving every problem and letting somebody else be in charge of doing so can be eye-opening for them... and you!
2. "That's a great idea and I'll probably be kicking myself later, but due to X, I can't do Y." You have a reason for not wanting to do something, correct? So say it. You don't have to be confrontational or disagreeable, you just have to be honest. (And, sometimes, when looking at your reasons honestly, you might find that you do have room for the idea!)
You can be kind and honest or you can be brutally honest. Which one do you think serves the person and you best?
And, if it's something you might want to do later, simply end your phrasing a bit differently: "but due to X, I can't do Y at the moment. How about you bring this back to me in/at Z time?"
When Teddy Roosevelt came across one of his cowhands changing the brand on one of the steers from a neighboring ranch, he asked the man what he was doing.
The cowhand said that the steer had wandered into Roosevelt's ranch so he was changing the brand to Roosevelt's so they could keep it.
Teddy didn't hesitate. "Stop what you are doing. When we get back to the bunkhouse, pack up your things and leave."
The cowhand was confused and offended, "But why? I just got us a steer!"
"Because if you'll steal for me," Teddy said, "You'll steal from me." Roosevelt rode away without another word. The cowhand was fired.
Sometimes, no is the answer. And that's okay. You're a Leader, not everyone will be happy with you all the time. You protect the Team, the client, the family member, and your passion by protecting the vision.
If you want to make everyone happy, go sell ice cream. Keep leading!